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In recent weeks anyone walking past our house on a Sunday afternoon has probably been quite confused if they happen to have glanced in the window. In all probability at any given time one of the family will be busy waving a black stick with what looks like an illuminated ping-pong ball on the end rather frantically, and possibly jumping up and down. This behaviour might seem strange, but spend under a minute playing she new PS3 move game "start the party" and I guarantee you will find yourself doing the same thing, and what's more enjoying it!
"Start the Party" as the name would suggest is a fun game for up to 4 players. As I already mentioned it is a "Move" game - for those who do not know this means that you play with Sony's new controller (about £30) which requires an eye camera and is a highly accurate motion controller. For the purposes of this game this means, in essence, that during the game you will find a real life image of yourself projected onto your TV screen holding whatever item is required for the game at the time. This may mean that you seem to be holding a giant tennis racquet, a hammer or even a bell - all this with pinpoint accurate perspective and in highly realistic HD graphics, as you twist and move the items the controller keeps up. The difference with the wii is that you can move in every plane with complete freedom - which is much better, but is the game any good?
This is part of a limited raft of games for the new controller and seems to be £25 in most places, I picked it up for a little less at Toys r Us. Anyone who has bought the move pack will have been able to play a limited demo of the game with three of the mini games, which gives some idea how much fun this is with you getting a taste of the game as you paint the screen and squish bugs with a tennis racquet.
"Start the Party" the full game can be played in various different modes, in two ways, either as Free Play or as Party mode. At first glance the Free Play mode can seem quite disappointing as you can only select from about 8 games as opposed to the 20 billed on the front of the game. In Party mode however it's much better and you soon experience all the games as you play with up to 4 people in the avatars as you see on the picture above - each player opts in to play and has to take a picture of themselves and say who they are into the microphone on the front of the camera. This sees all players, whatever their age, involved from the start.
The whole "party" has a compere's voice to guide you through the action and make silly remarks about your play - this can get a bit annoying but does keep the action going. You are probably wondering what the actual games are like that have us waving our arms about - well they are pretty good and quite varied. The painting game, which I have already briefly mentioned, sees your controller becoming a brush and you, the player, having to paint onto a shape on the screen under pressure of time (there are three difficulty levels), these shapes then get merged to make an animated item and you get judged on how much of the shape you filled in the time allowed. As the controller does vibrate slightly it's actually pretty convincing when you play this and the other games.
The action is fast and furious as in party mode you get limited time on each game - you can chose how many rounds you want to play. One of our favourite games is "mole bashing" - where little moles pop up at the bottom of the screen to be whacked. The whole experience is in the style of the front cover, the graphics you see on the screen are cutesy - in general they are restricted to the side of the screen so you will find yourself in a mini-barber's shop shaving hair, an artist's studio or in a spooky room. Some parts are intuitively easy - slicing falling fruit or catching toppings onto a pizza, where others need a little more skill. My daughters like the mini-game where you have to flap a fan to make mini-parachutists onto boats, and they love having to brush the crocodile's teeth before he closes his mouth. You also get to whack a pinata, make a noise with a variety of objects to wake a bird, wave a white flag of surrender, zap robots, save baby chicks and keep a giant lollipop away from wasps, amongst other things.
If you are getting the idea that it's all rather silly - yes it is, but various twists to the "party" keep it fun. There are different ways of winning points, and at times stealing them off your opponents - you also get to paint on their avatar or rename them via the microphone at different times of the whole experience. We only have one controller at present so we do find that it gets a little annoying passing it between us, however this is down to our own reluctance to shell out another £30 per controller than any flaw in the game.
Gameplay wise, well so far this has been more long lived than I thought it would be, and any visiting child who has had a go has been enthralled - whilst I can't say it is my favourite game ever, it's certainly original and I feel it makes great use of the new controller. My kids love it and have played with it a fair bit, they are easily able to navigate through the menus and "get" the point of each game, where point there is! It's a great family game that I can see being a huge success at Christmas, the fantastic thing about it being that really any age can play, though as I have said elsewhere any child under the age of 4 might find the controller quite large to hold, but they could still have a go at this game, and granny might find it a little energetic! The controls are pretty simple though involving moving the controller and with occasional use of the trigger button - it doesn't get much easier than that.
Overall if you have a PS3 and are investing in a move controller, you will probably want to consider this. Albeit being unashamedly silly and at times a little annoying due to the silly compere and catchy music, this game is great fun, and ultimately that's what makes is a must-buy!