My Street Preview

Sony and Idol Minds serve up an online game with a twist.

Now that the PlayStation 2 has gone online, there's an obvious desire for online games. So far, the online offerings for the PS2 have fallen into tried-and-true genres such as racing and shooting. But the PS2's online landscape is about to change, thanks to the upcoming release of My Street. The game is being developed by Idol Minds, which is best known for its work on the Cool Boarders games. My Street is aimed at a younger demographic, and it revolves around a collection of minigames and has on- and offline gameplay components.

My Street has a distinctive, cartoony look.

You'll find three basic modes of play in My Street. Story is an offline mode that has you locking horns with the neighborhood bully in the various minigames that form the core of action. Play is a free play mode that lets you roam the neighborhood and play minigames against the CPU. Online is obviously the game's online component, and it lets you chat and play with people online.

Before you jump into the game, you'll have to create a virtual identity for yourself. In keeping with the game's young theme, you'll be represented by a virtual kid. You can choose from a number of preselected or randomly generated tykes, but if you hanker for a more customized kid, you'll be able to create your own by altering the kid's hair, hat, face, eyes, glasses, upper body, lower body, shoes, and color scheme. You'll even be able to pick the kid's voice from a small collection of sound bites.

Customize your character before jumping online.

Once you've settled on your virtual self, you'll be able to hop into the game. Play will let you hop into a one- to four-player game (naturally, you'll need a Multitap for more than two players). You'll start out in an area around your home that is littered with kids. You'll be able to try out the various minigames by interacting with the other kids who are roaming the neighborhood. You'll find a mix of archetypal pastimes such as dodge ball, marbles, and RC racing and more-exotic fare such as volleyball, chemistry, "chicken herding," and "lawn mowers."

Despite the varied gameplay, you'll find that each minigame makes use of a simple and accessible control scheme. Dodge ball is a four-on-four game whose goal is to be the last one standing. You'll take out other players by hitting them with a ball, and the action is spruced up by the speedy actions you can perform to avoid being hit and a variety of power-ups that appear during the games. Marbles challenges you to catch marbles that spill onto a round platform and take them to a target area. Power-ups and aggressive opponents can make it difficult to do so, but you'll be able to knock your rivals off the platform if they give you too much trouble. RC racing puts you in control of a small car that you'll have to race around a track for several laps, much like a number of classic arcade racing games. Volleyball is a simple four-on-four volleyball game. Chemistry is a science-themed puzzle game that draws on elements of classics like Columns and Puyo Puyo. You'll have to contend with colored blobs filling a beakerlike playing field. Grouping like colors is essential to victory, although you'll also have to make use of the laser that becomes available periodically to actually wipe the blobs off your board. Chicken herding is best described as a chicken-themed variation on Sega's puzzler Chu Chu Rocket--you'll have to direct a stream of poultry to a goal while avoiding pigs by placing arrows in the chickens' path to change their course. You'll find a smattering of power-ups to make use of in this duel of white meats. Finally, lawn mowers is a racing-style game whose focus is on earning points by cutting grass with your lawn mower. The catch is that you'll have to avoid the flower beds strewn throughout the track, as hacking up daisies costs you points. Fortunately, you'll find power-ups to aid you on your road to victory.

Each of the aforementioned games can be played offline with four players via Multitap or online with the PlayStation 2 Network Adapter. Online play is similar to the single-player game--you'll be able to roam your street and interact with other players after hopping into a game via the lobby. You'll have the added option to chat with the kids in your virtual neighborhood using a soft keyboard that makes good use of the PS2 controller. You'll also be able to set up different types of games or create your own tournaments that you can password-protect to ensure only your friends can gain entry.

There are a number of minigames to play online or with up to four friends.

As far as graphics go, you can expect brightly colored, stylized visuals that seem designed to appeal to younger players. The neighborhood and the various kids have a very cartoony look that's well in tune with the tastes of the game's target audience. The neighborhood is a mishmash of different areas, and it offers a good amount of variety, visually speaking. The kids you'll encounter in the game reflect the various themes of each area. For example, you'll find an overall-and-cowboy-hat-wearing tyke by the farm area. The simple visuals allow the game to maintain a fairly high frame rate, which keeps things moving along at a respectable clip.

The game's audio component includes a simple but effective collection of generic kid voices that capture the playground feel the game is going for. You'll also hear a decent selection of sound effects in the minigames, and the game's soundtrack fits its theme well, making use of spare arrangements and simple instruments.

My Street is certainly a change of pace from the online titles that have been released for the PlayStation 2 to date. While the game is obviously targeted at younger gamers, the various minigames it features will likely appeal to just about anyone. The biggest roadblocks to the game's acceptance by the older demographic are its cartoony presentation and its somewhat bland characters. Still, anyone looking for a change of pace may want to keep an eye out for My Street when the game ships next week.

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My Street is a classic! They should make another one on the PS3 and improve these "flaws."