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PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale Review (PS3/Vita)

Alan MacMillan is the 21st PlayStation All Star.

Who would win out of Kratos and Raiden? Parapa the Rapper would surely kick both their asses. Kick kick punch it’s all in the mind! Those kind of playground arguments of old can now be settled once and for all in Sony’s mascot mash up.

Let me start this review by pissing off many readers with what they might regard as blasphemy. I have not played Smash Bros and I do not care about Smash Bros! So despite any comparisons between that game and Playstation All Stars, there will be no more mention of it throughout this article. Those hoping for a comparison can surely find one in every single article and comment thread about this game elsewhere. Today I’m afraid it is All Stars!

PS All Stars is a game that unsurprisingly feels very Playstation. From the classic wispy PS3 theme background, to Uncharted’s iconic score and even the very moves of the characters themselves. It feels very much like a celebration of all things Playstation.

Whenever anyone will be discussing a multi-franchise mascot brawler their main talking point will undoubtedly be the line-up. So let’s cut straight to the chase and get this one out of the way. Is All Stars line-up good? Yes. But is it great? Not quite.

While I’ve been somewhat impressed with the line-up I do have some slight issues with it. Firstly I think twenty characters is too small a quota. I think a handful more would have suffice as I think any game of this ilk really needs a large selection. Secondly there are some notable exclusions. Not everyone will get to see all their favourite characters and we can cry and stomp our feet at the absence of Sully or the King of all Cosmos but there are some exclusions that cannot be ignored. This is obviously subjective but I think few would argue that Spyro the Dragon, Crash, Snake and Cloud really have to be in there. They are hallmarks of the Playstation brand. Hell, Snake is practically an ambassador. We’ve been through thick and thin with that guy, from Playstation 1 to 3 to PSP. The series may now span multiple platforms but Snake is still very much Playstation’s man and is sorely missing here.

Instead of Snake we are treated to Raiden, a character many hated in his Metal Gear 2 debut, but who arguably made up for it in his super stylish re-appearance in Guns of the Patriots. But it’s the impending release of Metal Gear Rising that has undoubtedly led to his inclusion here. Much the same way that Dante from Devil May Cry appears not as the iconic white haired red trench-coated Dante we’re used to, but as the second life avatar looking bland bore from the latest instalment. I’m not even a big fan of the DMC games but this decision irritates. Even people who have never touched a DMC game in their life will probably recognise Dante. But not this version of him. When I see him in the roster I don’t think of Dante, I just think “urrrghhhh. URRRGHHHH!!” That grin! Not since Joffrey graced our screens in Game of Thrones have I wanted to slap a character so much! But I digress.

The game itself plays very well. Each character is incredibly varied in their move sets and play style so every player will find someone suited to their needs. There’s short, medium and long range characters, rooty tooty point and shooty types, melee fighters, combo reliant types and mixes of all. But then there’s totally unique ones like Sackboy who uses gadgets, bounce pads and cake launchers to torment his opponents. And believe me, when played well Sackboy is a formidable opponent!

If you thought Sackboy was weird just wait till you see Toro. For those not in the know (i.e. most of us) Toro has featured in a number of his own games and is the Playstation mascot in Japan. Much like how the games end boss, Polygon Man was the Playstation 1’s mascot in the US. In Europe he may not mean much to us but I am in love with him already. Toro is an adorable cat that wants to be human and has three unique costume and move sets he can switch between. Tricky to get used to at first but deadly when mastered. I find it hard fighting against him not just because of his unpredictability but because he’s just so damn cute!

For those who know nothing about All Stars there are basically four players in a game who bash the crap out of each other trying to fill up their super bars. Once you reach level one you can unleash your super and hopefully kill your opponents with it. Alternatively you can keep saving up and wait until you get to level two or three. Did I mention? You can only score points by getting those super kills. Prior to release there was some complaint about this (mainly due to being different to some other similar game out there, what was it called now…). It makes for some tactical play as you might be wondering whether to use your level two and get anything from zero to four or five kills, or wait and use your level three which depending on your character might give you a guaranteed three kills but no more. Some characters you will find you are actually better off using their level two but it’s all down to player skill. Better players of course will know how to avoid certain supers so you might opt for the guaranteed kills.

