Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way now: Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale looks a lot like Super Smash Bros.; but simply bearing a resemblance does not make it s “rip-off”, as some have suggested. Taking the time to play this awesome mash-up showed me that All-Stars (developed by SuperBot Entertainment, SCE Santa Monica Studio and Bluepoint Games) is a lot more complex than Smash Bros. – and fun in a different way. It’s certainly not perfect; but it will keep you coming back for more – whether you are playing at home on your television, or on the go with your Vita.
The single-player campaign doesn’t hold much of a story. Essentially, whatever character you choose has to fight other first and third-party game characters for one reason or another. Take Cole McGrath from the inFAMOUS franchise, who believes all of these other characters are conduits like himself, and that he will gain power from them as he defeats them. Truthfully, though, most people don’t really pick this game up for the story; they are definitely more interested in seeing their favourite characters kick the living daylights out of each other.
There is certainly no shortage of characters to choose from. Classic playstation characters like Sackboy (LittleBigPlanet) and Nathan Drake (Uncharted) stand toe to toe against the likes of Heihachi Mishima (Tekken) and Dante (Devil May Cry). The contrast between some of these fighters makes for some interesting game-play, as the fighting mechanics for each are faithful to the character. Seeing Kratos (wielding his deadly blades) having his butt handed to him by PaRappa (brandishing a skateboard) is thirty-one flavours of awesome. Even the stages are unlikely combinations that combine form and function, making for levels that are engaging from both an aesthetic perspective and a game-play standpoint. The Hell level, for example, becomes amusing once the Patapon take over (though that doesn’t stop the background from hurting you) while the LittleBigPlanet level is constantly changing – due to the fact that you seem to be thrust into someone else’s level creation process.
When I said “complex” earlier, I’m definitely not talking about the button layout so much as I am referring to the potential number of attack moves that you can perform. There are three buttons with which you can launch melee, mid-range, and long-range attacks. Adding a direction to the mix (using the D-pad or the analog stick) creates a variant of your button choice, creating some interesting attacks – this is where All-Stars really shines. The three attack types suddenly become much more, with throws, taunts, and dodges mixed in – to name a few. To add even more variety, items are also available, giving your characters some extra firepower. All of these attacks do no real damage – but they do add to your power meter, which allows you to deploy a super-attack (the only way to kill your foes). There are three levels of super attacks, and while each successive level requires more of a power charge, it is totally worth it as the highest level super-attack does a lot of damage*.
Like many fighting games, All-Stars Battle Royale is easy to play – but hard to master. That being said, unlike a lot of fighting games, you cannot really get by with button mashing. Timing and strategy are of paramount importance – which means that practice is probably going to be your best friend when you pick this up and want to play online (or locally with friends if you have the PS3 version or want to do an ad-hoc connection with your Vita). In addition, no two characters are really alike (even good and evil Cole), so there is a lot of replay value in learning all of the characters – especially if you are a trophy hunter. All of this makes for interesting game-play as the match outcomes are judged by kills: number of kills within a time limit; absolute number of kills to a limit.
Nathan Drake’s barrel-kicking move is hilarious and awesome.
Graphically, the game is fantastic on both the PS3 and the Vita. Unlike fighting games like Tekken or Dead or Alive, the character animations are not as smooth due to the number of crazy events that can happen at once. At this point in development of games like this, it is to be expected that there will be some jerky motions. Even games like Street Fighter don’t have perfectly smooth move-to-move character transitions – but this is not the end of the world. Given how much is going on between the background and the fighters, it is pretty amazing that I have seen no stuttering. Audio is pretty awesome, with a helluva lot of samples being sounded off by all of the different characters. It’s too bad that more time wasn’t spent on developing the story sequences. The breakdown for each character is not much more than a few screens and some voice work.
Multi-player action is frenetic and insane. Playing AI is bad enough; playing three other people who are as bloodthirsty as you is a rush. Whether local or online, you are guaranteed to have a lot of fun. I have played online a few times and the matches go quickly with very little lag and no lack of people to play. As you play (in either single or multi-player), you gain experience points that add to your character’s level, unlocking new outfits, music and poses. Having the ability to continue gaining experience online as well as offline is a great thing.
If you own the Vita version, you have the advantage of portability. If you buy the PS3 version, you automatically get the Vita version, too – making this the preferred choice if you have a PS3. Thanks to cross-play, you can participate in matches with people that play on either platform – and your progress is kept across both platforms (as long as you remember to sign in so it can sync up).
Kratos is about to perform surgery.
If you like 2D crazy fighting action, or you want a great party game to play with friends, Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale might be for you. It is fun and looks great (although the menus and story sequences could use some work); it’s easy to pick up and challenging to master a single character (much less all of them). With cross-play you get online functionality and the ability to take your game with you if you own a Vita. Win!