Sony’s PlayLink isn’t exactly ground-breaking, but it does work well for bringing families and friends together for a spot of off-the-cuff multiplayer gaming. Chimparty is the latest in their line of easily digestible multiplayer experiences that you can play using your mobile, playing out as a competitive board game with a bunch of minigames appearing on each space as you move across the board.
Using PlayLink, players control their chimp using their phone, and in an effort to make things as simple as possible, every interaction is controlled by one large single button. Your chimp hops, spins or bounces rhythmically, so it’s generally just a case of timing your button press to make them jump or move in the necessary direction.
Once everyone has downloaded the corresponding PlayLink app to their phone or tablet – all of which are available for iOS and Android – and made sure you’re all attached to the same WiFi hub, it’s a simple case of the app logging you into the game that’s running on the PS4. For the most part, and no matter the game, it’s a simple process, though one of our players was logged out for a good few minutes while their iPad refused to connect, providing a good deal of frustration, shouting and gnashing of teeth – that is what happens if you’re playing with toddlers. This was the only hiccup mind you, and you’re ultimately at the mercy of the fickle WiFi gods and a disparate bunch of devices so it’s pretty impressive that it works as well as it does the majority of the time.
Disappointingly there’s only one board for players to move across, though each space changes its function with every new playthrough. There’s a lot of bouncing backwards and forwards as players land on the same spot, and there’s a bunch of spots that send you ahead or backwards. It all ends up feeling more chaotic than strategic, and there’s little interest in where you’re placed until you get right towards the end of the board. It’s an attractive enough setting, but it’s a shame that there’s not more variety.
A lack of variety is the over-arching feeling you get when it comes to the mini-games as well. There’s a base batch of levels and Wizard variants that change some of the rules up, but all in all they’re often very similar. There are some stand-outs amongst them, like one where you’re collecting rubber ducks from a dozing giant orangutan’s bath water but have to stop moving when he’s awoken, or one where you have to try and keep hold of a banana while players hop around a Super Mario Bros. style platform screen. There’s largely just a lot of jumping around, jumping into targets, or jumping to stop things reaching a target.
It is fun and accessible – our seven year old asked to keep playing for a good few games – but eventually the lack of variety and the simplicity of control saw people drifting away from it after a couple of run throughs. One of the main problems comes from the game trying to maintain an even playing field, with little advantage given to those that have won a minigame over those who didn’t. Very often it’s the difference between moving four spaces as the winner when the rest of the group moves three, and if you land on a spot that moves you backwards or they land on one that moves them forwards, it begins to feel pointless being in first place.
Chimparty does try and tempt you back for a few more games by offering some mild progression for your chimp through collecting stars to unlock cosmetics. While dressing your avatar up as a pirate is momentarily amusing – though not as amusing as the selfies you can take to identify your character – it’s not really much of an incentive to keep playing.
Chimparty is fun enough to break out for an occasional bout of light-hearted multiplayer when you’ve got friends round, and accessible enough to cater for all ages, but its limitations soon being to show if you spend any extended period of time with it.