Version tested: PlayStation 3
Hey everybody! It's party time! But tonight we're not gonna party like it's 1999, oh no. That's because it's 2010! Today's parties aren't about drinking, dancing and standing around in the kitchen discussing the new Catatonia album! They're about standing around in the lounge, playing videogames! And drinking.
At least, that seems to be the conclusion drawn by every single videogames company in the world ever. Blame the success of Guitar Hero. Blame the popularity of the Wii. Blame the millions of people who purchased Carnival Games (the only explanation is they forgot you're supposed to do the drinking after you've bought the game).
Whatever the reason, there are now 1045 games with the world "party" in the title available on Amazon.co.uk. Actually, make that 1046, because here comes Start the Party - Sony's newest contribution to the over-crowded and under-whelming mini-game compilation genre.
But wait - there's a twist! Start the Party is played using the PlayStation Eye camera and the new Move motion controller. Just like with the old EyeToy games, you see a mirror image of your lounge on the TV screen. However, you also see yourself holding a virtual image of whatever object the Move is currently representing - a paintbrush, a fan, a torch, et cetera.
Calibrating is a simple process - just point the controller at the camera and press the Move button for a few seconds. The moment when the on-screen controller transforms into a virtual object is quite exciting. You really can manoeuvre it around however you like and watch it behave as you'd expect, moving smoothly without any lag or juddering.
Calibrating a second controller is more difficult, because you can't. Here's the really big twist: Start the Party is an entirely turn-based party game. Not a single one of the mini-games can be played using more than one controller or by two people at the same time.
This seemed a bit bonkers, so I asked Sony about it. "Start the Party is one controller only - pass the parcel style - as none of the games are head to head," goes the official line. "We wanted to make sure that the whole family or more than one player could enjoy the game without the need to have to buy additional controllers."
Which makes sense. When you're asking casual gamers to pay £34.99 for a controller, it's probably not a good idea to insist they buy two before they can enjoy your most mass market, family-oriented, mind-the-Christmas-tree-Grandma-oh-no-the-dog's-got-her-teeth-again launch title. But why not include some two-player options as well, for those who have made the full investment in your new technology?
As it is, up to four players can compete in the turn-based Party mode. (At least, four is the maximum number of avatars you can create, which is done by assigning PS Eye mugshots you've taken to weird images of dancing tellies.) The turn-based aspect means you can end up spending a lot of time sitting about, watching other people play - so it's a good job the mini-games are short. In multiplayer mode there are nine in total and while they're not wildly varied, none of them fall foul of being the same mini-game wearing a different hat.