A bit of a brawl.
I must confess to being one of many who thought that PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale was going to be a simple clone of the Super Smash Bros. games. With the first announcement, it all looked so familiar and since then I may have just zoned out any further information about the game. But whilst there are more than a few similarities between the games, Battle Royale throws in an interesting twist for the brawling game on PS3 whilst offering an almost unequaled experience for the Sony handheld. Colour me surprised…
Looking like a tribute to all things Sony, Battle Royale presents the player with a healthy roster of characters from other games and pits them in battle across a side-scrolling environment. The list of available characters will be enough to make any PlayStation fan sit up and take notice, and includes the likes of comical characters such as Sackboy from LittleBigPlanet and Fat Princess from… Fat Princess, to more serious characters like Dante from Devil May Cry or Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal.
Mixing together the more light-hearted characters with the stars of grown-up games may sound like a recipe for disaster. But the reality is that the developers, SuperBot Entertainment, have managed to bring through the personality of each of these characters into the game without losing any of their appeal. The tough guys like Big Daddy from BioShock are just as tough as always, whilst the less combat-based characters have brought with them their humour and attacks that fit with their style. And they are as tough as the “angrier” characters. It really is an eye-opener to see the mighty Kratos getting his butt kicked by Sackboy.
Even the visual styles of the characters are authentic, with the dark and moody being able to fight with cel-shaded, cartoony and paper-thin alike. Each of the characters have been treated with the respect they deserve. There are some 20 characters at the moment, with more coming through DLC, and they bring with them a little piece of their respective games, with authentic intros and outros, little soundbites or victory poses being unlockable. As the player continues to use a certain character, the character levels up giving access to these customisations and a whole lot more. In fact, the sheer amount of unlockables is amazing and players will find themselves constantly unlocking something new, rewarding them for their continued playing.
The environments are as impressive as the characters. Whilst the actual level designs are unremarkable, with simple platforms forming the playing areas, the backgrounds are a combination of two other PlayStation games, usually to dramatic effect. With the backgrounds being combinations of Jak and Daxter and Hot Shots Golf, or God of War and Patapon, it is a delight to see what is coming next. Also taken from other games are some of the items that appear in the levels for players to pick up and use, although these items have a negligible effect on gameplay. But they are nice to see and offer yet more fan service.
When it comes to the gameplay, things pretty much start as you would expect. The characters leap around the screen, launching various different attacks by use of the face buttons combined with directions, allowing for a nice selection of different moves for each of the characters. And the fact that each of these characters has different moves in keeping with their style is impressive. So far, so brawl.
But where things are changed up is the way that players actually win. The standard attacks don’t actually do any damage. Instead they allow the player to charge their AP meter and and launch special attacks. This is how players actually score, by defeating others with the special attacks. There are three levels of special attacks for each character, ranging from a fairly light attack which is easy to avoid for the other players, to a level three attack which is so powerful that it can score multiple kills for the player. As the different games revolve around being the first to score a fixed number of kills, or the person with the most kills in a given time winning, this raises a certain level of strategy as players will need to decide whether to use their level one attacks repeatedly, or save up for an impressive level three attack in the hope of winning at the last minute.
It’s an interesting idea that works really well, at least for me. However, the reactions are mixed as to whether this change from a proven formula is a good thing or not. Either way, it makes for some incredibly intense matches, and turns out to be a lot of fun.
PS3 owners who pick up the game will be treated to the Vita version as well, which brings incredible value to the home console version. The two versions are completely compatible and, as an added bonus, I would go so far to say that the Vita version is even more impressive than the PS3 version. There is an obvious loss of quality with the characters models, but otherwise the game is pretty much exactly the same, showing exactly what the Vita is capable of. The only real difference is that the trigger buttons are mapped to the touchscreen, but this makes no difference to how well the game plays. The Vita version is easily one of the best games so far on the Sony handheld.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale was a bit of a shock and not quite what I was expecting. I am sure that the appeal will be stronger in proper PlayStation fan-boys, but the game is incredibly good and should be considered by anyone with a PS3, and is an essential purchase for Vita owners. With a wide selection of memorable characters, some lovely set pieces and an enjoyable fighting system, Battle Royale is a fighting game with a much wider appeal than the genre would suggest.