(PlayStation 3)

Game Review

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Sammy Barker

Celebrity deathmatch

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is a lot like a box of chocolates that consists purely of almond-based treats. SuperBot Entertainment’s mascot mash-up cherry picks some of the sweetest moments from PlayStation lore and casts them inside a brawler so self-aware that you can’t help but smile while playing it. From the lackadaisical fighting style of Uncharted’s lovable lothario Nathan Drake, to the genre appropriate stances of wannabe marsupial Toro Inoue, this is a confident, creative, and, perhaps most importantly, comical debut that demands your attention in spite of any lingering scepticism you may have.

Indeed, while pre-release discussion has centred on the similarities between Sony’s four-player brawler and Nintendo’s own Super Smash Bros, the comparisons are merely surface deep. PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is a surprisingly original experience that’s defined by its unique scoring system and obsessive attention to detail. The fighter may share some overarching ideas with its nearest peers, but in truth it’s unlike any other competitive game currently available.

At the crux of SuperBot Entertainment’s unique battle loop is AP, which is used to build super meters. Each character in the game has access to three different super attacks, with each tier demanding an increased expenditure of the aforementioned currency. In order to harvest the ambiguous assets, you must successfully land attacks on your opponents. Hitting with a super attack is the only way to kill an adversary, and, subsequently, score points. Are you keeping up?

For as complicated as it sounds on paper, it only takes a round or two to actually understand the system. Once you retune your mindset away from the established rules of virtually every other fighting game released, SuperBot Entertainment’s alternative clicks. And it’s this original mechanic which imbues the brawler with an identity all of its own.

There’s an underlying risk to whichever strategy you adopt, and that makes tight fights incredibly tense affairs. Building up a level one super, for example, only requires a couple of successful combos – but it’s not nearly as foolproof as the overpowering level three supers, which take significantly longer to attain. As such, you’re forced to make constant sub-conscious decisions about your tactics. A huddled group of combatants may be ripe for a swift level one triple-kill, but missing means that you’ll have to rebuild your meter from scratch again. That’s not a necessarily sound approach when your back’s against the wall and there’s just 45 seconds left on the clock. A single bad choice can be the difference between finishing first or fourth.

And yet, this underlying complexity is contrasted by an overwhelming accessibility. Attacks are executed by combining the face buttons with different directions, while supers are initiated with a simple tap of the R2 button. As with any good competitive game, an experienced player will utterly dominate a button-basher – but that doesn’t mean that newcomers can’t have fun. In fact, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale tends to tread the line between accessibility and depth better than any other title in the genre. Sure, it may not ever reach the tactical highs of Street Fighter IV or Marvel vs. Capcom 3, but this is a game that’s designed for both parties and professional play sessions – and it appeals to both astoundingly well.

Each character is armed with a slew of combos that can help them gather AP at an increased rate. Input strings aren’t especially complex, but the title does demand a degree of timing and controller aptitude. Brilliantly, all of the combos are detailed in an incredibly in-depth Tutorial mode, which also spares a moment to introduce you to each of the character’s moves and prepare you for basic gameplay. It’s not the most eye-catching of the game’s initial roster of options, but it’s certainly a godsend for wannabe online high-flyers.

The quality of the roster itself will depend on your lust for the PlayStation brand, but considering the range of fighters on offer, we’re going to assume that anyone who picks up the controller will find at least one appealing superstar. There are a couple of glaring omissions, of course – Crash Bandicoot and Spyro sit at the top of the list – but SuperBot Entertainment has done a sterling job of creating a character list that’s both varied and a fitting celebration of Sony’s gaming history. The mere inclusion of forgotten favourites such as PaRappa the Rapper and Sir Daniel Fortesque is unadulterated fan service, and the game is littered with self-referential jargon that will prompt fans to smile like Fat Princess at a cake convention.

