The essential PS3 party games for that perfect family Christmas 2009
Christmas is an interesting time for most – it’s pretty-much the one point in the year when everyone insists on big family get-togethers, regardless of how well the family actually gets on. You might be the sort of person who literally yearns for Christmas so you can catch up with all your close family members, or you might be the type for whom the Christmas holiday is more or an ordeal, looked on with the kind of enthusiasm most reserve for visits to the dentist, or filling in a tax return. Whether you embrace the Festive period with the enthusiasm of Tiny Tim however, or feel that actually Scrooge had it spot on before the meddling ghosts showed up, one thing that’s always welcome when you’re ‘confined to quarters’ with all available family members, is some kind of family entertainment.
Now in the ‘olden days’ (back when telephones had wires attaching them to walls, and you could count the number of television channels on the fingers of one hand), family fun would generally have been limited to board games, card games and charades (note to younger readers – ask your parents about the last one).
Now though, with a spot of planning, and some careful purchase of pre-Christmas shopping, your versatile PS3 can actually provide you with myriad ways to amuse the family, be they young or old, and thus assure a stress-free Christmas for all. What follows is Gamesweasel’s recommendations for a fun-filled PlayStation 3 Christmas – get your PS3 Christmas deals in now, before they all sell out.
Suitable for: Family members of all ages
Once upon a time karaoke was something that people did in bars. Then in 2004 Sony came up with the idea of Singstar and suddenly those who were too nervous or too self-conscious to belt out their favourite pop hits in front of strangers could do so in the comfort of their own home. With the two Singstar microphones, and loads of Singstar titles now on the market, there’s something to suit just about everyone’s taste (well, except perhaps those who only really like opera music – but I’m sure Singstar: Opera is just around the corner).
Singstar started on the PS2, and is still going strong on the older platform, but next-gen PS3 owners benefit from a few extra tracks on each new release that PS2 owners miss out on. Should you be really into your Singstar, then it’s worth noting that the backwards compatibility of the PS3 also means that owners of the new console can still use the older Singstar games too.
The list of Singstar titles now available is literally too numerous to list all of them here, but particularly recommended would be the most recent release, Singstar: Take That, a compendium of the most popular hits from the well-known boy band; Singstar: Motown, also recently released, and featuring a range of tracks which will keep mum, dad and probably the grandparents happy too; Singstar: Queen, featuring, as the title suggests, the well-known hits of Queen; Singstar: ABBA, one for the ladies; Singstar: Boy Bands vs Girl Bands, something to keep the kids happy when they get bored with Take That; Singstar: Singalong with Disney, something to keep the younger kids amused (and all those ‘big kids’ who’ve watched too many Disney movies); and last but not least, Singstar: Anthems, which contains a selection of those songs that for one reason or another, everybody knows! With so many different styles of music available to keep everyone happy Singstar is one of the top PS3 games for Christmas 2009.
- Buy Singstar Bundle including 2 microphones from Amazon – $56.99
- Buy Singstar ABBA from Amazon – $39.82
- Buy Singstar Pop from Amazon – $17.25
- Buy Singstar Pop 2 from Amazon – $28.89
- Buy Singstar Queen from Amazon – $36.99
- Buy Singstar Singalong with Disney from Amazon – $26.99
- Buy Singstar 80′s from Amazon – $29.82
- Buy Singstar 90′s from Amazon – $26.50
Suitable for: Keeping the younger kids quiet while the older relatives are busy
I remember when I was at school, at one point all the kids went crazy for a ‘Virtual Pet’ called a Tamagotchi. Technology back then was fairly limited (at least when it came to toys) so this was simply a small egg-shaped piece of plastic with a monochrome LCD screen, on which a tiny ‘pet’ could be encouraged to grow, and it was the job of the pet’s owner to feed it and play with it via a very basic series of commands. It was ridiculously primitive, but everyone loved it. Quite what kids back then would make of the EyePet is anybody’s guess. Taking the same concept – of a ‘virtual pet’ – and then transforming it into something so far from the original idea as to be practically unrecognisable, Sony offers today’s kids something quite special.
Using the PS3’s EyeToy camera, the EyePet shows you a live image of your room, on TV, then inserts the pet into the room, where you can interact with it. It jumps around the floor, climbs onto your shoulder, lets you pet it, feed it and play with it, and kids are going to absolutely love it.
It worth pointing out that the EyePet isn’t perfect – it’s a little tricky to start with, getting used to trying to touch something that only exists on the TV screen, and the interaction is sometimes a little iffy as you find yourself putting your hand through your pet, but on the whole it’s extremely well-realised, and even adults will find themselves sucked into thinking of the little fellow as real as he bounces around on the screen, responding to ‘almost’ your every move.
