There's a party going on over at the new look PlayStation Store (PS3) celebrating over a year's service. Why not join in the festivities?
With over a year's worth of service tucked beneath the ever widening belt of PlayStation Store (PS3), there's plenty cause for celebration. And what would a celebration be without a party? The invites have been sent out, so all you have to do is attend - step on in and enjoy...
[The door to the party is already open when you arrive - and with such a friendly invitation, it would be rude not come in. Strolling through the grand hall of confetti colours and sheer joyous abundance of it all a generous host graces you with a drink and shows you around the lavish rooms full of chatter and cheer. It isn't long before a particular guest catches your eye...]
Startling and beautiful, Super Stardust HD, is the centrepiece of any room - an all round gem that wraps a traditional sense of style in a modern High Definition shell. The concept involves controlling a spaceship and destroying anything that comes across your path in an effort to defend five planets. With aliens and asteroids doing their best to make the job difficult, all of the ship's numerous weapons and power-ups are needed to triumph, as well as quick wits and even quicker reflexes.
Soon even more people will be able enjoy the spectacular Super Stardust HD when a new multiplayer expansion is released during summer 2008, allowing split screen co-operative play, versus matches for up to four players on the same screen, a ship editor and more.
[The dazzling display over, the crowd starts to mingle and converse, eager to share what has just been witnessed and some desiring a repeat performance. But before the buzz has time to settle down, a younger, even more colourful partygoer begins the next item of entertainment.]
Toy Home is an energetic blast of racing vigour that captures the spirit of being young again through its bright primary colours and playful sense of adventure. So it's no surprise that it's set within a family home where you assume control of a toy car (from a choice of two) to romp around a number of giant settings with obstacles and objects such as cereal packets, toy blocks and skittles. Innovation comes in the welcome form of motion control thanks to Wireless Controller steering that lets you career your car to its goal. The time limits are tight but with bonuses gained by smashing through whatever gets in your path in the spacious environments there's plenty of fun to be had for anyone of any age.
Making sure the kaleidoscopic cheerfulness continues, Toy Home 2nd Gear will expand on the game nicely with six new vehicles including a monster truck, six fresh courses, online ranking, four player support and the option to soundtrack the whole thing with music from the PlayStation 3 system's Hard Disc Drive.
[With everyone invigorated by the playful performance, one particular guest seemingly takes the appreciation a bit too far, slipping on a party popper, stumbling backwards over a table and then bouncing off the accompanying sofa, sending a gaggle of squeaking multicoloured balloons everywhere. From comically sheepish "I'm okay..." that follows, it's safe to say the experience wasn't too painful...]
Pain is no laughing matter. Unless it happens to be the rather refreshing and hilarious Pain, which is an entirely different accident-prone barrel of monkeys. Taking its cue from some of the more slapstick style of cartoon and films, Pain is all about creating as much chaos as possible for kicks and comedy. You launch a character from a giant rubber band catapult into a busy cityscape with the intent of generating as much damage as possible on the poor victim by bouncing him or her around nearby objects... and people. Manage to string together enough calamitous events and points are awarded for combos, not to mention inventive use of the environment.
With a growing number of game modes (including the new Fun With Explosive pack where you have to try to hit as many explosive crates and canisters as possible to top the online leaderboards), unlockable and purchasable characters such as Santa and the pirate Scurv Dogg, trophy achievements, costumes and extras on the way, there's more to the brilliantly fun Pain than just, well... pain. In fact, it's totally harmless unless you count the times your sides will be splitting from the comedic situations that arise in the game. Fire it up and enjoy the ride - just be careful of giant novelty doughnuts falling on top of you.
[Being a party there's plenty of music bringing bass to your eardrums in pleasing amounts - even more so when you realise many of the songs mimic your own collection. Soon things drift over to what's unveiled to be a giant disco dance floor, complete with glitterball and fancy tiles that change colour when you step on them. It doesn't take long before a mixture of grooves and games begin...]
The dazzling disco floor is only one of the things that makes Snakeball stand out. Refusing to be hemmed in by typical genre classifications, here is a gaudy title that has you driving a vehicle called a hoversnake across the dance floor collecting multicoloured balls and firing or depositing them into their corresponding goal before other snakeballers can do the same. Each collected ball is added to the tail of your craft, increasing the chance of massive bonuses but also the risk of dropping them all should you get hit by an opponent's weapon (yes, there are a also batch of armaments to help fend off foes, too).
Between ball collecting, battle elements and avoiding obstacles that litter the vast number of arena to play in, Snakeball is a veritable balancing act of tasks that adds up to an incredibly addictive experience. It's diverse in its game styles and modes, rounded off by fantastic multiplayer modes for up to eight people (including a new Team mode which can be purchased in an upgrade pack). It may be slightly surreal, but the sublime Snakeball is a sneakily addictive and joyful frolic that everyone can revel in.
[As usual, there are a couple party-goers who prefer the pace a little slower and more deliberate, and after all the dancing a little rest is something many feel is perfectly within order. Fresh drinks in hand and comfortable seats aplenty, soon everyone is gathered around contently listening to the soothing strum of a guitar followed by an enchanting tale of heroes and monsters.]
Riff: Everyday Shooter and PixelJunk Monsters offer two totally different game experiences and compliment each other wonderfully because of it. Riff's strength lies within its deceptively earnest appearance as you control a lone craft that's only means of survival against an infinite number of enemies across eight levels is by blasting as many hostiles as possible. Classic arcade gameplay - however, there's a novel twist. Each stage is driven by a guitar song which is affected by your performance as the melody harmonises, drifts, riffs, jumps and judders from the destruction of certain enemies. If you can see the constantly changing soundtrack to its natural end, then you reach the next stage.
The mixture of sound and gameplay is something few games have explored, and Riff's venture into the possibilities of this combination results in an imaginative and memorable blaster that not only refreshes the genre with its audio-visual flair but also maintains arcade shooter staples such as score multipliers, bonuses and unlockables to keep you coming back. Commanding and mesmerising, Riff: Everyday Shooter is an exceptional addition to anyone's game library.
PixelJunk Monsters brings a far more demure sensibility to the table, but is no less intense for it. A strategy game at heart, the game places you in charge of defending a village full of your Forest Defender's brood from an army of hungry monsters. By collecting treasure and then using the surrounding forestry to build artillery towers, the likes of spiders, golems and other beasties can be fended off with arrows, cannonballs, fire, ice and more.
Well measured and decisive judgement is required to truly succeed at PixelJunk Monsters, with very little time to rest on your laurels as the placement of your towers becomes the very hinge of survival. With its open ended gameplay, PixelJunk Monsters' addictive diversity paves the way to a one-more-go mentality that lasts well beyond its 20 different stages, aided by an excellent two player co-operative mode, online leaderboards. There is also the temptation of the May 2008 Encore pack which boasts a new island and economy system as well as 15 new maps and five new music tracks to keep you engaged.
Imaginative use of Remote Play compatibility which allows you to play the game via your PSP only makes PixelJunk Monsters even more essential, whether you want a cerebral workout or something to wind down to.
[With the dying embers of the party flickering into the night, it's with contented sighs the guests wind down and let the glittering promise of a new dawn overtake the celebrations of a successful year gone by. The first of many to enjoy.]
Same time next year, everyone?