The Best of PlayStation Network Volume 1
Evaluating game collections is never an easy proposition, especially when said collection claims to be the ‘best’ of something. As it is, The Best of PlayStation Network Vol. 1 is not what I would deem to be the very best PlayStation Network has to offer. It has a couple of good games, and it has a couple of great games, but it is mostly a surprising, curious collection of titles put to disc.
Though not quite the oddest games of the quartet, When Vikings Attack! and Fat Princess stand out as the most questionable. Both games are primarily multiplayer only experiences, the former having on and offline multiplayer and the latter online only. Their inclusions begs the question who this collection is actually for, assuming online players may be savvy enough to have already found these games on Sony’s digital storefront. Regardless of how either is found, both are designed to be played online.
When Vikings Attack! is a difficult game to describe because of how simple it is. Players control a mob of villagers, pick up objects and then hurl said objects at legions of vikings. And that is basically it. When played alone the title quickly becomes tedious do to the repetitive nature of flinging debris at the endless waves of vikings. With extra player-controlled groups the game is much more lively, and thus enjoyable.
Fat Princess also suffers when played alone. The offline mode, ‘Legend of the Fat Princess’, is little more than a series of tutorials for the manic class-based capture the flag title. Even after four years on the market there does seem to be a small but dedicated community of players still shoving stockpiles of cake into the titular princesses. Part Team Fortress 2 and part A Link to the Past, Fat Princess is easy to enjoy taken seriously, or not. It’s chaotic and silly, but beneath its sugary exterior there is a surprisingly competent team-based game to dissect.
The highlight of the collection is the exceptional Tokyo Jungle. Originally released in Japan as a full priced retail product, Tokyo Jungle represents PlayStation Network at its most bizarre. It’s a rogue-like where you start as either a Sika deer or a Pomeranian, and then try to survive as long as possible in post-apocalyptic Tokyo.
The brilliance of Tokyo Jungle is in the stories it creates, both those written by designer and player. The story mode puts a human spin on the various factions of animals warring to carve out a small piece of territory on the streets. It’s totally weird, but Sony’s Japan Studio finds a way to endear a house cat’s revenge story to the player. Or you feel a twisted sense of relief watching as a predator feasts on one of your pack mates, rather than on you.
Rounding out the set is Queasy Games’ rhythm-platformer Sound Shapes. Positioned to be the Vita’s signature indie game last year, Sound Shapes seemed to come and go without much noise. It had albums (read: game worlds) from famous musicians, including Beck, Sword & Sworcery‘s Jim Guthrie and Deadmau5. It even had a rather elaborate level creator, but it just didn’t seem to click.
The expectations (and frustrations) of an entire platform were too high for a quirky little platformer. Sound Shapes was, and still is, a sublime, subdued experience. It’s not perfectly suited for the television, but the unique blend of each album’s original music and abstract aesthetics create a memorable pairing. Though many games with user generated content claim to be canvases for an individual’s expression, Sound Shapes is the rare one that ships with a series of such unique orchestrations.
Whether or not these games truly represent the best PlaystationNetwork has to offer is up for debate. With three of the four games released just last year, The Best of PlayStation Network Vol. 1 isn’t exactly covering a wide breadth of the platform’s history. Instead, it seems to highlight a year’s worth of Sony’s digital flops: good-to-great games that for one reason or another missed their audience. But I suppose “PlayStation Network Misfires + Fat Princess” isn’t exactly a catchy title.