|System: PS3 (MOVE)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Supermassive Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Sony Computer Entertainment||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 7, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Andrew Groen
Let's get something out of the way right away: Start the Party is not a game for grownups. If you go into it expecting that, you'll be sorely disappointed. That should be obvious given it's an E rated party game with a child on the cover, but I just wanted to make sure we're on the same page. So if you're neither a parent with younger children (about 6 to 11) nor a kid in that same age bracket, then you should turn around a walk away right now.
Even if you do fit either of those descriptions, there's still some consideration to be made here. This isn't the kind of game you're going to be able to play on your own. So if you think you'll end up playing this alone most of the time, this probably isn't a good fit. The only way this is going to be a good game for you is if you're looking for something to do with four young people for a couple of hours.
If you're a parent, then the paltry price of $40 to keep four kids busy for up to an hour or more shouldn't stop you from getting this game. The kids will have a great time, although I can imagine most parents having a heart attack watching four riled up children swinging around $50 controllers for an hour.
It's not just about the mini-games, although those are generally pretty fun, it's the way in which the party mode presents the competition. You don't just take turns playing a mini-game. Each player records a snapshot of themselves using the PlayStation Eye and a recording of their name at the beginning of the game. I find it hard to imagine a group of kids not having fun taking pictures of themselves and recording sound bites that play during the game.
Beyond just the simple fun of kids playing with a camera, it's just a great game design decision. Rather than using canned avatars, a simple picture drastically enhances the player's attachment to the match. It feels like you're a part of the game rather than just playing one on the TV. When you win, you get to see your face and name at the top of the heap, and that is just smart design.
Furthermore, the crew on this game was smart enough to inject some improbability into the tournaments. It's not as simple as winning at as many games as possible. There are different themed rounds inserted between the games. There are lightning rounds, and thief rounds (where instead of earning points, you steal them from another player), among others. The latter of those two is a particular favorite of mine. It introduces a bit of politics to the mix. You have to get a feel for who has the most momentum and who you do or don't want to be your enemy in this game. Stealing their points could come back to haunt you!
The big problem with Start the Party, though, is everything is great...besides the actual games. To their credit, the developer has wrapped this meager offering in a nice packaging. But, sooner or later, you'll start to see through it. There are only a handful of mini-games included in Start the Party and they're all small games. They're all fairly fun, but so simple that fun may not necessarily be the right word to use. Some examples include: a game where you try to guide parachuters onto a safety boat by waving a fan to change their course, a simple bug swatting game, a whack-a-mole variant, and Start the Party's signature shape drawing game. Most of these don't last more than thirty seconds per round. What's more, beyond local leaderboards, there's not much to keep you playing. A game like this begs for an online leaderboard, which could have drastically extended the play-life of this simple game.