Atom Universe

Sometimes the best surprises in life are the ones that you don't expect – but we'd give pause before describing Atom Universe as a pleasant shock. Suspiciously dropped onto the European PlayStation Store today with virtually zero fanfare, this is the next-gen social hovel that you've been yearning for ever since PlayStation Home shutdown last week – except it's currently single player only and very much a work in progress.

To be blunt, we've got no idea why this exists or why Sony has even allowed it to be released. A sampler for a much bigger project currently on Kickstarter, this Atom Republic developed (anti-) social space sees you taking control of an ugly avatar and exploring a theme park. You can possess any one of the other people peppered around the Unreal Engine 4 powered scene, and shake their hands or give them piggy back rides.

Clearly, this is all meant to demonstrate what the experience will be like when the world is bustling with other online players – without the insults and horny teenagers descending upon every female avatar like a swarm of bees. There's a Ferris wheel that you can ride in, but a quick push of the circle button will see you hurtling to the ground beneath you. Don't worry, though, as there's no concept of death in this cheerful otherworld.

In fact the closest that you'll get to such a thing is murder on the dancefloor, as, being a spiritual successor to PlayStation Home, there are plenty of areas for you to strut your virtual stuff. Dance moves can be brought up from a radial menu, with Gangnam Style among the many options. To be fair, the animations here do seem much better than PlayStation Home's ever did, so if you're looking for a communal dancing game, then you may be in luck.


There's also a shooting gallery minigame in this demo-cum-proof-of-concept, but while it looks nice, it doesn't really serve any purpose yet. And that's about it for this weird work in progress so far – well, apart from a football that you can awkwardly kick around. Ignore the London Studio-inspired art direction and there are some nice lighting effects on display – but that's one of the few positive things that we can say.

The developer's talking a good game at least, claiming that there'll be a couple of car racing minigames available when the project properly launches – and these will be complemented by bi-monthly content drops thereafter. It also sounds like it's going after the PlayStation Home model, by providing other developers (and, later, its community) with the tools required to make new spaces, attractions, and clothes.

But it's also got a team of six people working on this, and even with a collective 100 years of development experience between them, it strikes us as unlikely that it'll ever be able to match the admittedly complex infrastructure of Sony's own Second Life clone. It's already got the £20,000 funding that it requires on Kickstarter, so perhaps we're alone with these concerns – but hey, the point's got to be made.

Fair play to the small British outfit if it does eventually pull things off, though, as for as much ridicule that PlayStation Home received, it clearly cultivated a fervent community of fans. We suppose that if Atom Universe can come anywhere close to matching that, then the teensy team at Atom Republic will have succeeded. On the basis of this bizarre playable public teaser, though, it's got a lot of sleepless nights ahead.

Have you already taken a tour of Atom Universe? Are you looking for a PlayStation Home type experience on your PS4? Dance the night away in the comments section below.