BigFest is Theme Park with more Wellington boots and Bulmers – and it's worth buying for that fact alone. On the Metal's musical management sim was announced for the PlayStation Vita an eternity ago, but tickets are finally on sale from the PlayStation Store, and thankfully we reckon that it's more Oasis than Beady Eye.
But what is it that makes the game a headline act? Well, its adherence to Bullfrog's blueprints definitely help. Ever since Theme Hospital cured Elvis Impersonation Syndrome (EIS) on the PSone in 1998, there's been a real dearth of business games. Kairosoft scratched the itch on smartphones, but PlayStation has been poorly supplied in the economic arena.
BigFest, then, feels like a breath of body odour-imbued air on account of it setting up camp in a familiar but underrepresented genre. Essentially, the game sees you booking bands, dealing with divas, and servicing the demands of fans – all while trying to balance the books. It's a straightforward premise that never gets especially deep, but its simplicity is part of its appeal.
As you establish your festival, you'll tackle posters, which include Angry Birds-esque three star objectives. You'll pick your bands, and you'll have until the set closes to fulfil the demands of your current task. This may include building a certain number of stalls or raising your Vibe meter to a pre-determined tier – essentially ensuring that your festival is seriously hip.
Progress is gated a little more than we'd like, but this appears to be intentional, as the release is very accessible as a consequence. You can't, for example, go crazy and install a slew of port-a-potties all at once, because you'll need to upgrade your sewage capacity first. The same is true of speakers and lighting, and consequently it can feel like you're always waiting for your funds to rise as a result.
But it obviously makes it satisfying when you have got the resources to build that shower block that your guests have been asking for, and it forces you to be proactive to their requests. There's a temptation in games of this ilk to just take out a gigantic loan and build one of everything, but you can't do that here, so you'll need to manually replace ice cream stands with cafés when the heavens inevitably open.
As is often the case in games like this, it can feel like you're locked in a losing battle with your visitors. People, as the Internet proves, will always find something to complain about, so whether you feel like you've got enough trash cans and toilets or not, there'll be someone in the crowd crowing about the fact that your festival is filthy.
But the game plays out with its tongue placed firmly in its cheek, and while you will need to satisfy the whims of showgoers, it's always eager to underline how petty the attendees are being. In fact, much of the text and dialogue here is really well written; there's a cynical British wit to item descriptions, while the puns are excellent throughout in our expert opinion.
And it's not just clever in the dialogue department, because the studio's been smart with the way that it handles sounds, too. Rather than license a handful of tracks and risk repetition, the developer's incorporated indie bands from dozens of different genres. Using them in your festivals increases their importance, meaning that they'll bring more buzz to your events – but also carry higher demands.
It's a really great solution because the unsigned artists get real-world exposure, while the game boasts an enormous selection of songs without succumbing to prohibitive licensing bills. And some of the tracks are actually pretty good – alright, there's some garbage in there, but we quite like the band Singleton now. They have 1,072 likes on Facebook.
The only real bum note here, then, is the art style, which uses mannequin-like characters that fail to convey any real personality at all. It's also hard to get a feel for when business is booming; there are cash register sound effects, but that uber-satisfying ker-ching is what made the likes of Theme Park so moreish in the first place, and it's mixed way too low here.
Still, the fact that you can visit your friends' festivals via the PlayStation Network, and even make their lives difficult by sending smelly hipsters to their shows, really accentuates the amount of effort that's been put into this game. It's not a AAA blockbuster by any stretch, but you can tell that a small team's spent a lot of time establishing ideas here and iterating upon them.
BigFest plugs a gap in the Vita's library with glamping and good intentions. On the Metal's festival foray is a straightforward simulation, but its strong sense of humour and innovative inclusion of indie bands makes it a class act. While the novelty does wear thin eventually, there's more than enough entertainment on offer here to justify its entry fee.