But the nostalgia runs deeper than the inclusion of the characters themselves. Each participant – save for the unavoidable similarities between Good Cole and Evil Cole – is augmented with a unique fighting style that closely mimics their parent intellectual property. The aforementioned Fat Princess, for example, can call upon the assistance of her workers to initiate devastating mid-distance attacks, while Sackboy makes frequent use of his Pop It and gadgets to stave off bigger brutes. Even the dulcet tones of narrator Stephen Fry make a cameo, when the burlap buccaneer lays down a platform of burning embers in traditional creator curator fashion. It’s mad.

The fan-service extends to some of the most inane details too, such as Nathan Drake’s ability to take cover behind a knee-high wall, or Heihachi’s use of bowling pins as projectile attacks. Toro Inoue is arguably the most impressive of them all, as he’s able to utilise his customary changing closet in order to switch between three unique stances, each based on Tekken, Street Fighter, and Mortal Kombat. It’s like a love-letter to the fighting game genre, all wrapped up in the inputs of a niche anthropomorphic cat barely recognised outside of Japan.

The rivalries between protagonists merely add to the insanity, as your main reward for progressing through the single-player Arcade mode is watching completely unrelated characters like Sweet Tooth and Kratos argue over ridiculous topics such as ice cream. In one particularly memorable moment, Toro ponders what’s happened to Heihachi’s grey hair. The writing really is fantastic throughout, and it will make you laugh out loud if you’re a keen follower of the PlayStation platform.

Of course, it’s enhanced by the inclusion of each character’s original voice actor. The authenticity would have been ruined if it was missing the likes of Nolan North and Eric Ladin – but not only are they present, they’ve also recorded brand new dialogue to fit the context of the game. In the case of mute characters such as Sackboy, the developer’s incorporated recognisable sound effects such as the chime of the respawn portals and Pop It from LittleBigPlanet.

The soundtrack incorporates a slew of recognisable themes too, from the sweeping orchestral motifs of Killzone, to the upbeat rhythms of Patapon. Each stage blends two disparate PlayStation franchises to create some fairly unique arenas. Jak & Daxter’s colourful Sandover Village is used as a driving range for the stars of Hot Shots Golf, while LittleBigPlanet’s self-constructing Dreamscape eventually transforms into an episode of Buzz complete with video game trivia. Other stages invoke memories of landmark PlayStation moments, such as the San Francisco scene from the start of Resistance 2, and the seemingly never-ending Alden’s Tower from inFamous, which you actually have to traverse while fending off attacks from your foes.

Each stage is packed with background activity, be it Carmelita from Sly Cooper gliding around in a helicopter, or Ratchet & Clank’s Dr. Nefarious sarcastically commentating on the action that’s taking place on screen. Despite the sheer amount of commotion occurring at any one moment, the game maintains an unwavering 60 frames-per-second at all times. Even more impressive is that the PlayStation Vita version achieves the same without any apparent visual compromises.

Indeed, it’s worth mentioning that for the standard price of PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale on PS3, you get the portable release for free. The wizards over at Bluepoint Games have done an absolutely incredible job of translating the experience to the small-screen, with cross-play and cross-save ensuring that you’re able to take your progress on the go. Transferring your data between devices is still a magical experience, and it’s seamlessly implemented here. The fact that you don’t have to pay any extra for the privilege is massively appreciated.

For all of its strengths, though, keeping track of the action on the Vita’s five-inch screen can be problematic, especially on larger stages where the camera is zoomed out. Still, at least the user interface looks slicker on the handheld, as it appears quite clunky on the PS3. The poor menus aren’t necessarily a major problem, but they give the game a disappointingly cheap appearance.

The story cut-scenes that bookend each character’s single-player campaign are similarly low-budget, with basic dialogue overlapping a slideshow of artwork. They feel like an afterthought, and even though they are true to each fighter’s personality, they don’t really provide a particularly pleasing pay-off for progressing through the eight stages that make up the Arcade mode.

