Lets get one thing straight – Playstation All-Stars is much, much different from Nintendo’s Smash Bros. series. All-Stars is slower, has more attacks, and features a bit less variety than the franchise that Nintendo built. PlayStation All-Stars isn’t a bad game, but I can’t help but wonder how competitive this party platformer can possibly be.
Players choose from a small cast of PlayStation characters, including Nathan Drake, Sly Cooper, and Kratos. Each character has several attacks, executed by using square, triangle, and circle, and pressing a direction. The square attacks tend to be faster but less damaging, while the circle attacks play opposite. By attacking and avoiding damage, characters build special meter which can be spent to perform intense special attacks. These super moves are the only way to get kills in All-Stars, which leads to long, brutal melees between people trying to top out their meter first.
In theory, the system would promote a more aggressive style of play than Smash, but the manner in which moves are executed slows down assaults considerably. Smash very well might benefit from the floatey nature that comes from taking damage from attacks. At high percentages, even minor attacks can send your character reeling – not so in All-Stars. There is little reason to play defensively when you know that you actually take no damage and are not heavily penalized, outside of the chance that a player hits you with a rogue special.
To combat this, lots of characters have knockback attacks. I became frustrated during brawls after being repeatedly knocked out of combat by a random launcher, and in a four player battle it can become hard to tell who is actually a threat and who is using what special at what time. This game needs a freeze and zoom element similar to Street Fighter and Smash Bros in order to help players identify supers from normals, otherwise you might mistake a killing blow from a normal knockback attack.
Still, there is room for combo-ability, and if there’s one positive thing I can push about this control scheme its that the three buttons give characters a lot of variety. As such, many attacks will ultimately be gimmicky and situational, but we’ll need more time in the lab to figure out combo potential. I am concerned that some characters might be left behind as the metagame grows because of the strange nature of combos and attacks in this game, as some characters seem to have a lot more direct attacks than others.
But perhaps I am simply being too pessimistic. The game is definitely fun, and the ability to play cross platform on the Vita is a tempting option. I tried both versions of the game, and despite the vita being slightly down-rez’d the game ran smoothly and I had no problem competing with, and beating thoroughly, the console players. Though the screen is smaller, characters have a faint white outline which was sufficient enough for me to maneuver and identify characters.
Of course we’re all eagerly awaiting new character announcements, but the current cast is very nice, if a little too similar in build and design. More cartoony characters would round out the cast, but I’m still rooting for third party PlayStation staples, like Solid Snake, to make an appearance. Fewer guns would certainly be appreciated, as would female characters, but as of now things are shaping up nicely for the title. My caveats aside, this could be a great success for Sony, especially for casual players who don’t concern themselves with things like balance and hitstun.