Compilations are always a tricky thing to review. Do you treat each game as its own entity, link back to past reviews or ignore the content and simply summarize the features? It’s an age-old question that critics still tend to fumble over, resulting in a multitude of “solutions”. Lucky for my sanity, this is a relatively basic compilation that offers four classic-ish PSN games with no added content. Yep, unfortunately unlike Journey Collector’s Edition, this is simply a disc with Fat Princess, Tokyo Jungle, When Vikings Attack! and Sound Shapes. When Vikings Attack! and Sound Shapes don’t include Cross Buy like their downloadable counterparts and each game must be installed onto the console yet still requires the disc to play. As such, this is not the best route to own the games and really only exists as a way to get some recognizable downloadable titles into retail. But there certainly are people who don’t like buying titles digitally and collector’s of anything physical, so the collection serves a purpose. If this sort of thing is your bag (baby), let’s go through each game to make sure the compilation is for you.
Released nearly four years ago, Fat Princess holds up as a very addictive capture the flag/castle defense type game where it’s easy to jump in and play, but hard to develop strategy and skill to rise to the top of the leaderboards. Playable offline or online with up to 32 players (still impressive for an indie game), Fat Princess offers multiple game modes including deathmatch, capturing enemy outposts and, of course, rescuing fat princesses. All of the modes are enjoyable, but the highlight certainly are the ones that involve having to storm the castle and rescue your princess to bring her back to your own castle. The kicker (and reason for the name) is that cake can be collected and force fed to the enemy princess, making her fat and much slower to carry. With a bunch of classes (Villager, Worker, Ranger, Mage, Warrior and Priest), there are multiple ways to play the game, resulting in an experience that you could certainly sink hours into on a routine basis. Even after four years, I found myself getting sucked back in and ready to lose track of time before I snapped free and realized I had three other games to get to.
When Vikings Attack! is the black sheep of the compilation. Not because it’s bad (although it is the weakest game here), but it’s not really a game that springs to mind when you think “Best of PSN” or even just “PSN” really. It features some of the simplest gameplay in a post 2010 game — throw environmental objects with square and dash with X — that’s it. Vikings are invaded and you collect a gang of villagers to fend them off. The larger the gang, the bigger the objects you can pick up (like trucks, benches, etc) and lob at the vikings. Timing must be accounted for to be successful, and throwing objects at the vikings is a bit like bowling — sometimes they’ll all be knocked out and sometimes you’re left with a split. There’s online functionally with both versus and cooperative play. The game certainly shines when being played cooperatively and is very family friendly thanks to its unoffensive humor and ease of play. The gameplay may grow tired after a few hours, but until then it’s a fun little diversion.
Certainly the best title in the compilation, Sound Shapes is a beautiful music-based platformer unlike anything that has been released before. You play as a fried egg looking ball that traverses through various levels as music plays in the background. Not only are the obstacles challenging to clear, but there are musical notes that can be collected to fill out the song. Using just the analog stick, X and Square buttons, it’s incredibly simply yet hard to master. One of the best Vita games of last year, it’s absolutely beautiful. With contributions from Beck and Deadmau5, the music is fantastic throughout and comes together for a synesthesia like effect previously only seen in stuff like Rez and Lumines. Not only are there a impressive amount of original music and stages, but there’s a very deep editor that allows users to be their own DJ/level designer. I didn’t get the pleasure of reviewing the game upon original release, so I’m glad I have a change to recommend this gem and for it to get more exposure.
And then we get to Tokyo Jungle, the weirdest title in the compilation and possibly the entire generation. The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where humans have vanquished and only animals remain; pets have turned feral, big game have escaped from the zoo and race horses have been liberated. A retail game in Japan, Tokyo Jungle certainly has enough content that it could have pulled off a physical release here, so it’s certainly the centerpiece value-wise of the whole collection. Throughout the game, you take control a various animals and have to do things like hunt, forage, surive and breed. Yep, you’ll get to play as a dog and attract the attention of a female dog and go breed and produce playable puppies. It’s like nothing ever before, but always fun and hilarious. It may not prove to be everybody’s cup of tea, but those who get it will likely fall in love.
Best of PlayStation Network Vol. 1 is a collection of four great games at a price. Usually there’s a redundant adjective that precedes “price,” but that’s not the case here as with all games currently available at a little over $47 together, there’s not much savings to be had. As such, anybody who has even one of the titles would be advised to avoid the collection and purchase the games individually instead. Still, those who missed the original releases, don’t have access to PSN or love holding as close to a physical version as these games will ever get will find a lot to love. It’s also the sort of package I could see a kid spotting at GameStop and thinking “wow, four games for forty bucks” and snagging it for the perceived value, only to be turned on to a summer of imaginative, indie fun. And for those reasons, Best of PlayStation Network Vol. 1 serves an almost admirable purpose, even if it’s just a physical rehash.