Best of PlayStation Network Vol. 1 – PS3
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Various
Release Date: Jun 24, 2013
Genre: Compilation, Arcade, Puzzle
Reviewed by Dean Engle

Review Score: 4 of 5

Microsoft was the company that started off this console generation with an emphasis on small downloadable games like Pacman, Geometry Wars, N+, and eventually noteworthy indie games like Castle Crashers, Braid, Super Meat Boy, and Fez, but as this generation comes to a close Sony has done a great job of amassing a strong lineup of quality downloadable games on the PS3 to catch up with, and maybe even surpass, what’s available on the Xbox 360. Best of Playstation Network Volume 1 is a collection of When Vikings Attack, Sound Shapes, Tokyo Jungle, and Fat Princess. Four of the best downloadable games the PS3 has to offer on one retail disc. Considering this package has a number of different games in it I won’t devote a whole lengthy review to each one, but I will give a quality assessment of each game and whether or not it’s worth the $40 for the whole package.

Every one of the four games is fairly unique, but the oddest one is probably Tokyo Jungle. It’s a game in which you play a variety of animals in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo where humans are gone and animals are roaming free and trying to survive. Each animal needs to eat, mark territory, reproduce, and expand to new areas, all while completing challenges to unlock new animals as well as avoiding predators and toxic areas. Herbivores eat plants, and carnivores eat other animals, but the goals are the same. Survive as long as possible to complete as many challenges as possible. The challenges and survival is the focus of the Survival Mode, but there’s also a Story Mode that unlocks as you complete more challenges and unlock more animals by playing the Survival Mode. The story in Tokyo Jungle is fairly odd, and gives some interesting, fun background information to why the world is currently abandoned by humans, but the best part of Tokyo Jungle is just how odd and different the gameplay concepts are.

When looking at Tokyo Jungle it seems like such an obvious idea. Take control of animals that need to eat other animals or plants to survive and reproduce. But the way Tokyo Jungle handles the combat mechanics, reproduction, and exploration make it an experience that can’t be had anywhere else. Combine that with the silliness of Giraffes, Woolly Mammoths, and Polar Bears roaming around in Tokyo as well as having to start out playing animals like a Pomeranian and Sika Deer, and you get a game that is just different in all the right ways. This might be my favorite game of the collection, but it’s hard to decide considering the other games that come with it.

Sound Shapes is simply a platformer that uses music as a differentiator. On paper Sound Shapes seems like a boring mash up of two game concepts that have been done hundreds of times by now. There have been more indie platformers of the past 5 years than anyone can count, and the number of games that have used interactive music elements as a key gameplay feature are just as numerous. Yet, somehow, Sound Shapes manages to combine these two concepts into a beautiful, relaxing game. The shapes in the level, including the player controlled object, are very simple, but touching almost any of them triggers a single note that end up combining into a wonderful symphony of simple sounds. There are multiple albums with a series of themed songs as well as user made levels that have their own songs. Sound Shapes may not be a long game with a lot of depth or innovative concepts, but it uses its simplicity to create a game that’s utterly enjoyable.

Of all the games in the collection, Fat Princess is the one that focuses heavily on multiplayer. It’s an isometric game where two teams fight to capture and defend a princess by using classes such as Worker, Warrior, Mage, and Ranger to gather resources, upgrade buildings, capture outposts, and push your way into the enemy base. It’s a frantically paced, complex struggle between two teams that can be over in just a few minutes, or be long drawn out game two even teams fighting for ground. Fat Princess can be a fantastic game when the teams are even in skill, but the game is lacking a robust community to really help new players learn the ropes and participate.

It’s really a shame that such a fantastic game that relies so heavily on multiplayer doesn’t have a strong community to support it, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people playing online. I almost always got into a game when searching, but it always felt like one of the teams had a group of players who knew what they were doing and the game was over before I knew it. It seems like it could be awesome, but those trying to get into this game four years after its release are probably going to be disappointed.

The last game in the bundle is When Vikings Attack. Of all the four games, this one is probably the weakest. It’s not that When Vikings Attack is necessarily a bad game, it’s actually a decent Pikmin style game that takes place in arenas where you throw objects at groups of Vikings while they try to throw things at you as well. The problem is it gets old very fast. The game tries to change things up with different enemies and boss fights that require some timing and precision, but overall there’s just not enough variety to make the game fun for more than a couple of hours. As I said before, it’s definitely not a terrible game by any means, but it doesn’t meet the standards set by the other excellent games in the collection.

This collection of downloadable games is a top notch, and even if there are some negatives, the value is definitely there. When Vikings Attack is worth playing despite it being the weakest of the four, Fat Princess is a fantastic game even with a small community to play online with, and Sound Shapes and Tokyo Jungle are simply some of the best games you’ll find on the PS3. Best of PSN Volume 1 is definitely worth a purchase. Even if you only want to play two out of the four games, the price is worth purchasing the collection for a few extra dollars to get two free games. The first entry into the Best of PSN is a good one, and I’m excited to see what games are included in the next volume.