There have been some moments in gaming history when we've had our hopes and dreams smashed against the rocks of "what the hell?" The EyeToy was one such moment, as was "You're in the Movies" on the Xbox 360. Start the Party! can be filed in the same drawer of desperation.
Start the Party! is one of the launch titles for PlayStation Move and is a loose collection of mini-games that involve various deployments of the new Sony PlayStation Move controller. It's bright, it's noisy and some would say that it's only our loss of the sense of joy that holds us back from saying it's fun.
Visually, yes, the menus and backgrounds are fun and colourful, the sort of thing that will catch the eye of young gamers and draw them into things. It's a game designed to be lightweight and fun for the whole family and we know that this often results in a final product that is neither engaging or possessing any degree of longevity, which is why we take issue at Start the Party! being a game you'll be asked to pay for.
Start the Party! does exhibit some of the skills of the PlayStation Move as it uses both the camera and the motion controllers. The camera is used to capture an image of the gamer, which can then be put to use elsewhere in the game - trapped in the belly of robots for example. The camera also means you'll see yourself on the TV as part of the background of the game.
For kids, this is often enough. Appearing on the TV is something that children will always find amusing, so for a young audience, there is some potential for fun here. But capturing the room means that others will also be in the picture, so to a certain extent that sense of communal gaming comes through.
The other thing that Start the Party! demonstrates is how well the PlayStation Move system can superimpose an object on the end of the controller. Each of the mini games turns the Move controller into an object of some sort - a fan, a torch, a shaver, a paint brush, etc. This is fantastic: it looks great and the range of movement that maps on the screen is really impressive.
But then you come to the games themselves. There are various twists on what is basically the same thing. You have to use the controller (now the relevant tool) to compete against the clock. That might be spotting and shooting ghosts, shaving the heads, or fanning parachutists onto rafts. All the games are basic, so kids and granny will have no problem grasping the concept.
Playing Start the Party! on your own is utterly soul-destroying (perhaps because of the realisation that there is no party to start), but add in a bunch of kids, or a handful of tipsy adults, and things take a turn for the better. The short games mean you can quickly all have a go, and to a certain extent we found it worked as an ideal warm-up to the ultimate drunk adult PS3 party game - SingStar.
And therein lies the problem. Start the Party! isn't laugh out loud funny, not in the way that SingStar is. In fact, amongst the adults of "gaming age" you'll barely see a glimmer of interest. Kids are attracted to the bright designs and cartoon looks, but beyond that, there's little to get excited about.
You'll be able to play multi-player passing the controller around to compete and some of the games are surprisingly tricky to do well at, if you were ever moved to care about them. As isolated mini-games there is little to draw you in, you never really care what the final result is. Like Sports Champions, it does something to showcase the potential for PlayStation Move, but it will never be held up as a shining example of revolutionary gaming.
Start the Party! bears all the hallmarks of a demo game, if anything it should be bundled with the Move controllers to give a taste of what sort of things it will do: to ask £29.99 seems wrong.
Start the Party! will be of limited appeal, but for those PS3 owners who have always been accused of not having anything that the family can enjoy together, then perhaps this is just the ticket. Besides, it's an excuse to buy a Move controller in anticipation of some of the more hardcore titles, perhaps.