Let’s get one thing straight: it would have been nigh impossible to screw this game up on a fundamental level. As Sony has learned from competitor Nintendo, all you have to do is take your brand’s beloved mascots, toss them into a party-style fighting game and the money practically prints itself for optimal Scrooge McDucking (I’m trying to copyright that as a verb).
And where it counts, the guts of the experience, SuperBot Entertainment and Sony Santa Monica get it right. PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale has all the Sony characters you love – Kratos, Nathan Drake, Sly Cooper, Ratchet and Clank, Sweet Tooth, etcetera – beating the ever-living tar out of each other (Kratos yelling “Die!” to Sackboy will always get a chuckle from me) with a foundation built from fundamentally solid controls and proper character balancing. But that’s not what worries me. What worries me is what do you do with PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale when you don’t have an internet connection to take this puppy online - or friends to invite over on a whim.
The truth is this: I had to play PS All-Stars offline for roughly a week and a half in single player only because Sony hadn’t yet flipped the switch for the online servers. For costumers looking to pick up this game up on/after release, that won’t be an issue. But requiring me to review the game under these circumstances painted a stark picture of how little there is to do with the title if you can’t battle real people with your favorite Sony mascots.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale offers up the standard Arcade Mode that’s a commonplace necessity for fighting games. It’s here that you work your way through the ranks with each character to unlock new costumes, taunts, fight intros/outros, and character-specific victory music. This is all tied together by bookending motion-comic cinematics that give a loose, and I mean loose story to each character’s journey to being labeled the premier all-star of the cast – in most cases these cutscenes are truly cringe worthy. Sadly, the mode’s about skin deep and really doesn’t offer up much of a challenge, even on the harder difficulty level. After only a few play throughs, I found myself looking for excuses not to play PlayStation All-Stars solo – stuff like watching a movie, playing a different game, or doing chores. Yes, chores.
The only people that will truly benefit from picking up PS All-Stars are those who plan to take this game online and do little else (you can rank up your characters and unlock new costumes, taunts and intros here, too!). As stated previously, people with an internet connection will be able to enjoy what makes games like PS All-Stars, and Super Smash Bros. before it, truly special - friendly competition. There’s plenty of variety in characters and moves, and the level design is hysterical, in the best of ways, pulling together the vast catalog of Sony’s properties; seeing a level transform from a grim and gritty version of the Underworld complete with Hades, to a vibrant purple place filled with Patapon tribesmen flinging spears all over never gets old. The same goes for PaRappa the Rapper’s Master Onion drop-kicking a Killzone spider-mech. There’s plenty of eye-candy to be found in PS All-Stars, and sound gameplay to back it all up.
But it all comes back around to that damn debate of single player versus multiplayer and what represents more value for your dollar. If you fancy yourself a gamer who likes to play games solo, and I feel for you because I’m one of those people, too, on occasion, then I’m telling you there isn’t much here for you. You’ll only find a few hours worth of monotonous brawling. But for those with access to the interwebs or friends-on-demand, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale becomes a much more attractive package. It’s got charm, a colorful cast, tight mechanics and will probably be the only place this year where you can see Kratos and Sweet Tooth come to blows over a spilled ice cream cone (seriously). So before you run out to pick up PS All-Stars, dig deep inside and figure out what type of gamer you are. It will make all the difference in the world.
A word on the PS Vita version:
PlayStation All-Stars is the first Sony game to take advantage of the company’s “cross-buy/cross-play” program. This means that you can buy the PS3 version and get a free downloadable copy of the PS Vita version with it. You can then use your PS Vita copy to play people who are using their PS3 copy, and vice versa. Additionally, your game progress – unlocks, character ranks, etcetera – will transfer from one version to the next once you bring them both online.
Personally, I found the Vita version of PS All-Stars to be more to my liking. It’s the entire console version for on-the-go gaming with no shortcuts taken that I noticed. The only drawback is that loading screens are a tad bit longer, but it’s nothing detrimental to the overall game. I found myself firing up the PS Vita version far more frequently than I did the PS3 version. So if you think you might be of the same mindset, know that you can head straight to the Vita version for $20 cheaper.
We received one review copy of PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale for PS3 and one copy for PS Vita. We were held to the embargo date of November 20, 2012, at 8am PST. Before starting our review, we played through the game solo with roughly eight characters, then jumped online for a handful of matches, both with the PS3 and PS Vita versions of the title.
Erik Norris is the Gaming Editor for CraveOnline. You can follow him on Twitter @Regular_Erik.