PlayStation’s new PlayLink initiative has taken off, bringing gamers closer together through a more social gaming experience. Much like the Jackbox party games, PlayStation’s PlayLink games encourages cooperative fun without the need for complex equipment or multiple controllers. All that is required is a PS4 console, a PlayLink title, and a smartphone.
Over the Christmas and New Year break, PlayStation New Zealand kindly provided me with three PlayLink titles to enjoy with some friends. These were, Knowledge is Power, Hidden Agenda and SingStar Celebration.
Knowledge is Power
Knowledge is Power is a trivia challenge game which incorporates speed and accuracy in order to beat out opponents and win the game. The game begins with players choosing from a number of different categories, wherein the category with the majority vote is selected. From there, a series of questions are asked, requiring players to choose their answers from the multiple choices provided. Though to get ahead, various obstacles can be sent to opponents to hinder their progress.
For some strange reason, the game continually brought up similar categories throughout our play-through, making the selection of questions too tough for some and too easy for others. The categories we had to choose from consisted of different variations of Myth, Ancient History and Egypt. This meant that each level presented us with the same Egyptian theme, making the game feel rather repetitive. Not only that, but the similar theme in the category selection meant that I became the target of all the other players’ obstacles, as I’m a bit of an Ancient Egyptian History and Mythology fan. This made me feel a little frustrated as my friends ganged up on me to ensure my defeat. Had the categories been a bit more diverse, Knowledge is Power would have been a whole lot more fun.
After a few rounds of trivia, we gave the mystery-thriller game, Hidden Agenda a go. Players take control of a homicide detective and a district attorney, both of whom are desperately trying to solve the case of a serial killer known only as The Trapper. Featuring quick time events that will decide the outcome of the story, players must vote for a specific action using their phone. During competitive gameplay, a single player will receive a secret objective, i.e. a hidden agenda, that they must do their best to ensure it happens, while other players attempt to prevent the occurrence from taking place.
Hidden Agenda has a compelling plot and narrative which immediately drew me in. As a fan of murder-mystery thrillers, I was determined to find out who the real killer was. My friends and I struggled to understand what was required of us at first but soon managed to pick up the rhythm and proceed with the game. The story was gripping, in a way that kept me wanting to learn more. Being able to make decisions which affects gameplay was unique and interesting, however, getting a majority vote was challenging and led to some time being wasted.
A game like this was certainly tough to play with friends, especially at a party. With a presumably long and rather dark story and process, we didn’t get too far into the game as it defeated the purpose of a light-hearted social event. Ideally, a game like Hidden Agenda is better played as a single-player, in my honest opinion.
SingStar: Celebration is this year’s edition of the popular PlayStation singing game that can be played with microphones or the SingStar Mic smartphone app. It was a bit disappointing initially to learn that only two players were able to play together simultaneously in the traditional Duet and Battle modes.
However, the game includes a Party mode which allows for up to eight players to play. The mode either splits the group up into two teams, of which a member of each team is selected to perform a random song, or allows a ‘pass the mic’ function.
Of all three games, SingStar: Celebration was the one that we weren’t too thrilled to be playing. For my friends and I, the SingStar games were ones we would play back when we were a little younger and felt less self-conscious. It felt really awkward singing in front of others, especially with the variety of tracks available, many of which include modern pop songs by artists like Ella Henderson,Young Rising Sons, and several others who we’ve not even heard of (yes, we’re a bit old school with our music tastes).
Of course, there’s a SingStore from which we could purchase additional tracks, however, we weren’t too keen to actually buy songs for a game we may not be playing all too regularly.
PlayStation is really doing well to incorporate social games to their platform, however the initial wave of PlayLink titles do seem to be lacking somewhat. Of the three games that were given to me to enjoy, the only one that I would be willing to spend hours on (probably more so by myself) would be Hidden Agenda, primarily because of its narrative. Knowledge is Power would be an amazing party game title to play with friends and family, if only there was a bit more variety in the category selection. SingStar: Celebration, on the other hand, will probably be much more appreciated by those who actually enjoy a sing-off and are accustomed to today’s modern music.
The PlayLink initiative still has a way to go before it’s able to compete with the likes of the Jackbox party games, but good on PlayStation for coming up with games that encourage social play via smartphone technology.