Outside of the standard solo option, there are a slew of combat trials to complete. These are divided into generic and character specific objectives, with three difficulty tiers to beat. Each stage sees you attempting to master a very precise challenge, such as using all three of a character’s super attacks, or earning a certain amount of AP with a specific attack. Completing these tests rewards you with RP, which increases your currently selected fighter’s level. As you raise each of the roster’s rank, you’ll unlock new costumes, taunts, and profile icons which can be used to customise your appearance online. The title also boasts a laundry list of goals, which essentially acknowledge your progress through each of the game’s modes. There are even daily specific targets, which are reset every 24 hours.

For as competent as the single-player experience is, online multiplayer is certain to be the main draw for most people. Thankfully, the matchmaking is smooth, with ranked, quick match, and leaderboards on offer. You can alter a number of parameters in the quick match option, such as game type, items, and more. You can also participate in team matches, allowing you to join forces with a friend, or take on three people at once. And if you’re not a big fan of the default scoring system, you can choose to switch between stock or kill target playlists. Of course, all of these preferences and more extend to the local four-player versus mode too.

Conclusion

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is a fitting celebration of Sony’s video game legacy, and a love-letter to fans of the brand. SuperBot Entertainment has meticulously merged three generations of platform lore into a four-player brawler that’s both approachable and cunningly complex. The game may have some interface issues, and the roster may not appeal to your grandparents – but it’s the only title currently available that lets you pit a burlap doll against an antagonistic ice cream man whose hair is on fire. That, as far as we’re concerned, is absolutely awesome.

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User Comments (38)

Knux

#1

Knux said:

This looks pretty awesome. I'll be getting the PS3 version when I get a chance to do so. :O

Chozo85

#4

Chozo85 said:

Brilliant review Sammy! As one of the few people who owns a Vita but not a PS3 I've been looking forward to this one but also slightly concerned that the experience might be compromised on the handheld. Your comments reassure me that it is not the case. I actually think this is a very important game for the vita. With some of the recent releases on the Vita attracting mixed reviews its nice to have a game that is probably exceeding expectations. A recurring theme throughout the reviews I've read is that this is not a smash bros knock off but very much its own game. It looks to be great fan service to the playstation brand. I can't wait to pick this up on Friday and face off against my PS3 owning friends.

get2sammybAdmin

#5

get2sammyb said:

@Chozo85 The Vita version's top-notch — you shouldn't be concerned about that. It runs, and looks slick. The only real issue is that the small screen makes it difficult to track the action at times. Otherwise it's a stellar port.

Dambuster

#6

Dambuster said:

How does cross buy work, if I rented the ps3 version from blockbuster and took the code out of the box would I still be able to get the vita game?

NathanUC

#7

NathanUC said:

@Dambuster As long as no one ever used the code before, I'd assume it would work. I'm fairly sure that Blockbuster and rental places remove the codes after they open them though.

ohhaime

#8

ohhaime said:

I still think I'll wait for a sale or PS+ before I get this, But hearing it has the option for Stock matches goes a long way towards making me want to buy it.

How's the character balance? I know it will almost absolutely be tweaked with patches later on but how is it right now?

And is there an option to mute all voice chat?I hate games that don't include this and force me to listen to mouth breathers, crying babies and people having conversations with their family.Especially on the Vita because I don't think most people even know how to turn off their mics.(Hold the PS button and check the box,please I'm begging you.)

Dambuster

#9

Dambuster said:

My blockbuster are lazy, if i'm first to rent it, the code will still be in box! I have got loads of nintendo points cards from blockbusters! I will give it try!

ShogunRokAdmin

#12

ShogunRok said:

Very nice! I'm glad All-Stars is getting universally good reviews, seems like a real labour of love from SuperBot

Dambuster

#15

Dambuster said:

But remember the vita has no good games ........ or so people who don't own one keep saying!!

