- Fantastic multiplayer
- Stages are brilliantly designed
- Easily accessible gameplay
- Poor in single-player
- Lazy unlockables
- Reliance on Super Attacks won’t please everyone
It would easy to dismiss PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale as a Super Smash Bros. copycat, and to condemn it to a life in the sin bin purely based on that reasoning. But while SuperBot’s offering clearly doesn’t so much rip-off Ninty’s brawler as it does rob it blind, it’s still got a lot going for it. It might lack a bit of the simplicity of Mario and Co., and not hit the levels of technicality required for the likes of Street Fighter and Tekken, but what you’ve still got is a thoroughly entertaining beat ‘em up that’s completely unlike anything else on PS3.
Let’s start with the basics. As you probably know, PSASBR features some of the most recognisable faces from the PlayStation generations. AAA stars such as Nathan Drake and Kratos brush shoulders with the likes of cult icons such as PaRappa and Sweet Tooth, while major third-party franchises are represented by the likes of Bioshock’s Big Daddy and Tekken’s Heihachi. It’s a pretty comprehensive line-up aside from a few curious choices. For example would you rather play as PSone poster boy Snake, or Dante from DmC which isn’t even out until next year? You just have to wonder whether any lucrative deals helped shape the roster.
The stages pay homage to the PlayStation greats incredibly. The likes of PaRappa’s Dojo, that plane trip from hell that featured in Uncharted, and Resistance’s San Francisco invasion are all represented brilliantly, with each arena continually evolving and unfolding into something different. If you’ve played the source material that the stage relates to, you could even go as far as saying that most of them tell mini stories. It’s not only the characters from the same game that rip up the arena though, in most bouts you’ll find the background torn apart by a Metal Gear that bombards you with missiles, or LittleBigPlanet 2’s end-boss Negativitron belting out lazers, you never know what lies around the corner.
Of course all these novelties wouldn’t mean much if the gameplay weren’t up to scratch, but thankfully it work wells despite not boasting the most in-depth engine ever created. On the surface it seems like a direct SSB clone, and in some ways is a carbon copy. Each of the characters have their own unique moves which relate to their own background, such as Sackboy’s ability to open the Poppit Cursor and Big Daddy’s deployment of a Little Sister. The big difference is the lack of the damage percentage model, with kills only being scored by use of Super Moves.
Supers can only be used when you’ve built up enough AP by beating the snot out of your opponents. They come in three varieties, and by stacking up more AP you can pull off bigger moves. A level one attack might get you a quick kill, a level two will probably bag you a couple, and with a level three you’ll be hard pressed not to score three kills. The latter is a screen-filler, bringing in fancy reinforcements such as Sweet Tooth’s iconic ice cream van and PaRappa’s “I Gotta Believe” dance routine.
These moves are a double edged sword. They work well for the most part, blocking and dodging is more technical than SSB with use of L1 to guard yourself or roll rather than simply a bubble shield, and most Supers can be interrupted with a counter should you time it right. The problem will likely come with purists, as you can easily build up AP by beating up one of the “less able” players in your game and just launching a Super on the “Pro” while they’re not looking. What that equates to is a fun party experience, but it’s kind of hard to take it as a serious brawler for that alone.
As far as game modes go, PSASBR is a mixed bag. The single-player element consists of a 30-minute long Arcade mode, and some goal-specific trials to take on. And unless you count battles against the A.I in Versus Mode, or the Training area, then that’s your lot. Each character has their own story, but the only unique thing about them all is the cut-scenes at the start and end, which doesn’t really make repeating the journey worthwhile for any reason other than Trophies. I needn’t tell you that this is first and foremost a multiplayer game though, and anybody buying it for a single-player epic has probably picked up the wrong game altogether.
What’s lacking is the presentation of the whole thing. The menus look like they’ve been put together by a five-year old, and probably took all of about one lazy Friday afternoon. The unlockables are incredibly tedious too, forcing you to do nothing more than level up each character for a few new icons and backgrounds for your profile card, or if you’re lucky some new costumes and Minions (which in reality, do nothing at all). I would’ve liked to see some locked characters, as you never really feel like you’ve got any overriding incentive to play on your own. Even in-game Trophies or something similar like SSB to tell the history of PlayStation would’ve made it a much more worthwhile experience.
As a whole package, PSASBR is definitely worth looking into. As far as a single-player experience goes it’s weak, underwhelming, and generally not worth your cash. As a hardcore fighter, it doesn’t have the balance or depth to touch brilliance, but as a game to have laugh and mess about with your friends on, it excels. And that’s exactly what SuperBot have gone for, so it’s hard to complain. The roster is (mostly) good, the stages are excellent and the gameplay is solid, so for a party game its well worth checking out. Is it as good as Super Smash Bros.? Probably not, but it’s a viable alternative rather than the joke of a rip-off many were touting it to be.