Supers attacks can be interrupted by well-timed attacks or simply evaded, so watching out for other players’ Supers is the key to success, with a blue outline around Super-enabled characters lending a helping hand. Narrowly avoiding or ending an opponent’s hard-earned Super attack is amazingly gratifying, while using your own Super to take out everyone at once is definite justification for a few celebratory fist-pumps (involuntary or otherwise).
Level three Super attacks are worth trying to save AP for as they grant the user temporary invulnerability along with, often bizarre, yet powerful attacks. From Parappa the Rapper putting on an impromptu gig that somehow makes everyone explode to Heihachi strapping his opponents to a space shuttle, they’re all entertaining to watch, making being on the receiving end slightly less painful. They look lovely too, zooming into the action and showcasing detailed character models normally far too small to appreciate.
This is especially evident in the VITA version (PSABR is the first title to support Sony’s Cross-Play and Cross-Buy features, so is free to buyers of the PS3 version and is ostensibly the same on both platforms). The VITA does a decent facsimile of the PS3’s visuals, but the small screen and zoomed-out view can make it hard to see exactly what’s going on. This is also partly down to the game’s stages, which mash together Sony titles to create some hectic backdrops, with the unwanted side effect of adding extra clutter to an already busy screen. Otherwise, the VITA version is technically impressive and PSABR a perfect fit for the short bursts of play time that suit handheld gaming so well.
Like most games that let four real humans sit in the same room and play competitively, local multiplayer is the highlight of PSABR and as long as everyone cares about the outcome sessions can get pretty shouty, pretty quickly. And everyone’s likely to care, as the simple controls and fast-paced gameplay do a great job of making new players feel like they have a chance of winning, unlike most other beat ‘em ups that punish newcomers with depressing efficiency.
Online matches should be similarly entertaining, but sadly there’s a game-breaking technical issue right now. Finding matches is fine and button inputs are lag-free, but opponents sometimes appear and disappear from the screen. A match may start with four players, only for two to instantly disappear then reappear afterwards with their own scores as if they were there the whole time. It happens frequently and affects both the PS3 and VITA versions (online is also cross-platform) so hopefully Superbot come up with a fix before players give up on it.
This embarrassing issue aside, PSABR is a success for Sony as a celebration of its characters, and a standalone beat ‘em up. Accessibility is king and each move is either a single button press or a button press plus a direction, so instead of mastering lengthy combos, the skill is in spacing and timing. And perhaps its biggest appeal is that even if you never win, you always feel you could have.