It's just another typical day in Hades' dominion of death. All of a sudden the dark caves start trembling. It's the Patapon army that's stopping by for a visit! For some unknown reason war has struck the Playstation universe, and while Hades deals with his unwelcome guests, heroes such as Kratos, Sly Cooper, and Parappa the Rapper face off in lethal combat. This fall Sony takes on Nintendo's powerhouse Super Smash Bros, with Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale from Superbot Entertainment, a studio founded with the sole purpose to create this very game.
Much like in Super Smash Bros. we are presented with hectic battles for four players both online and offline. By pushing you analogue stick in one direction while you press one of the three attack buttons you perform various move aimed to cause harm on your opponents, and in addition to this you can block, jump and grapple your way to victory. Naturally it's nowhere near as deep as Street Fighter or Tekken, but it's still a capable and well crafted combat system.
Superbot have aimed at a accessible experience that caters to all kinds of gamers, where the number of moves each character can perform are rather limited, but unique and easy to learn while they remain hard to master. Fans will definitely recognise the moves of their favourite characters. Kratos, for instance, uses his blades on chains to launch enemies the same way he has done since he first appeared on Playstation 2, and he can use Helios beam to blind his opponents momentarilly.
The six heroes that were revealed match up well and play completely differently from each other. Colonel Radec from the Killzone franchise makes use of various guns to keep enemies at range, while Parappa is the complete opposite as he pulls off quick moves up close. Meanwhile, Twisted Metal's Sweet Tooth does a lot of damage with his shotgun and machete, while Sly Cooper is more of a defensive character who can make himself invisible.
Super attacks are an integral part of the combat system. Players have no health bars, and normal attacks can never kill an enemy, but when you register a hit your super meter fills up. The super meter has three levels of deadly offensive attacks. The first level super attack can kill off one enemy if it is successful, and the key is to know when and where to pull it off. If you're a patient player you can hold off to level two and perform a longer super attack that can kill several players at once.
The third level is extremely powerful and turns the players into a one man army for a period of time. Each character has a unique super move of their own with clever references to their respective gaming universes. In one super attack the princess from Fat Princess hops on a giant chicken and kills everything in her parth, in another super attack Parappa conducts a massive concert that at its climax disintegrates a third of the level.
There is no doubting the fact that Superbot knows how to pay homage to classic games, while still managing to make it all come together into a coherent game. The levels and items have also been derived from the rich archives of Playstation. Apart from a Patapon infested Hades the preview version also contained a futuristic city from the Ratchet & Clank universe that halfway through the fight got attacked by a hungry Hydra from the very first God of War. Sandover Village from Jak & Daxter gets a visit from golfers from Everybody's Golf that send balls raining all over the map.
The most interesting was the Little Big Planet inspired arena that grows as if someone was building a level in the celebrated platform game. After a while something very unexpected happens as Buzz makes an entrance. All of a sudden the fight is turned into a game shows were the objective is to stand on the part of the level that represents the correct answer. Stand in the wrong spot and you're punished, and if several players occupy the same position it becomes a shoving match to decide who the winner is.
All of these events are random, so in some cases Hades will defeat the Patapon army and then focus his efforts on the players. Further depth is achieved by all the Playstation inspired items that randomly appear during the matches. By using rocket launcher, spike grenades, and energy shields you can help fill up the super meter before other players get there.
The mechanics in Playstation All Stars Battle Royale come across as very sound, and given the potential the title holds for hosting fantastic characters and environments we're very much looking forward to seeing what else the game will offer. What remains to be seen is whether Superbot can mirror the fantasticly addictive nature of Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. franchise.