Some of the smaller games at last week's Sony Gamer's Day interested me most; I'm always a sucker for a fun game idea over flashy graphics. Maybe developers with smaller budgets solve problems with creativity instead of money.
The day's initial presentation featured a quick glimpse into Criminal Crackdown, created by David Jaffe and his team. He described the game as a cross between basketball and a demolition derby; players drive around cell-shaded levels trying to pick up the criminal and deliver him to jail. If an opponent's paddy-wagon holds the criminal, another player can attack them, stealing the criminal.
Criminal Crackdown looked like a fun game to download and play with friends, but it wasn't available to try. Instead, another downloadable title, Cash Money Chaos, caught my attention. This quirky title felt fresh, even with its close resemblance to Smash TV. The Sony rep showing the game wouldn't draw the comparison himself, but he wasn't surprised when I made the Smash TV connection.
Cash Money tossed me into a pit to dispatch never-ending groups of attackers. The overhead perspective gave a big view of the brightly-colored baddies; every time I shot one, splotches of blood and piles of money spilled out. Initially, the blood made me uncomfortable; it didn't seem to fit the fun-house atmosphere. However, I quickly overlooked it and concentrated on the mounds of cash, like a true patriot.
Cash Money -- like Smash TV and others -- uses the left thumb-stick to move, while the right one shoots in any direction. These basic controls make no use of the buttons or tilt mechanics. The only shooting variety comes from collecting power-ups; I found a shotgun, rocket launcher, and other upgrades.
Game enemies spilled out from doors in the sides of the room. Often nonsensical, these creatures bounced at me in groups; if one of them touched me, I died. The game maintained a good balance without frustrating me, capturing that sense that if I played just one more time, I'd do better.
The good production values also held my interest. Cash Money is clearly a simple game, but it looked clean even with a lot of chaotic action. This was one of the only games at the event where I noticed the sound production; the game lacked variety in sounds, but the bouncing enemy effects and gun blasts fit well. Every time I restarted after dying, the studio audience shouted, "Cash ... money ... chaos," to pump me up. These sound effects maintained a wink throughout the game; I was refreshed to find a title that didn't take itself too seriously.
Cash Money will be downloadable with the PS3 launch. Sony didn't announce specific pricing, other than anticipating that all downloadable games will cost $15 or less.
In interesting move, a PSP version of the game will be released in February. Until then, the PS3 game will be single-player only. When the portable version is released, the PS3 game will be updated to support multiplayer matches between any combination of the platforms.
Cash Money Chaos should be a fun, quick title that emphasizes gameplay and clean production over epic environments and graphic details. While any console needs both types of games, I'm glad that the PS3 has Cash Money and other gameplay-first titles ready for launch.