Giving Home A Second Chance

A wise man once said, “Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam, where the deer and the antelope play, where seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.” This is a strangely accurate description of Playstation Home, apart from the buffalo. And deer. And discouraging words. The sky isn’t cloudy though, it’s very sunny in Home Square which I recently revisited.

Home has always been a bit of a let down for me, it was announced, hyped and finally arrived (late, of course) and all you could do was watch a trailer and play chess. Whoop-de-doo. If you’re anything like me that put you off  Home, I’ve hardly looked at it since launch until a few nights ago when I noticed TSA’er “TheDeathAvenger” was in Home. What was he doing in there? There’s nothing good in Home, right?

After a couple of small updates Home launches and the first thing that happens is I’m told free stuff has arrived. Free stuff is always good and in this case it’s the Batcave, thanks to me renting ‘Batman: Arkham Asylum’ a while back. How exciting, my own Batcave! It’s a bit of a let down though, you get a nice Batmobile and Batwing to look at and it’s all moody and dark but I think I prefer the sunny climes of my Home apartment.

The biggest change since my last visit is when you click on the world map. Previously when I clicked there were about six icons, this time there are so many they fill up the screen.

My first port of call is the Singstar area, a very swanky night club with nifty interactive dance floor. A rather good chunky dance tune is playing and a big video screen is showing off videos. For some odd reason you can only hear the music from the videos when you are near the screen rather than on the dance floor which seems to miss the point. I select a classic Rick Astley video to watch and – ping – more free stuff! An “I *heart* Singstar” T-Shirt and a very classy “DJ” T-shirt which I immediately change in to.

It’s a nice little space to visit and for once you can use all those dance moves without looking like a muppet. I’m suprised about how much this feels like the clubs I DJ at, there even appears to be a shady character offering “smarties” in one dark corner,  although I’m not sure I’ve see the Assassins Creed bloke busting some shapes before.

Zombies are always good value so I then jump across to the ‘Burn Zombie Burn’ space, a haunted graveyard. At first glance there is not much to do but I stumble across a maze mini game. You run about the maze whilst a timer counts down, avoiding zombies. Completion of the maze rewards you with another free T-shirt and your own little pod, with dance floor and lights, playing the music from Burn Zombie Burn that sounds a lot like Michael Jacksons Thriller, but isn’t so they don’t get sued.

The Audi space is next which I recall writing about on TSA ages back when it was announced for the Japan version of Home. Another mini game called ‘Vertical Run’ resides here, a racer. You drive the ‘e-tron’, and Audi concept car, around a track that loops and spins in a gravity defying manner around a cityscape. It’s a sort of budget Wipeout, the car glides rather than drives around the track, but it’s certainly worth a visit for 5 minutes of fun, completing the game is a bit of a challenge.

Next up I click Sodium and enter a new space which is like a neon night club in a desert. I have no idea what’s going on, so wander about a bit. A message tells me to go and speak to Vickie the reception robot which I do, and I learn that Sodium is a game. A bit more wandering and I find some glowy thing which I walk in to and there’s a sudden and very unexpected whooshy teleportation effect. Cool! The new area has a great big neon sign in the middle with “Now loading” on it. I wait a minute or two before it loads and then investigate.

Now, brace yourselves dear readers. Sit down, have a stiff drink ready. It’s brilliant!! Yes! Really! Something in Home is really, really good! The game is “Salt Shooter” in which you pilot a very nifty hovercraft and battle against enemies across a desert. The play area is flat but your hovercraft and the enemies are very well designed and the hovercraft handles like a dream. In seconds in swooping across the plains, pummelling enemies with gunfire then turning on a sixpence to swoop round to take out some more bad guys. Enemies drop pick ups, explosions are excellent, sound is spot on and if this isn’t running at 60FPS it’s pretty close. It’s impressive and I’m enjoying every minute. A special mention for the thumpy techno music as well, perfectly suits the game.

After two rounds, I’m done and back at the menu and it becomes apparent this much more than a simple shooter. Your ship has masses of options for upgrades, new guns, missiles, engines, coolers, you name it. I tweak my ship and head out for round two, this time attacked by some new enemies. More killing ensues and the level is completed and I get a couple of homing missiles to bolt on to my ship. Level three start and yet more new enemies, this time laser towers in which you have to take out the satellite power pods before you can attack the main tower.

The first five levels of Salt Shooter are free to play and I strongly recommended you do. To play the other 45 levels then you need to shell out £3.99 and like Cheryl Cole’s hair, it’s worth it. There are other aspects of the Sodium area that I haven’t touched on including a rudimentary trading aspect and Scorpion stomping (wtf?). If you couldn’t be arsed with moping about and puzzling in XI and wanted to shoot things, it’s what you’ve been waiting for.

Another major change in Home is the avatars. When the service started it was packed full of identikit virtual people, a year on and it’s pretty hard to find any two avatars who are the same. A cat-suited Victoria Beckham look-a-like is standing nearby chatting to a pot bellied hippie in a pair of shorts and not much else.  My avatar looked a bit like me but I spend a good half an hour tweaking the settings and now virtual me is looking much better.

Next stop, the inFamous area and to be honest this is a bit of a let down, a video and a simple shooting gallery game so I quickly move to the Loco Roco area and land on a tropical island with loads of Loco Roco jumping around my feet going “Eeeh!” “oooh!” and saying odd stuff in Japanese. It’s rather freaky, maybe that shady character from the Singstar area slipped something in my drink as I find that dancing next to a Loco Roco means it will follow me about. A small board game called “Loco Roco Reverse” can be found. The Loco Rocos will also sing for you (and give you T-shirts).  OK this is too weird,  time for the next area.

The EA Sports complex consist of five areas for various sports and I choose “Club Fight Night” which seems pretty empty but features a “Club DJ Game”.  Which is another word for “Budget DJ Hero” – its a rhythm game, quite simple and worth a quick play, more free t-shirts! Jumping  over to the EA Race area there is a multiplayer race game  (I’m playing against “Monkeybottom”) and it a basic Scalectrix style racer.  Once again car handling is non existent and it just shows off how good Salt Shooter is.

Buzz HQ is somewhere I’ve been before and is always a laugh. If you old enough to remember the TV show “Runaround” it will be familiar. Quizzes appear on the screen and rather than press a button you guide your character to an an area to answer the question. I’m playing a series questions based on penguin jokes. Bizarre. Good fun though.

There is so much more to cover I could write for another ten pages to cover the areas for Resistance, Motorstorm, Ratchet & Clank, Pixel Junk, Socom and many more. Lots of mini games to be found as well, and new features such as the snazzy camera (hence all my lovely screen shots).  If you have not visited Home for a while I suggest you do, there are hours worth of entertainment for free and thankfully must of the annoying twunts seem to have left so it’s a much more pleasant experience.

It’s worth loading up just for Salt Shooter alone, so why not give Home a second chance.

maybe that shady characvter from the Singstar area slipped something in mmy drink as I find that dancing next to a Loco Roco means it will follow me about.