As part of the first-party launch line-up for the forthcoming PlayStation Move motion-controller, Start the Party! has a lot to prove. Being heralded alongside Sports Champions as Sony Computer Entertainment’s (SCE) answer to Wii Sports and Wii Play, Supermassive Games has not only been tasked with designing a game that shows a full range of the capabilities offered by PlayStation Move, but also compiling it in a way that familiarises novices with the nuances of control, just as Nintendo’s aforementioned groundbreaking titles have managed.
Presented in a similar manner to Scene It?, with a family friendly “comedy” presenter commentating on both the menus and gameplay, Start the Party! is instantly accessible simply due to the subtle prompting offered. From selecting the type of game you want to play to how to go about each game (with or without viewing the fairly informative tutorial sequences) the presenter sets a tone that will be familiar to many, and is undoubtedly an extension of the interactive game show format Microsoft championed with 1 Vs. 100 LIVE. However, while the commentary is obviously an easy way to welcome newcomers, many will soon find his witticisms as little more than an irritation.
The first and clearly most important gameplay mode is that of Group Play. Presenting players with two options, Party and Party Mix, players can embark on a series of five, eight or ten rounds with the ultimate goal of crowning a champion party starter. Party mode delivers a random assortment of games interspersed with the odd interactive comedy sequence. A leaderboard system informs players how well they’re doing in-game, and stars are awarded at the end of each game in accordance with their final standing. The Party Mix gameplay mode allows players to select which of the nine games (some of the shorter game sequences have been omitted from this mode) they wish to play, one for each round.
All of the games are east to grasp, and some are significantly more challenging than others. While three difficulty modes are available (and each selectable by the individual player even in multiplayer games) there doesn’t seem to be all too much cohesion between the difficulty of games on each setting. All will be harder on hard, and easier on easy, but looking for bugs and guiding falling chicks to a nest are considerably easier than cutting hair quickly and correctly or hunting ghosts, whatever the chosen setting.
Worthy of particular mention are the Robot Rumble and Rooftop Rescue, the former challenging your awareness of your own size and shape and the latter a true demonstration of the precision of the PlayStation Move motion-controller. Robot Rumble features a long line of robots marching towards you, featuring televisions in their chests depicting the image taken by the PlayStation Eye camera – i.e. you. It features a target of the screen and the player must move the PlayStation Move controller into the target area around themselves and press the T Trigger to eliminate the threat. It’s not long before the targets start moving and the image being shown to the player is flipped, reversed and out of focus. Rooftop Rescue requires the player to tilt the controller to aim their helicopter, whilst holding the T Trigger to propel it. Although it can be frustrating, the precision required here for a high score would be intolerable with a Wii Remote sans Wii MotionPlus, and it’s perhaps here that the advantages of the PlayStation Move are best witnessed in Start the Party!.
For the solo player, as might have been expected, Start the Party! doesn’t offer too much in the way of longevity apart from the obligatory Trophy hunting. The Survival gameplay mode draws similarities to WarioWare in its speedy assortment of random games, and the Free Play option to play the nine featured games individually is also available, but once top scores have been achieved on each game’s leaderboard no further challenge is available.
Start the Party! is an attractive game, bright and colourful with an art direction reminiscent of Namco Bandai’s Point Blank. Each of the characters and items is instantly recognisable in its madcap cartoon depiction, and the light-hearted approach to the visual design ensures its target audience ambiguously remains “families”. The sound quality echoes this welcoming atmosphere, never overpowering or allowing a potentially annoying jingle to outstay its welcome.
Start the Party! may not exactly win any awards for individuality, being only the first of what is likely to become a long list of mini-game compilations available for the PlayStation Move, but of the two targets it had set out to achieve, both have ranked in at gold. Start the Party! balances the intuition of use with gentle prompts to inform the player of correct or bad handling, and eases them into later use in more elaborate games elegantly, but it’s a great shame there’s been no investment in extending the game’s lifespan beyond.