Start the Party was one of the original games announced for the PlayStation 3’s motion controller, launching alongside Move at the tail end of 2010. It was the first project from Supermassive Games, and while it wasn't particularly well-received it clearly sold well enough to warrant the team having another stab at a genre that's proven so successful on Wii. The key question is, though, whether or not lessons were learned to ensure Start the Party! Save the World is a far superior product, worthy of its price-tag and retail release, as opposed to being a mere snippet of a product that would be better suited to the download market.
Right from the get-go, unfortunately, the simple answer is no. There's a barebones front-end that presents itself upon loading up the disc, with Options, Group Play and Solo Play as the only choices available. Anyone hoping for customisation, difficulty settings or even something like extras to unlock will be considerably disappointed to find there is simply the chance to view the credits, adjust the screen position or change the volume of the mundane soundtrack and, perhaps most importantly, turn the annoying voice-over off.
Introducing every element of proceedings is a slick-voiced American actor, discussing the primary goal of each mini-game, encouraging players to jump into the action if the controller is left untouched for too long, and briefing out the tenuous links between the storyline and the on-screen action. Storyline? Yes, Start the Party! Save the World does indeed attempt to draw players in with the premise of the imaginatively named Dr. Terrible threatening a hostile takeover of Mother Earth, taking on the task by using a Move controller and connecting up the PlayStation Eye camera to send him to an early demise through a batch of motion-controlled mini-games included. Frustratingly the voice acting grates considerably after only a short time, so being able to mute the over-the-top chap is a blessing. The story is by no means interesting either, but Dr. Terrible and his evil minions are used in all sorts of ways to explain why players are taking flight in a helicopter to save people from building tops before a monster eats them, or why robots need to be fixed and cleaned in a large factory and so on.
The mini-games themselves are undeniably a mixed bag, as is usually the norm with games of this genre, but again it's an area where one would have expected super massive improvements from the team for this second entry in the fledgling series. Developers often tend to skew towards a lower age grouping, and Start the Party! Save the World doesn't buck that trend with its numerous rudimentary exploits, such as catching flying fish, directing a spaceship’s weapon at aliens and shooting laser beams at them or taking part in a dressed-up edition of the classic Whack-a-Mole that even small children would be able to come to grips with in seconds. Those playing on their own are treated to Survivor or Free Play modes, either trying to score high to stay in the game, or attempting any of the mini-games individually at whatever pace suits. There's no real incentive to keep coming back for more since there are no special extras to unlock or any online functionality for uploading high scores, which seems like a major oversight.
Thankfully there are some saving graces to be discovered amongst the selection of 20 mini-games included. Caveman Bounce, for instance, is one of the stand out games, with little people being dropped from great heights by pterodactyls, the objective being to draw clouds quickly underneath them to bounce the tiny folk in the direction of the nearest cave. The drawing element works extremely well and is certainly reminiscent of the immensely enjoyable recent release, Max and the Magic Marker. The same praise can be poured on other drawing-related mini-games, such as Astro Bounce, where force fields must swiftly be drawn to protect astronauts from incoming meteor rocks as they leap from one spaceship to another.
One example of a rather average mini-game, on the other hand, comes in the form of Overboard, which revolves around catching sailors that have been forced to walk the plank. Oddly enough, however, as they launch themselves off towards the shark-infested waters below, it's a pan that breaks their fall. There are six hatches for the pan to protrude from, with certain ones shutting to impede the saving process, so players must swiftly move to another opening and continue ensnaring as many sailors as possible in the time allotted. Trying to place the pan into the appropriate hatch can prove cumbersome at times and, just like in Manic Medic where balancing a patient in the palm of the giant on-screen hand is an overly sensitive procedure, it can very quickly deteriorate into a mindless controller flapping session. As with the other mini-games included, though, there is the pleasing addition of a friend being able to get involved in an attempt to hinder your progress; in Manic Medic they take control of passers-by that jump up and down to knock the hand you are trying to keep balanced, or in Overboard where they control the fiendish sharks using the standard DualShock 3 in the hope of gulping down some delicious sea men.
An element that really does not help Start the Party! Save the World’s cause is its use of the PlayStation Eye for augmented reality purposes, meaning that in several of the mini-games the background imagery of the general setting will be interlaced with your very own surroundings. Although in some games this works well — step forward EyePet & Friends — in this case the final result is extremely messy and basically impairs the overall field of vision, making it awkward to execute the necessary commands required for success in certain games due to the distraction of a hazy picture of whatever is around you at the time.
On the multiplayer front, which is where the fun factor is supposedly upped, there is the choice of Quick Fire or Group Play. In the former, four players use the Move controller to take part in a mash-up of three different mini-games, flicking through the select few in quick succession until the timer runs out before passing the controller to another person to repeat the same ordeal, with a final score totted up to see who the greatest hero of your sofa really is. The latter is not much of an alternative, acting as a range of mini-games lined up in a row, with each player taking turns to see who can achieve the highest score. Whilst the appeal increases slightly here, it does not take too long for groups to grow bored and start looking for other activities to keep them occupied. This is where Start the Party! Save the World ultimately falls down, with simply not enough variety or content to maintain the attention of either friends and family, or those looking to play alone.
Sadly, while a handful of the 20 games on offer in Start the Party! Save the World are highly entertaining, given that this is meant to be a family package that can entertain all ages and indeed start the party, Supermassive Games needs to work harder to give PS3 the Move-enabled party game it truly deserves next time.