When SuperBot Entertainment and SCE Santa Monica announced “PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale”, it came with the stigma that the game would wind up being little more than a brawler clone. Admittedly amongst those that saw nothing special in the Sony published title, even after playing the October-released beta, my time with the game’s final build left me both surprised and looking for more. While my experience playing through the game’s 20 different contestants was better received than the beta, I found myself still longing for some minor tweaks.
The basic idea behind “PlayStation All-Stars” is really where the similarities between this entry and other brawlers ends. Two to four characters duke it out in dynamic environments to earn the most points. Earning points isn’t as simple as mashing buttons until your opponents fly out of the ring or runs out of life, though. As you land your varying attacks, a meter labeled the All-Star Power Meter fills up. The meter has three different levels which coincide with the three available All-Star Powers for each character. Landing these super powered attacks are the only means of defeating your opponent, which can prove frustrating when you build up your meter only to have your attack interrupted by an incoming attack. Level 3 attacks are the “Final Smash” of “PlayStation All Stars” and almost always guarantee a slight edge over other fighters.
While the absolute need to land these attacks can be grow tiresome during longer matches, the basic attacks assigned to each character are essentially plentiful and keep each match fresh. Each of the 20 characters feel completely unique, all of whom are outfitted with different move sets that encompass almost 30 different attacks each and completely different play styles. For example, characters like Jak and Daxter and “Killzone’s” Colonel Radec will provide for effective long-range attacks while “Metal Gear Rising’s” Raiden and “Tekken’s” Heihachi are more keen on close quarters combat. Some characters, such as Kratos, are fine tuned in all types of attacks and act as perfect starter characters. On top of attack moves, players can also dodge and block with the press of a button and flick of the analog stick.
Where the game starts to stray from the combat’s smooth polish is with the implementation of its levels. Each background is inspired by a scenario from a popular game (i.e. the aircraft carrier segment from “Uncharted 3), save for six standard levels designed after the backdrop used for the game’s tutorial. There is more to these designs than just clever ambiance, as they become a part of the battle in some way. In the “God of War” inspired Hades level, the lord of the underworld performs a paralyzing attack that freezes any players caught in its radius. The welcomed level of depth these designs add is only muddied by the distractions that happen to come along with them. In the same level, a beloved troop of Patapon march into the background to attack the God and provide their own input into the level’s hazards. It was somewhat difficult at times to not get distracted, especially on levels like “LocoRoco” and “Ape Escape” where a screeching Metal Gear Ray and hideous Satan Chimera disrupt the battle.
Probably the biggest misstep made by SuperBot Entertainment is the complete lack of variety, which basically forces gamer’s to jump into online tournaments to further expand the game’s enjoyability. Gamer’s can dive into one of the 20 available story-modes, but the rushed story-lines and simplistic boss battle make this the weakest option. Basic versus matches, which act as the games driving force, can be set up with either a time or stock limit, leaving the only victory clauses in the game to be “be the guy with the most kills” or “last man standing”. Variety is the spice of life, and a complete lack of varying multiplayer arrangements and match set-ups make for a bit of a lacking experience over time.
SuperBot makes the attempt to right this wrong with a slew of character-specific and general “Combat Trials”, destructive items, and a level-up system that award each specific character with new taunts and costumes. Leveling up isn’t an all-encompassing act, though, as each character levels only when used, creating a clever means of forcing players to touch on every character.
Overall, there’s plenty of charm in “PlayStation All-Stars”, which is a quality that modern fighters are starting to lack. While it may not be the perfect integration of varying IP’s into a party brawler, “PlayStation All-Stars” hits the right notes when it needs to, leaving behind only the slightest stale taste after a few hours of gameplay.