Gaming has always been a highly social experience, from battling your mate in the arcade on Street Fighter to sitting crossed legged in front of the TV with the NES to buddying up for a Strike in Destiny. But now Sony is taking the whole social gaming thing one step further with its new PlayLink service that brings mobile and console gaming for a rather fresh form of couch co-op.
PlayLink initially takes the form of a series of PS4 games available, as normal, through the PlayStation Store. But instead of whipping out your DualShock 4 as you normally would to play a PS4 game, you’ll be asked to download the companion app on your phone (iOS or Android).
And don’t worry, it’s not the kind of companion app you’ve previously found on a PS4 game, this is far more interactive, and more importantly, fun. The concept itself is similar to the Jackbox Party games that are currently available on PS4, which you may be familiar with.
So far, Sony has announced five games will be part of the PlayLink service: personality-focused quiz game That’s You!; murder mystery/detective story Hidden Agenda from Supermassive Games; battle game Frantics; Singstar Celebration; and competitive, faster finger first, quiz title Knowledge is Power.
At E3 2017, we got a chance to play through three of them – Hidden Agenda, That’s You! and Knowledge is Power – and were surprised at how fun they all were, in very different ways, of course. From what we’ve played so far, they’re very much aimed at the non-gamers living in a house with a PS4 owner.
That’s You! is probably the most appropriate for this kind of household, as it’s the least “game” focused. It’s a quiz game where you start by snapping a selfie of yourself and creating a short profile. You then get asked subjective questions about each other, scoring points by guessing the same answer as everyone else.
It can involve drawing, voting and posing among the more “normal” questions, which include things like “most likely to taser themselves”, and should be immense fun for families looking for a laugh. It’s usually priced at £15.99/$TBC and can be played with two to six players.
Then comes Hidden Agenda from Supermassive Games, the same name that brought you Until Dawn. It’s similar in graphic style and actual gameplay in thats it’s conversation led. The section we played was a mission where two cops were investigating a missing person, where you’re offered simple choices on how to proceed, all voting by moving the cursor to your chosen option on the phone. Majority rules.
However, one of you has a hidden agenda and is secretly trying to influence the group to vote in a specific way to force the story in a certain direction. It was quite an adult story and we’re not sure it entirely worked with the more family-friendly push of PS4 PlayLink, but there’s no denying it looked fantastic.
But for us, Knowledge is Power is the best example of how PlayLink blends traditional board game elements with console gaming. It’s your standard general knowledge quiz, with topics ranging from films and zombies to more obscure and niche options making for a few giggles. There are four available answers to each question and whoever is the fastest to give the correct answer gets the most points.
But the further you get into the game, the more you get the chance to sabotage your fellow players using a variety of attacks to slow your opponents’ answering speed. There’s slime that they’ll have to wipe off the screen, ice they’ll have to smash to get through or one that’ll remove the letters from the answers, and that’s just some of the powers you’ll have as you play.
It’s silly competitive fun and the best example of how this new PlayLink service will work.
Interestingly, there’s no word on pricing or release dates for any of the PlayLink titles beyond That’s You!, which currently is only available in the EU.
Will PS4 PlayLink take off?
Although we had great fun playing the three PlayLink games at E3, we’re not convinced that it’s going to be a gameplay type that will have longevity. It’s lovely for everyone to have their own screens and get seriously involved in the games – we can see our mums loving Knowledge is Power and That’s You! – but we just can’t see that it’s going to be something that’s widely adopted by PS4 gamers.
But, it’s definitely a fresh bout of couch co-op fun that you should dabble in with your family.