Start the Party is every core Move owner's worst nightmare: a minigame collection, full of casual, family-friendly gameplay. Although the usual issues that hold back the genre are all present and correct here, it's still not a bad title for families and those wanting a silly but enjoyable introduction to the controller.
You won't be overwhelmed with options in Start the Party: you can choose Solo or Group Play, with the option to play a mixture of games at random or select your own in Party Mix. Winning minigames secures you stars, and whoever has the most stars at the end of the game is the winner. It's necessarily simple and easy for anyone to follow, which is definitely a bonus.
For anyone looking to play with the four players supported by the title, you'll be pleased to know you can pass around one Move controller to get everyone involved, but multiple Moves are not supported. At the beginning of the game you snap a picture and record a short voice sample for each player, a nice way to introduce the game's players without on-screen keyboards and the like.
Using the Eye camera to display you on-screen has been a staple of Sony’s party games since EyeToy Play all those years ago, but the addition of the Move controller advances this far beyond its origins. Seeing the controller tracked in 1:1 motion even in a simplistic party game is a fascinating experience for any player, and provides some unique gameplay possibilities.
As you'd expect, Start the Party's minigames are a very mixed bag, varying from fun to frantic and frustrating. With 20 different activities of varying lengths and qualities, there isn't a vast amount of content included, and as is usual with the genre Start the Party relies on its combination of players to provide the variety.
Stand-out games include a helicopter rescue game, where the Move becomes the remote controller for a helicopter tasked with airlifting stranded civilians from rooftops before a giant lizard eats them. Turning the controller to fly the chopper is intuitive and responsive, allowing for precision flying at high speeds, the cutesy sock puppet-style lizard helps keep the mood light.
Other highlights include the robot-zapping minigame where video is projected onto the robot’s stomachs, asking you to line up the Move with a cursor to destroy them, which quickly becomes an exercise in disorientation and spacial awareness. There’s also a game in which the Move becomes a fan, blowing falling chicks into nests, and it’s remarkable how quickly you accept that the Move can perform delicate movements with precision.
Other games are less inventive: Whack-a-mole is present, although it only works in a 2D plane, and one game asks you to paint in a succession of shapes, a dull exercise slightly improved by the payoff at the end. The weakest link is a fruit-slicing minigame that simply becomes an exercise in waggling a sword to cut everything to ribbons, the kind of poor motion control we’d hoped Move would be exempt from. There are probably half a dozen games you’re unlikely to want to touch after a few goes, but such is the nature of the party game.
If you are a solo player, there’s a Survival Mode here that challenges you to make it through as many minigames as possible, keeping an energy bar full by successfully performing tasks. As you’d expect it’s not half as enjoyable as playing with others, but it’s a good way to hone your skills and earn a sizeable portion of the game’s Trophies.
There are no online features, not even leaderboards or the ability to save or share any of the secret snapshots the game takes during play, making this strictly a living room party only. It’s not a huge dealbreaker – games like these rarely work over the ‘net anyway – but something is definitely lacking in the longevity stakes here. Although there are three levels of difficulty for each minigame, they don’t change the games enough to make them worth playing on varying levels, although there are Hard mode-specific Trophies for those of you after a stern challenge.
The graphics are as good or as poor as you want them to be: most of the game is spent looking at yourself holding a Move controller disguised as a range of objects, from tennis racquets to toothbrushes. Characters have an appealing cartoon appearance, their faces and expressions unmistakably European, and there’s some pleasing clothy and woody textures on display. The most impressive aspect is the fashion in which the Move controller reacts and resembles the item you’re holding: a flagship title for the Move’s core aspirations this isn’t, but as a centrepiece for augmented reality it absolutely works.
On the audio side you won’t find yourself humming along to any tracks any time soon, with mostly forgettable tunes warbling away in the background, but the irritating commentator is likely to get your goat on more than one occasion. There also seems to be a rather large amount of flatulence sound effects, suggesting those under the age of ten may get the most enjoyment from the game’s audio presentation.
As a showcase for the versatility and augmented reality capabilities of Move, Start the Party is one of the better titles in the launch line-up. The 1:1 tracking is always impressive, even in the lower quality minigames, and when combined with a more enjoyable game there’s a lot to enjoy. Sadly, there just isn’t enough quality content here to recommend a purchase: families with young children who want a multiplayer game without shelling out for multiple Moves may want to consider this, but even so it’s certain to be superseded by better party games in the coming months.