The game modes feel somewhat lacking and probably my only real complaint, character roster and Dante aside. The ‘campaign’ mode is simply a series a fights that gradually increase the amount of enemies and difficulty. Culminating in a penultimate fight with a rival of sorts, complete with a short cut scene with the two interacting with each other. These range from a smack talk showdowns between hero and sidekicks with Ratchet and Clank vs Jak and Daxter; to a Little Sister deciding that Sackboy is so adorable that he’s going to replace Mr Bubbles (Big Daddy from Bioshock)! Aww! These cut scenes I felt were few and far between and were really a missed opportunity. I would have loved to have seen more humorous interactions between these characters. Especially because outside of Robot Chickens brilliant sketches in promotion of the game, where else will we get to see Kratos and Sweet Tooth diss Sackboy!

There are also some challenges on offer to keep you entertained as well as a pretty good practice mode to hone your skills with any particular character. Multiplayer is really where the longevity with this game will be though. Tournament mode gives the more competitive players a chance to prove their worth against the rest of the world in ranked matches while the usual unranked matches are on offer for those just after some cheap fun or too scared to face the big boys! Local multiplayer is supported with friends or with bots as well as cross-play with the Vita. Got your mates round but don’t have four PS3 controllers? Well if one of you has a Vita it can cater for that and you can party up with the rest. Sony will also give you the Vita version for free (digital download) if you buy the PS3 version of the game. Game types only really differ in scoring and whether its free for all or 2v2. It would have been great to see some more varied game modes for what’s essentially a party game.

The levels on offer are outstanding though. I could sit and play the Little Big Planet all day long. It plays out as the level editing tool from the LBP games, using the garden theme. A whimsical tune plays in the background and as you knock the sack socks off each other the level is created around you. A tree placed here, a water hazard placed there, and strangely it’s not all that distracting. You’re aware of the level evolving around you and you have to adapt to it or use it against your enemies but it never truly gets in the way to ruin your experience but instead enhances it. If that wasn’t all the background suddenly shifts and changes to the Buzz quiz game! Mid fight you’re presented with a quiz question and the answers are assigned to certain areas of the level. If you’re in the wrong answer when the timer runs up then you’re punished and lose points on your super bar.

All the levels are dynamic and will generally mix two games together with one invading the other. The Loco Roco level (which looks and feels like being in the Loco Roco game itself!) mixes in Metal Gear Ray halfway through. The Hydra from God of War will burst into a Ratchet and Clank level and cause havoc for the players. Hotshot Golf players will periodically rain golf balls down on Jak and Daxter’s level. Much to my delight one particular level type I hoped would be in the game but wasn’t, will in fact be coming later as DLC. That level is in fact Wipeout! Another mainstay of the Playstation brand Wipeout needed to feature in some capacity, even if the genre doesn’t allow it. Featuring as part of a level would be perfect though, perhaps in a grav ship hanger bay or a track that runs through the level?

Which brings me to my next topic. DLC. The possibilities here for DLC are endless. Sony could have a real money spinner on their hands here. As gutted as I am not to see Cloud and Sephiroth make the initial roster, I would still gladly part with a lump sum to get a whole cast of Final Fantasy characters later as DLC. Some suspect that is why they left out certain characters but I think it was more down to licensing. While Naughty Dog are more than happy to have Drake feature they do in fact no longer own the IP to Crash Bandicoot. Activision are in fact in possession of that along with Spyro the Dragon. So while I wouldn’t put such ransoming of characters past Sony I do feel that they need people on board with this game for it to be a success. The more high profile characters they can get in the more cred the game has. Holding some back just doesn’t make sense.

So what else could they add? I don’t think Vibri from Vib Ribbon would work as a character but as a stage…oh yes! The madness of Katamari also needs to feature. Some early Resident Evil game characters would be sweet, along with Silent Hill. Kain and Raziel from Legacy of Kain and Soul Reaver respectively would be a nice addition and suited to the game as well. Ico and the Wanderer from Shadow of the Colossus would make many a Team Ico fan happy. Sora from Kingdom Hearts would make a nice unique character standing out from the rest with his key blade and perhaps Donald and Goofy could feature as support characters for some of his moves!

It’s fun to think of all the great games at hand and this kind of speculation is ultimately why games like this are made in the first place and why they shouldn’t be restricted to one platform who got there first. If your chosen platform has a healthy roster of games, characters and history then the fans deserve a mix mash of some sort! My only wish is that when Sony bring out their Playstation 4, they make All Stars a free game pre-installed on the system. It’s fan service and the fans undoubtedly deserve it.

Overall Playstation All Stars is a very solid fun game. Perhaps somewhat lacking in game modes and a few characters that would make it a superb title but it’s certainly a game every Playstation fan should at least check it.

8 Smashing All Stars who aren’t Brothers out of 10

Published inGames