Editorial Miscellany: PlayStation Plop

Just nothing special. Although apparently Joe is a native American here. So there's that...
Challenging and fun, but…

PlayStation Plus is an interesting service. Originally introduced as one of many ways for the PlayStation 3 to bounce back and gain an edge on the Xbox 360, it has since become more similar to what an Xbox Live Gold membership used to be, an implied requirement. What used to be a premium service is being pushed harder and harder on those who do not have it. I bought into the service early, but I am beginning to have my doubts on its benefits.

But that is a different discussion for a different time, because this week I downloaded all the “free” titles across PlayStation’s three main platforms and I am going to give my very brief impressions of all of them.

Joe Danger

I had played this years ago on my friend’s PS3 account when the game first came out. I remember it being well-constructed, fun, and challenging in a satisfying sense, but I also remember not having much of a reason to improve at the game besides the fact that I knew it would be possible. Sure, there would be a feeling of accomplishment that would come with mastering a game that is designed to be mastered, but Joe Danger is not the only game of its ilk, and there are other games I would rather play and master. The premise does not excite me, and the flavour of the gameplay is nothing more than adequate. I will likely continue to play the Vita version for a short time, but I imagine that once the challenge ramps up, I will not have the time nor reason to improve my skill at the game. It is a well-made game and I would not tell anybody to avoid it, but I just cannot get excited about it.

Yes. This is PlayStation All-Star Battle Royale of course.
LOOK FAMILIAR?!

Sony Smash Brothers

In a similar vein, this Smash Brothers clone is everything I expected it to be. It has tight controls, adequate representations of Sony franchises, and is entirely void of personality. The Nintendo series succeeded and continues to succeed because it not only created the subgenre, but also because its franchises have – in general – more lore to draw from. People can say what they’d like about Nintendo, but they put the proper amount of thought into building the worlds of their characters and it shows strongly in Super Smash Brothers. In Sony Smash Brothers however, while there are some great characters and franchises present, the game feels far less organic in the way it all comes together. The series itself is not given its own personality and the difference feels like the difference between riding a roller coaster and watching a video of somebody riding a roller coaster.

This effect is perfectly exemplified by how forgettable the actual name of the game is. PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is such a bad name that I had to look it up to include it in this article. And I was playing the game this morning. It is as forgettable as the game itself. The game is worth the free download to test out the moves and take a look at the different arenas, but it is a little surprising that for all that Sony borrowed from Nintendo, they were unable to replicate the charm.

This is all too bad in my opinion. It would have been great if the game was better, or more distinct, so that Nintendo would be forced to be more creative with its own series, but a sequel is not likely any time soon.

So cool.
I am not even at this section yet!

Velocity 2x

I have only played two levels so far, but I have played them multiple times as I am already in pursuit of excellence. This game has a lot of buzz around it and although I have barely played any of it, I can see why it does. It is like Joe Danger in that it is clear how much skill will be possible to achieve for the dedicated player, but it is unlike Joe Danger in that the premise is already far more interesting. There is a lot of backstory and lore that is easy to ignore in one sense, but it nonetheless intuitively informs the levels, gameplay, and cutscenes to make an inherently interesting world. I also enjoy the fact that the cutscenes do not appear to be stuffing all the world-building down the player’s throats. Few people want to hear thirty minutes of lore before they play whether or not they find the story or the game interesting. Better to release information at the pace the story requires. Other recent sci-fi examples of this excellent technique include Transistor which was occasionally and unfortunately criticized for this method. In any case, this is a promising game.

TxK

A big “who cares” here. Maybe the game is good, but I sure did not care about it.

Don’t Starve: Giant Edition

All this means to me is free Don’t Starve on the Vita, which I am glad about. What a great little title. I am already more advanced in the art of not starving, which I hear is the point of the game.

Hoard

This was one of the PlayStation 3 PlayStation Plus titles and it is something I would probably only play on the computer. And only during my last job when I was constantly finding reasons to pretend that I was not there. It seems like a competent multiplayer title, but on the console I will take Calling All Cars over it in a second. Now there is an underrated game.

SportFriends

Another big meh bomb. I mean, the games are pretty fun and it is easy to tell that they become more enjoyable the more they are played, but there are only four of them, and one of them requires Move controllers and all of them are multiplayer. I am aware that that is the point, but I tried it with my girlfriend and we both agreed that we would rather stick to Pokémon Stadium 2‘s minigames. Which are excellent.

Final Thoughts

So many games. The mediocre ones just crowd space on my hard drives and the good ones I feel guilty about not paying for. This is why I am second-guessing my time with the “premium” service. What are your thoughts, LusiDownloads?

2 comments

  1. Joe Danger looks (and apparently plays) like a mediocre flash title.

    It has tight controls, adequate representations of Sony franchises, and is entirely void of personality
    Entirely void of personality–absolutely dead-on. This is why it’s such an uncompelling poo.

    Few people want to hear thirty minutes of lore before they play whether or not they find the story or the game interesting. Better to release information at the pace the story requires. Other recent sci-fi examples of this excellent technique include Transistor which was occasionally and unfortunately criticized for this method.
    No, you’re quite right. Gamers are a mercurial sort, and will typically complain no matter what. But behind the complaining (which comes regardless) there are decisions that are actually better than others. FFXIII really fell down the stairs when it started pontificating at length (at great length, sometimes for MANY MINUTES) at the player. It was best when it was tight and when its cutscenes were not there merely to declare world/setting, but to set the context for the player’s action. Consider the difference between the opening of the game with Lightning on the train: there, the cutscenes are very good–they provide the context for immediate action, and deliver world details organically, as part of the sort of dialogue we would expect in that circumstance, whilst also building interest in the setting which the player can indulge through the Database in the menu.
    But then consider the long, rambling, discursive dialogue sequences where the players are essentially just babbling backstory at each other. One could argue (pretty weakly, I suspect) that these are necessary moments of ‘character building’, but they seem like (and probably are) just a ham-handed way of cramming lots of Important World Backstory down the throat of The Player. Lazy writing. Not integrated at all, really.
    Transistor is rightly to be praised for doing this right (Bastion was a model of it, and it is not surprising that the follow-up did a similarly good job), and it is encouraging to see that Velocity does so also.

    TxK
    This is actually a great game if you are a fan of the old school arcade shooter. Gyruss (another great shooter-in-the-round) took some ideas from that older title into its own creation. Don’t look for story here. Like the classic arcade shooters, it is a series of challenges which rewards dexterity and the skill that comes from repeat play. This is what a ‘pure game’ looks like.

    Don’t Starve/Hoard/SportFriends
    Stopped caring. Don’t care about these. Poopity poopity poo~~~!

    This is why I am second-guessing my time with the “premium” service.
    This is *precisely* why I do not have PS Plus anymore. Also, if a game is good enough to spend my time playing, I would like to own it–not perpetually rent it by paying a subscription fee.

  2. I haven’t played Sony Smash Bros myself, but I’m willing to bet that it’s not just the atmosphere that’s lacking. Smash, for how much I may shit on Brawl as compared to Melee, is still an amazingly complex game. While I would never recommend Brawl as a tournament fighter, it is undoubtedly a fun game regardless and it’s thanks to the amazing design.

    Sony is fairly good at taking what other companies do and making it work well for them, but this game was not one of those times.

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