Games intended for the family tend to be synonymous with mediocrity and while Start The Party for the PS3 is far from a Game Of The Year Candidate, It is a perfect showcase of what the Playstation Move can do and just might replace Wii Sports as the #1 game for family gatherings.
Start The Party is a frantic mini-game collection in which you and up to three friends can enjoy competitively. Sure this may sound like a dozen games already available for the Wii but what sets Start The Party apart from the competition is its clever use of augmented reality. During gameplay moments the PlaystationEye Camera will display your movements on screen allowing you to see yourself as you play. Your on-screen self can then interact with other on-screen objects which essentially puts you inside of the game world. Those who are familiar with the EyeToy and games like EyeToy Play will understandably be unimpressed by this technology but honestly if you’re hardcore enough to know what the EyeToy is then Start The Party probably isn’t for you anyway.
By far the coolest aspect of Start The Party is witnessing the on-screen objects that are superimposed in to your hands in lieu of the Move controller. So while playing a rock-breaking mini-game your controller becomes a pickaxe and when you’re tasked with beating the goodness out of a Piñata it looks as if you’re holding a baseball bat. In my personal experience I found that this feature particularly appeals to those who aren’t interested in gaming at all. Those in my household who were only moderately impressed by the Move promptly requested to join in on the party once the Superimposing aspect came in to play.
As with any party if you’re the only guest in attendance the chances of you having fun is severely limited. Thus playing Start The Party alone is not very compelling, unless there is somebody in your household who will actively challenge your high scores. Otherwise you’ll quickly become tired of both the Free Play and Survival single player offerings. As the name suggests Free Play allows you to play a handful (but not all) of the mini games at will. This mode is useful for sharpening up your skills if you’re having difficulties with a particular mini game but not much else. Survival Mode throws a random assortment of mini games at you which you have to complete in order to replenish your depleting time bar. This mode can be fun but as I said, if there is no one to chase your high scores it becomes redundant.
Ok so now we’ve established the obvious, Start The Party is most fun when experienced with other people. But whether that good time last minutes or hours completely depends on who those other people are. If your competitors are used to playing videogames then it’s likely that the novelty of popping balloons with a giant pin won’t last as long as a quick lunch let alone a party. Start The Party is at its best when played with kids and/or adults who only associate videogames with Nintendo. The multiplayer (or Party) mode supports up to four players, each of which are required to get their photo taken and record their name before the party can begin. Thankfully the game allows each player to select their own individual difficulty level to provide a pretty even playing field regardless of any varying skill sets.
The mini games themselves are initially a joy to discover, however since there are only a dozen or so in total the novelty quickly wears thin. Increasing the difficulty will delay the appearance of fatigue but once you’ve mastered all of the mini games on Hard there’s not really anywhere else to go from there. Since there are so few activities in the game it would have been nice if a few more of them were unique. Hair cutting, ghost busting and robot exterminating provides some of Start The Party’s better moments but most of the other mini games simply require you to wave the move controller around to interact with on-screen objects.
I hate to sound down on Start The Party as a whole because it does do exactly what it says on the box. The game never pretends to be deep or offer a compelling single player experience; it was clearly designed to provide wholesome family fun and that’s where it succeeds. If you play the game as intended you with the right set of people you’ll discover one of the most frantic and exciting PS3 games of 2010. Start The Party is also an excellent proof of concept and I suspect it won’t be long before more games like this appear on the system… or maybe this party just has me totally wasted. Time for another drink….