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Review: "PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale"

Warp Pipe highlights the best of "PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale" for the PlayStation 3 and Vita. Videojournalist: Daryl Thomen (Nov. 28, 2012)

 

Review Score:  7.5/10

"...Sony's expanding roster of video game all stars deserve the title of brawlers." - Warp Pipe

 

It wasn't too long ago that Sony's most recognizable video game characters were having a drink together in a bar raising their glasses to the gamers that play them. Maybe someone forgot to tip the bartender, because now they are raising their fists in "PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale." Twenty first and third party familiar faces round up the on-disc roster and each packs a serious punch in their own unique way. It's time to answer the age old question, "who would win in a fight…?"

"God of War" antihero Kratos brandishes his signature chained attacks and godly powers while the adorable Fat Princess polishes up her trademark scepter and unleashes an appetite for destruction. Each character stays loyal to the video game roots they spawned from outside the arena but Super Bot Entertainment did a really good job on making all of the fighters evenly stack up against the competition for the most part. Each attack can be pulled off using the directional controls and three of the four action commands. The result is a button mashing beat down that is crazy fun to see which fighter pulls off what memorable video game reference. Combos can be achieved, but they are tough to pull off with so much going on the screen between frequent dodging from attacks and environmental attacks.

When I attended Sony's annual media holiday event in New York City, I learned that Super Bot does not make the call as to who made the final roster cut. With two soon-to-be-released DLC characters already announced (Kat and Emmett), we hope to hear more stars will be added by PlayStation.

Choosing anyone from the roster can lead to victory due to the lack of a health scoring system. Instead, players must build up enough AP energy throughout a fight in order to reach one of three levels of Super attacks. What separates the winners from the losers is deciding when to unleash a leveled Super during the heat of battle. A well-timed Level 1 Super can take out all enemies if properly timed while Level 3 Supers can do unstoppable damage. Sir Daniel Fortesque ('MediEvil'' series) has a Level 3 Super that takes out anyone surrounding him while Drake ('Uncharted' series) has to work a little harder by chasing down evading, zombified combatants with his handgun.

As compared to using a health bar, this scoring system works really well. AP energy Orbs can be obtained or lost in the middle of a fight as well. The most successful way to drain opponents of their AP energy is to use grab attacks or the occasional weapon drop to your advantage. But sometimes it won't be a fighter making it rain Orbs. Each of the 14 dynamic environments features the occasional Hazards that add to the on-screen intensity. Hazards vary per level, typically involving a crossover from another PlayStation franchise. It's an original twist incorporating multiple video game level elements into the mix, but I would have liked to be surprised as to which game breaks into the other's background. That's not to say the levels are boring after play through. They keep you on your toes each and every round and boy are they cool to look at.

The madness that awaits after selecting each character is rewarding but the game feels abandoned aside from its gameplay. The user interface is unimaginative and dull. Lifeless navigational screens and pointless unlockables cry as a major disappointment for a PlayStation exclusive title. I mean, with all the insanity flashing before my eyes in each fight, then to be taken to a matted loading screen and seemingly unfinished menu presentation is just flat underachieving. The eye-popping moments during a fight do not carry over into in-between smackdowns.

With so many colorful characters to throw at one another, you would think that "PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale" has some compelling story lines within the single player arcade mode.

Not so much.

Instead, players get a very brief voiceover of still images that dissolve in and out setting the tone for each character. It's almost as if someone grabbed a bunch of your video games, dumped them on your desk and said "Here, now play them!" One of the reasons why fans dream of these kinds of inter-universal showdowns is because of the adventures these characters have been through. To see PaRappa ('PaRappa the Rapper') step toe-to-toe with Dante ('Devil May Cry' series) just because he wants to be in a comic book is a huge letdown. Only once during this mode do characters meet for a stare down and it's equally uneventful leading to an unfulfilling boss battle with a familiar 'face' from PlayStation's past. There was a sandbox of opportunity in creating some epic back story and instead players are treated to an arcade mode that mirrors the game's boring user interface.

Online play really shines in "PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale". The lack of a health bar made me less concerned about who I was playing against. Too many times fighting games push away many audiences from online competition because of the drastic change in skill levels between players. Stocking up on Supers and using them kept me entertained rather than worried about getting beat down and embarrassed. This is a great head-to-head multiplayer experience worth revisiting over and over.

The best part about "PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale" is that you can play it at home or on the go with the PlayStation 3 and portable Vita. Purchasing the PS3 version of the game enables a free download of the Vita version. Players on the Vita can compete against PS3 owners because the game carries the same impressive 60-frames per second experience on both systems. It's the first cross-buy, cross-play video game released by PlayStation. This historic accomplishment alone is worth the purchase for owners of both platforms. And I have to say, it plays even better on the Vita than the home console version. Touch screen features are minimal but the user presentation doesn't come across as dull as the PS3 does. It's still nothing to be impressed by, but the gameplay carries its winning formula on the handheld wonderfully.

I refuse to compare it to any other video game because that would immediately shadow all of the hard work Super Bot did to create it. "PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale" is a knockout punch that delivers the goods when it comes to gameplay but someone forgot to turn the lights on outside of the video game-inspired arenas due to cheaply crafted menu designs. Without a solid campaign mode, the beauty is within the eye of the beholder until the online matchup begins. "PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale" matters where it counts most and that is why Sony's expanding roster of video game all stars deserve the title of brawlers. 

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