TV Superstars is a minigame collection that hinges on the concept of being contestants on a range of reality TV shows, so it’s fitting that it ends up being a shallow and forgettable experience.
It all starts off well: you use the PlayStation Eye camera to snap three photos for your contestants’ head, record a short sample and then use Move to sign your autograph. You can customise your hairstyle and a few other variables, then start your career to celebrity super stardom, achieved by participating in four TV shows and a series of commercials.
At first glance Frockstar is a bizarre Project Runway/America’s Next Top Model pastiche, but it actually more resembles a dancing game: your avatar sashays down the runway whilst you use Move to follow on-screen directional arrows, with bonus points for keeping rhythm and performing the motions correctly. Your moves are tracked reasonably well, as long as you make your movements a bit bigger than you might think is necessary, and as you proceed down the road to superstardom you can engage in make-up and hairdressing minigames, which are passable at best.
Second option Let’s Get Physical is an over-the-top game show that offers a blend of minigames, none of which are all that successful. One involves sprinting on a giant wheel, achieved by performing a running motion with Move, then pushing the Move button to leap a robotic boxing glove. A minigame where you twist the controller to line up your in-game avatar with an outline makes better use of Move’s motion-control capabilities however, with some amusing sound effects to boot. There’s a second variant called Let’s Get Physical: Reloaded, a collection of paintball gun-based games that’s not as fun as it sounds, revolving around colouring in outlines and hitting cut-outs of the hosts whilst avoiding your teammates.
Sadly the quality level rarely reaches those heights again. Big Beat Kitchen is a combination of Cooking Mama and rapping, which either sounds like heaven or a cruel, cruel joke. As you proceed through the recipes at certain points you’ll be interrupted and instructed to rap, following the lyrics on-screen whilst shaking the Move in the specified direction. The voice detection is shaky, often missing notes you got right whilst rewarding you for mumbling or messing up completely, but at least the raps are a welcome break from the shaking, stirring, chopping and flipping that make up this TV show.
DIY Raw is the final show and another weak effort: hammering away at plaster is nobody’s idea of a good time, especially in this form. Whilst the painting and stencilling sections make decent use of Move’s capabilities, sawing wood for floorboards is laborious, making it realistic but not entertaining.
The STAA commercials are the game’s high points: here your wannabe shills a range of products from deodorant to smartphones, and although the controls are essentially identical to Frockstar’s there is at least some correlation to the movements required. You get to record the product’s slogan too, and if you beat the previous best score your finished advert will be shown after completing other games, so make sure you keep it clean.
Whilst you unlock content for all these shows as you accumulate fame points and rise through the rankings, the basic structure of each show remains the same, and boredom soon sets in.
The pace is further let down by the lengthy loading times and quasi-cutscenes that turn simple five minute minigames into patience-testing twenty minute sessions. Each minigame is timed, but you’ll spend just as long calibrating your controller, reading the instructions and waiting for the game to load as you will actually playing, and even that’s not particularly enjoyable. Whilst multiplayer mode supports four Move controllers to remove the need to pass one around, it still lacks the zip needed to make this an enjoyable party experience: watching three other players paint and place tiles isn’t many people’s idea of fun.
Whilst it is enjoyable to watch others’ commercials during gameplay, the fact you only see the highest-scoring advert coupled with the same control method for each means it’s often the same player stealing the limelight, even more boring in multiplayer mode. These adverts are a nice addition but they’re under-developed: more control over their content and the ability to share them with friends would have been welcome.
It’s hard to shake the feeling when playing TV Superstars that the interesting concept has been wasted on mediocre minigames. There’s no pace to multiplayer when compared to superior party fare such as Buzz!: The Ultimate Music Quiz or even Start the Party!, whose augmented reality approach could have been a big improvement here. Move’s accuracy is mostly ignored or underused, and many of the minigames could have been accomplished on the Wii, not something you’d hope to hear from a game developed by Sony’s respected Cambridge Studio. Technical aspects aside, most of them are just aren’t that fun, and it’s unlikely you’ll return to any of them in future even with the promise of extra content to unlock.
At least the game’s presentation is polished, after the creepiness of the characters’ photographic faces has worn off at least. The branding of each show is well-observed, and although the hosts are all lamentable stereotypes they at least bring some much-needed energy to the game, and the voice acting is of a good standard too.
What could have been an interesting and novel take on the minigame genre is just another poor collection, and one that lacks the pace to make it a party entertainer. If you’re after a game that makes you feel like a superstar, you might want to wait for the promising Yoostar 2, the “movie karaoke” game that is a far more ambitious take on a TV-based party game. Sadly for TV Superstars, its lengthy loading times and misuse of Move’s capabilities mean it’s doomed to Z-list status.