DLC Review: Minis, HD Trilogies, and Premium Homes

This week’s DLC reviews are a bit of an eclectic mix. We’ve got one of the better PlayStation Minis, the latest HD trilogy, and a fancy new addition to your PlayStation Home experience. But are any of them worth your money?

The Flying Hamster

If WarioWare were a side-scrolling arcade shooter, it would probably look and sound a lot like The Flying Hamster. As the name implies, this game is totally whacked out. I think only Cho Aniki rivals this shooter in terms of jaw-dropping insanity, but with Hamster you won’t have to feel weird admitting you liked it.

There are six stages total, with eight unusual weapons spread between them. You’ll be taking on toaster robots, ninja squirrels with egg bombs across such backdrops as ancient Egypt and a modern day Japanese shopping district. The less you try to understand the game, the more it will make sense.

Unfortunately, for all of its quirky charm, the actual gameplay is straightforward and the gimmick gets old quick. I had absorbed all the enjoyment I was going to get out of the game by the fourth stage, and this is coming from someone who has played games like Espgaluda, Rez, and Ikaruga endlessly in search of high scores and flawless playthroughs.

On the iPhone, The Flying Hamster is a great little shooter, but on Sony platforms the game is not big enough to be worth a purchase. It’s cute, but Katamari Damacy proved that a lot of personality and a little bit of gameplay is not the best recipe for a worthwhile game investment.

Prince of Persia HD Trilogy

HD compilations are all the rage on the PlayStation 3 these days, and why shouldn’t they be? The first thing Nintendo did when it realized it didn’t have any new quality games was to start rehashing previous gen releases with added waggle. The PS3 HD offerings, as the name implies, add improved visuals, but make no mistake, these are the same games, with the same flaws. For better or worse, you’re getting the faithful Prince of Persia experience that was available on the Xbox and PlayStation 2 years ago.

The Sands of Time is still a classic, but the claustrophobic plot and simple combat will likely bore players who have been spoiled by modern releases such as Encharted, Assassin’s Creed, and more recent Prince of Persias. The Warrior Within is where the franchise went all wrong, and series creator Jordan Mechner has even spoken out against Ubisoft’s design choices, attempting to distance himself, publicly. The Prince is now a rugged badass who is seemingly followed by heavy metal guitar rifts and half-naked women with medieval butt-floss wherever he goes. The combat gets a nice overhaul here, making the heavy flow of non-puzzle sequences much more exciting than before. Two Thrones is more Warrior Within than Sands of Time, but it reels back some of the more obnoxious traits of the middle entry.

The problem here is, the visuals are slightly improved, yes, but they still look decidedly outdated. Some elements, such as the CG cinematics, are painfully low quality. The inclusion of trophies are primary motivation for playing these games again, and the $15 price point (per game) is reasonable. Fans looking to rekindle some nostalgia will likely enjoy these titles more than those who haven’t played them before, but either way, I’m glad this emerging trend exists.

Hollywood Hills Home

The idea of purchasing anything, let alone a fancy virtual house, in PlayStation Home has never really been that appealing. For starters, one would need to have friends who own a PlayStation 3, then said friends would actually want to sit around in your digital crib and do…what, exactly?

Nevertheless, it seems Sony and its third-party partners have spent more time adding things to buy rather than making Home worth playing to begin with, even for free. The Hollywood Hills Home is one of many such potential purchases, but there’s something admittedly cool about upgrading from the default apartment to a rich Playboy pad.

The Hollywood Hills Home does not have essential living features such as bedrooms or a kitchen, but it does have an extremely spacious room with a couch, large TV that protrudes through the floor, and a bar. Outside you’ll find a pool overlooking a photo-realistic view of Los Angeles, as well as a jacuzzi off to the side. The true centerpiece of this purchase is down the half-spiral staircase, where a private home theatre awaits.

For less than the price of a Street Fighter costume for your avatar, the Hollywood Hills Home is a decent value. If you somehow happen to have a group of people who want to lounge around a virtual space and watch minisodes of the Three Stooges, look no further.