PlayStation Move is Sony's attempt to tap into the casual gamer market that is currently dominated by the Wii, so the launch line-up was bound to be led by mini-game collections. One of those is the bright and colourful Start the Party, which as you might assume is an assortment of simple games designed to be played by anyone who can hold a Move controller. It's a clear evolution of the classic EyeToy games from the PS2, but does Move make this a party you simply have to be a part of?
Start the Party features nine mini-games, each only requiring the use of a single PlayStation Move controller, along with 10 or more even smaller games that crop up during multiplayer games. This meagre list of activities is the game's biggest problem - there just isn't enough variety to keep you playing once the initial Move excitement wears off. Of the nine, thankfully most are good fun, but a few stick out as duds.
Poppin' simply tasks you with popping bubble-like creatures that rise up the screen. The announcer tells you which colour to go for and then you just pop as many of that colour as possible until you hit another by mistake and are told to move onto another colour. It's initially a little awkward to get the stabbing motion for popping right, but soon you'll be bursting those poor creatures in double quick time.
Robo Rumble is one of the weakest in the collection, with a string of mechanical nasties wandering towards you with TV screens on their chests, each displaying you holding a cattle-prod type device. You must zap a target inside each screen, but it's not as easy as it might sound. The orientation of these screens is often flipped or reversed, so it's not as easy as it sounds. Still, this is a fairly uninspired round and one I didn't find myself wanting to play more than a few times.
Rooftop Rescue is a fairly simple case of guiding a small helicopter around a cityscape, picking up stranded civilians with a ladder and taking them to the hospital before a massive dinosaur eats them. Simple, but fun. Cut 'n' Color gives you a pair of hair trimmers and dye as you attempt to shave the heads of spiky-haired kids who also want a colour change. This is one of the most fun games Start the Party has to offer and works really well with the Move controller.
Parachute Panic tasks you with fanning falling parachutists so they land safely on rafts, instead of in the mouth of a lingering shark. Bug Bash gives you a tennis racket and lets you swing it around, mashing up the bugs that are flying around the screen. Just make sure you avoid the bad bugs. While Bug Bash is crazy and fun, Parachute Panic's fan tool doesn't work well and causes a few control issues.
A favourite of mine is Picture This, an incredibly simple art round in which you draw over basic shapes that are displayed on the screen. You're graded for each drawing and at the end the various shapes come together to form an animated animal of some kind. It's a neat touch and one that's likely to put a smile on the faces of younger players.
Animal lovers will want to save all the chicks then can in Blown Away. An electric fan must be used to blow falling chicks into the safety of nests on either side of the screen. Get too close to them, though, and those blades with give the cute creatures a nasty surprise. Finally there's Spooky Shootout. Here the screen is black apart from the light shining from your torch. Illuminate the ghosts and zap them to score points. Both work well.
These nine games are joined by a number of tiny micro games, such as bouncing a ball into a net, ringing a bell to wake up a bird and waving a white flag to surrender. None of these are as complex as the main nine, and are more similar in style to the type of games seen in the WarioWare series.
When played alone you can either tackle each of the main nine games or try to last as long as possible in Survival mode, but the game should be played with friends if possible. Up to four players can take it in turns to compete against each other, with the multiplayer party modes throwing in a variety of round types that hand out vital stars for the best performer or overall winner, and in one particularly nasty round, stars taken from rivals. A fun twist on the point scoring is that the earned stars translate into time for the final round, meaning whoever scores the most in the decider wins overall.
To add a bit of joking around into the mix, at various points you're given the opportunity to modify an opponent's picture or sound. Before the start of a multiplayer session you have a picture taken and record your player name, but by doodling over the picture and recording a new sound, you might end a game looking and sounding completely different. This definitely goes down well with kids, and adults keen to humiliate their friends.
Start the Party is a simplistic looking game, but the way your tool for each mini-game is mapped over the Move controller on the TV screen is extremely cool and something that will take a while to become blasé about. Looking at yourself carrying a torch or electric shaver on the screen, when you know you're not actually holding one is one of the neatest visual effects the game has going for it. If it weren't for the often annoying voice over man, Start the Party would have nailed the kind of presentation needed for a family title.
While the games on offer here aren't entirely original and seem like extensions of what we saw in EyeToy games over the years, there's no question that with the right crowd they're good fun. Start the Party's problem is that at £30 the content on offer feels too slight and the fun will start to run out a lot sooner than you'd like.