What does a talented development house do after creating one of the best snowboarding franchises to date? Well, if you’re developer Idol Minds, you create one of the lamest “party” games in recent memory, and then add an online component so that those who actually buy this car-wreck of a game can share their utter disappointment with the other ten people who regrettably spent their hard-earned dough on this coaster. Yes, the job of a once-respected development house is a messy one. My Street is a game apparently targeted towards the younger crowd yet boasts online play as a focal feature. Am I the only one to find that combination a little bizarre? I mean, how many eight or nine year-olds do you know who own a PlayStation 2, let alone use it to get online? Seriously, folks.
As My Street most closely resembles the dynamics of the party game genre, you can expect the experience to revolve around multiplayer minigames. In total, there are seven unique minigames that can be played by up to four people simultaneously. If you’ve been around the block with Nintendo’s king of party games, Mario Party, which clocks in at over 50 minigames, and you are under the impression that a scant seven minigame collection just won’t get the job done – well, you’re right. While the games featured in My Street are decidedly more strategy-driven than the quick-and-fun minigames that are over almost before they begin in Mario Party, they simply aren’t that much fun. (With an exception or two.)
One of the minigames in My Street is that of Marbles. This game is similar to the playground activity of the same name but more “action-packed” and “exciting.” You’ll have direct control over the shooter marble and by pressing A, you’ll activate a magnetic field around it that attracts marbles of your designated color. The goal is to wrangle enough like-colored marbles through two posts. Each marble equates to one point. The player who scores the predetermined amount first, wins. Simple, right? But just because you’ll have no problem understanding the rules, doesn’t mean you’ll actually have “fun”, and that becomes brazenly apparent almost immediately with this minigame.
Another game in My Street is Lawnmowers. Here, you’ll control a lawnmower in an isometric perspective and attempt to mow the most lawn while avoiding flower beds. The gameplay in this minigame is not unlike that of old-school top-down racer games, except that since you’re controlling a lawnmower instead of an actual racing car, the action tends to move too slowly to be much fun for longer than a few minutes.
Next up is the game of Chemistry. This is a puzzle-oriented minigame reminiscent of Puyo Pop, wherein you’ll be presented with a vertical field with randomly colored dots falling from the top. When these falling dots reach the bottom, they’ll fuse together with other fallen dots of the same color, creating random splotches of dot fusion. After enough clusters of dots form (every third turn), you’ll take control of an aiming reticule and be able to shoot three times to destroy what you think are the biggest formed clusters. The goal here is to keep your playfield from filling up. The last player to have any amount of free space in their area is the winner.
A very simplistic rendition of volleyball is also included, aptly titled Volleyball (makes ya think, don’t it?). While you’d assume the incredibly straightforward nature of this game would quickly get boring, it’s actually fairly entertaining in the same way as DOAX or early NES v-ball games. The partner AI is lacking, though, often forfeiting points to the opponent on simple return shots. Still though, if the name Super Spike V-Ball brings back nostalgic 8-bit memories in all their 56-color glory, then expect to derive a marginal amount of enjoyment out of My Street’s Volleyball minigame.
RC Racing is another simplistic minigame that endears, thanks in part to the fact that it is reminiscent of similarly-themed NES games from back when cartridges were nearly as big as DVD cases yet were limited to quarter-meg capacities. In particular, this game is practically a clone of the popular arcade/console title Super Off-Road, complete with handy nitro pick-ups. The tracks are decently designed and there is a fair amount to pick from, but once you’ve played one track, you’ve basically played them all; although the addition of different types of RC vehicles do add variety to an otherwise uniformed experience.
The most puzzle-oriented minigame of the bunch is Chicken Herding, which plays out like a Chu Chu Rocket variant but uses chickens and pigs instead of cats and mice. By placing arrows on the ground via the Dual Shock’s face-buttons, you can make the farm animals move to wherever the arrows point. The goal is to herd the chickens into your pen while herding the pigs into the opponent’s pen. Considering that this is essentially a kid’s game, it’s a little strange that Chicken Herding ends up being a frantic, confused mess of a game that does anything but justice to the game it was so obviously inspired by.
Leaving the best for last; The Dodgeball game is actually quite a lot of fun, especially when contrasted against the game’s other uninteresting offerings. Remember Super Dodgeball on the NES? Well, if you don’t, it was one of the best, if not the best digital dodgeball games ever, and Dodgeball in My Street does a great job of re-creating what made that game so fun. The controls don’t feel quite as tight as I remember them on the 8-bit version, and the AI seems equally loose, but in the end you’ll be glad that this game made the roster since it is without doubt the best minigame of the group.
The single player mode in My Street is bad, really really baaad. You’ll create or pick from a pre-made list of children characters and begin the game. You’ll maneuver your spasm-inclined character through a blocky, nearly bumpmap-less neighborhood environment as you attempt to track down different kids, each of whom is your gateway to playing one of the aforementioned minigames. What makes this mode so pointless is the redundant tasks you must perform before being allowed to play said minigames. The camera is not your friend either. You’ll be fighting with the game’s perspective just as much as you are wandering around aimlessly trying to find something to do. It’s like Herdy Gerdy all over again. The mind-numbingly boring fetch quests that you must complete before being able to play the already-lackluster minigames makes this single-player “story” mode feel more like a sadistic chore than a light-hearted party game. Luckily, you can skip this mode altogether and play any minigame whenever you want.
The one aspect of My Street that could have skyrocketed it up to “average” status was the much-touted online component. Unfortunately, even this facet of the game suffers from a list of problems, among which include the fact that (in my experience, anyway) there is rarely more than a dozen or so people online, even during peak hours. And when you actually get a game going, lag rears its ugly head just to remind you that having fun is prohibited. I should note that I only tested the game with a narrowband connection, but the brain-dead simplicity of the minigames should have been well within tolerable bandwidth range. Another issue that I’m sure anybody who buys this game with the intentions to bring it online will have is that there is no support for a USB keyboard, though the included method of input is actually pretty innovative.
The visuals in My Street are basic cartoon-like representations of things like trees, streets, and houses. The characters in the one-player mode range from an assortment of racial and cultural backgrounds, and are rendered with all the stereotypical details you’d expect from their equally orthodox personalities. The minigames are adequately portrayed for their respective themes, but these too tend to be more than a tad bit on the generic side. The sound in My Street won’t win over many party game enthusiasts. The voice acting in particular is quite irritating; none of the kids in the game sound authentic or even comically cartoony, instead ranging from dull to drab, and to make matters worse the actual dialogue that you’ll hear hinges on pop-culture hell with constant remarks littered with slang words that even small children don’t think are cool anymore.
In the end, My Street comes off as an online party game that could have been worth playing if not for the fact that outside of a minigame or two, it just isn’t fun. The single-player story mode is uninspired and poorly executed, and the online component suffers from a serious lack of competition and more-than-occasional lag. If Idol Minds had spent more time with the minigames they included and took the time to include more, than My Street may have had a chance in the Mario Party dominated genre, but as it stands this is a thoroughly bad game that should be avoided at all costs.