EyePet is a reminder that long before Nintendo released a controller that you have to wave around, PlayStation owners were enjoying motion-sensitive, controller-free gameplay through the innovations of the EyeToy camera.
- Buy EyePet – game only from Amazon – $39.99
- Buy EyePet Bundle including camera from Amazon – $56.99
- Buy Playstation 3 Eye from Amazon – $29.99
Suitable for: Family members of all ages
As they’d done with karaoke, Sony took the concept of gameshows and brought in into people’s homes. Under the beady eye of sharp-tongued virtual host ‘Buzz’ (voiced by Jason Donovan) between two and eight players compete in a variety of different rounds to show whose knowledge is best. The basic game usually comes with four buzzers, so those with big families might need to shell out for an extra set to play with up to eight, but it’s worth it when the whole family is clustered round the TV, buzzer in hand, trying to out-Buzz everyone else.
Again a Playstation game which started on PS2, Buzz really came into its own on Playstation 3 where the addition of wireless buzzers and better graphics and sound made things that much more fun. Most recently, Buzz! Quiz World was released for the Playstation 3, but also available is Buzz! Quiz TV and Buzz! Brain Of The UK. In addition to the quiz options there are a variety of games available aimed at younger gamers who perhaps aren’t quite coordinated enough yet to manage a proper controller. Buzz! Junior Monster Rumble was popular on PS2, and should now be available for download for PS3 from the PlayStation Store.
- Buy Buzz! Quiz World – game only from Amazon – $36.99
- Buy Buzz! Quiz World bundle with 4 wireless buzzers from Amazon – $59.99
- Buy Buzz! Quiz TV bundle with 4 wireless buzzers from Amazon – $59.99
- Read and watch our Buzz! Quiz TV review
Guitar Hero, Band Hero and Rock Band
Suitable for: All but the youngest family members, and those with zero coordination
Always wanted to be in a rock band but haven’t got any musical talent? Well now you can be, with your PS3. A game series that started on PS2, Guitar Hero kicked things off with its unique ‘guitar controller’ which allowed musically untalented music fans everywhere to ‘rock out’ in the style of their favourite guitar heroes (hence the name) and then Rock Band took things to the next level by adding more instruments and a vocalist to the mix – cue many drunken post-pub ‘band sessions’ for those who could afford all the kit.
The concept is simple: you hold the dedicated controller, and use the fret buttons (or the drums in the case of the drum kit) to create the notes as they race towards you on the screen. Hit the buttons at the correct time and the tune continues, hit them at the wrong time, and that part of the track, be it lead guitar, bass guitar or drums, stops until the next note appears. A virtual crowd cheers or boos your efforts on the screen, and good performances are rewarded with new tracks to tackle and other bonuses while lousy performances earn you insults and leave you with your ‘Rock God’ reputation in tatters.
An idea that started with the awesome Guitar Hero, ‘Band Hero’ is the most recent release for the PS3, and one with a rocking track list which should offer something for most family members to try.
The Beatles: Rock Band, meanwhile, is a must-have for those fans of the Fab Four with the cash to afford the complete kit, and family get-togethers are probably one of the only times when you’re going to have enough people available for an entire band. If you can’t quite stretch to the newest games, then it’s well worth taking a look at some of the older Guitar Hero titles which are still available (Guitar Hero 5 has not been out long and for more tracks it’s worth checking out Guitar Hero III and Guitar Hero World Tour). Even if your cash can’t stretch to enough instruments for an entire band, it’s well worth just trying a version of the game with the guitar only, as strumming along to your favourite rock tracks is great fun, and can be almost as much fun to watch – get your uncoordinated uncle to have a go at it on after lunch on Boxing Day and you’ll see what I mean.
- Buy Guitar Hero 3 Legends of Rock from Amazon – $39.99
- Buy Guitar Hero World Tour from Amazon – $39.92
- Buy Guitar Hero 5 from Amazon – $56.99
- Buy Guitar Hero Aerosmith from Amazon – $15.99
- Buy Band Hero from Amazon – $59.99
- Buy Rock Band from Amazon – $17.95
- Buy Rock Band 2 from Amazon – $99.00
- Buy Beatles Rock Band from Amazon – $49.96
- Read and watch our reviews of Guitar Hero 2, Guitar Hero 3 Legends of Rock, Guitar Hero World Tour, Guitar Hero 5 and Guitar Hero Aerosmith
- Read and watch our reviews of Rock Band, Rock Band 2 and Beatles Rock Band