Galvatron

#16

Galvatron said:

Great review - and good to see another Vita release which is worthy of consideration on it's own merits. On either format, the game looks inviting and as a Tekken aficionado playing Heihachi could well be a blast :-)

JavierYHL

#17

JavierYHL said:

this game is...awesome playing with friends...i and my friends been playing the asian version non stop and barely have enough sleep :(

hydeks

#19

hydeks said:

wow, sounds like an amazing game, I'm happy it turned out to be great, cause I've asked for this for christmas :P

Azikira

#21

Azikira said:

Okay so I bought this game while the "Pre-Order now and get the free 20+ Costumes and a theme" was still being advertised. I don't see them anywhere on my download list. :L

get2sammybAdmin

#22

get2sammyb said:

@Azikira I've heard a lot of people are having issues with the pre-order bonuses. I'll let you know if I learn about where/how you redeem them.

ztpayne7

#23

ztpayne7 said:

Not gonna lie - kinda freaked out when I didn't find a manual in my copy. How do you activate cross buy? Is that the online pass?

ztpayne7

#25

ztpayne7 said:

Yes. I think I just figured it out. Disc benefits wasn't working but I read somewhere that you have to do an optional system update to get it to work. I don't own a vita, but I figured if I ever get one, I'll want this option to be available.

ztpayne7

#27

ztpayne7 said:

I will! I'm excited. I have to wait like another 15 minutes because of the patch, but I'll post tonight or tomorrow.

JamieOStaff

#29

JamieO said:

Fair play, what a cracking review, @get2sammyb has provided a detailed read here. I particularly like the reference to this game’s nostalgia and its fan-service: from the transforming backgrounds, to the soundtrack, its authentic voice acting and character themed move-set.

I remember back at this year’s Eurogamer Expo, Sammy was already eagerly learning the intricacies of different characters and fighting strategies, following the release of the Beta version of the game. He kicked a fair few gamer’s backsides in the demo that day, including mine.

Trouble is, I am desperately saving for a Wii U, so I won’t have spare money to buy PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale until next year. The cross-buy PS Vita freebie (cross-play and cross-save), included with your game purchase, makes this a proper bargain though. I am confident that there will still be plenty of online combatants to fight in multiplayer next year.

I think @Chozo85, @Dambuster and @Galvatron are spot-on, this game is an excellent showcase of the power and diversity of PS Vita. It is another example of a quality game for us to cite, as a great Vita title to mention, when answering all of the naysayers.

I would have loved for there to be a more ambitious single-player adventure option in this game, similar to the ‘Subspace Emissary’ in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which treated Wii gamers to a co-op adventure mode, too. However, SCE may include something like that in the inevitable sequel.

A kick-butt review!

Samholy

#31

Samholy said:

got the game last night.... freaking amazing.
been a big fan of smash brothers, and it was annoying not to see other kind of games like it. I tried one piece games (Grand battle) on ps1, that were kinda cool....but nothing could compete with nintendo's seal of quality.
Glad to see they had the guts to make a game in the same vein, and make it right.

off with nintendo comparison now. this game rocks! else than the poor menu graphic design and weird arcade mode humor, its a solid game. just get it. its the kind of game that should come with the console.

Dambuster

#32

Dambuster said:

Just checked, the free vita version is not on a code in the box, its unlocked from the disc, when you load the ps3 game the option to download the vita game comes up on the XMB. You can only download the vita version to one psn account. which means, you can rent the ps3 version from Blockbuster and get the vita version, as long as no one else has downloaded it.

bauckster

#34

bauckster said:

This sounds great! Glad to hear that it is NOT a smash bros. clone. I never could get the Beta to work for me (outside of the tutorial), so I'm hoping that they make a demo available.

Dambuster

#35

Dambuster said:

Of course, but by doing this no one loose's out, blockbuster pay for the game, so sony get there money, I pay to rent the game so blockbuster get there money back, the vita version is free so it would be silly not to download it. so its win win for everyone. And i'll prob have to buy the online pass.

Slapshot

#37

Slapshot said:

I just can't get this stupid grin off of my face while I'm playing this game!

I was worried about the final product, because of some balancing issues in the beta, but the final product is as well balanced as they could possible have gotten it (I still think Kratos needs to be weakened a tad bit), but after your killer review Sammy, I grabbed it any ways - I'm glad I did too. This game flippin' rocks!

Great job as always Sammy-boy! :D

odd69

#38

odd69 said:

I just cant justify full price for this game. 59.99 is just way to much at the moment

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