Both online gaming and social media seem to be a constant trend in the gaming world these days with millions of players connecting through streaming video channels, online chat, in-game multiplayer action and all while hiding behind an avatar on screen. I have strong personal views about how we all play in this day and age, how we’re communicating, connecting and interacting, and may have mentioned in previous articles “the lost art of conversation, the missed family get-togethers, group play and old school socialising” in us all.
In this article, I wanted to highlight and make you aware of a revolutionary, novelty way of PlayStation 4 (PS4) gaming and connecting with friends and family in the same room, called PlayLink as well as highlighting some PS4 PlayLink games. As much as I passionately enjoy and recommend board, card and dice games for social gatherings, PlayLink is a way to play amongst others using the one console and you don’t even need to use the DualShock controller, really? I hear you say.
Exclusive to Sony’s best selling PlayStation 4 (PS4) video game console, PlayLink is a range of simple, multiplayer games with the big difference being that each player uses their smartphone or tablet as game controllers. These new PS4 PlayLink games take advantage of the various features of the mobile devices, like for example the touchscreen and camera.
Using these devices over a standard PlayStation 4 DualShock controller allows each PlayLink game title to use a range of functionality not available on a controller, like touchscreen gestures, microphone and camera access and capabilities. Depending on the game title you can swipe, pinch, drag, tilt, rotate, take selfies and possibly draw doodles. The PlayLink technology ultimately combines a smartphone or tablet, your television and PlayStation 4 console over a local home network connection.
You’re all set to play once you download the specific companion app for the game in hand and have the PlayStation 4 hooked up to the television. All instructions are then on the screen once the game presents itself.
The PS4 PlayLink games are designed to be played in a group setting, either with friends or family and allowing for a truly fun, interactive and dynamic shared play experience. There are a limited amount of titles to choose from as sadly PlayLink didn’t take off as well as you would have thought. These games range from gritty crime thrillers, animated fun and quizzes. See below for further details.
For the many PlayStation users that haven’t heard of or taken advantage of PlayLink on their smartphones, perhaps now is the time to give it a run for its money and try it out before it’s lost in time. There is a diverse selection of games out there to choose from that work with PlayLink and the whole concept of this is an excellent way to connect with other players who are sitting with you, rather than interacting with them online hiding behind an avatar.
It was during the live streaming of the 2017 E3 conference that Sony announced PlayLink, a series of interactive games designed to be played socially or in a party environment.
PlayLink was cleverly aimed at introducing non-core gamers to Sony’s eighth-generation console which was released in North America on 15 November 2013, in Europe, South America and Australia on 29 November 2013 and in Japan on 22 February 2014.
This was accomplished by the invitation and idea of using their smartphone and tablet devices to join in the fun.
The PlayLink revolution of games was officially launched in July 2017 with an interesting game called That’s You! which I own myself, has some novelty value, gets a few laughs and works well. This game was brought to us by Wish Studios, the main developers of the PlayLink technology and who started the ball rolling.
On 28 February 2019 Independent games developer, Wish Studios announced that it was closing down affecting 13 full-time staff members. Caspar Field, Tom Bennett and Paul Brooke founded Wish Studios in 2012 and as mentioned above are better known for their PlayLink series of games. The Brighton-based company reported that it had been “seeking a publishing deal for one of its two new projects, alongside a search for other funding opportunities” but securing a deal was unfortunately unsuccessful.
We are deeply saddened at having to close Wish, after six-and-a-half years of making great games. Our ethos was to put the team and their creativity at the heart of everything we did; having to say goodbye to those people has been an unbelievably difficult thing to do. It is truly heartbreaking…— Wish CEO, Caspar Field
PlayLink can be used over a household Wi-Fi network connection or through the PlayStation 4’s Wi-Fi hotspot creation feature. The console now acts as a connection hub for all the players and their mobile device of choice. Each game will have its dedicated companion app available through Google Play Store or the Apple App Store, these must be downloaded and set-up on each device that is connecting to the game.
PlayLink supports Android and iOS devices but unfortunately not Windows operating systems. Each mobile device acting as a player’s controller must have iOS 9.0 or later and Android 4.4.2 or newer versions installed. Once everyone has downloaded and installed the app all that is needed is a PlayLink supported game installed to the PS4 system.
Setting up PlayLink
Step 1 – As mentioned above, first download the mobile companion app for the specified game from either Google Play or the Apple App Store and onto your mobile device.
Step 2 – Connect your mobile devices to the same household Wi-Fi network connection as the PlayStation 4 console.
Step 3 – Launch and start the game from the PlayStation 4 dashboard.
Step 4 – Launch and start the game companion app from your smartphone or tablet device.
Step 5 – From the mobile app, you will be asked to join a game. Follow all further instructions on the screen to continue. You may even be prompted on your mobile device to watch the TV screen.
Step 6 – Play and have fun.
Initial Release Date – 19 August 2019
Originally a part of Sony’s initial PlayLink games lineup and announced at Paris Games Week 2017, Erica, the interactive FMV (full-motion video) thriller quickly dropped off the gaming radar.
And finally after its release on 19 August 2019 strangely makes no mention of PlayLink at all.
Sadly, as stated above things didn’t look good for the mobile-centred series of interactive, social games before and this shifting of the tide from Flavourworks, the developers behind Erica, marked the demise of Sony’s PlayLink series of games and concept.
Erica is a realistic interactive movie thriller that includes multiple branching storylines. It’s like playing a movie, but you get to make all the decisions, alter the ending and decide the fate of the characters. The interactions and investigations within the game are done by the player either by smartphone or standard DualShock controller.
It’s a quality made filmed production and although the game is a little on the short side, there is a lot of replayability. Read more details about Erica in my other post.
So, why did this dramatic thriller go quiet after the big reveal in 2017? My guess would have to be that it had something to do with the public response to PlayLink in some way. It’s more than likely that Flavourworks went back to the drawing board, tweaked a few things and added a DualShock controller option instead of just a companion app usage over a smartphone or device.
Removing any association to PlayLink would also promote Erica to a whole new player audience that may have steered clear of the title just for displaying the PlayLink branding. The game now clearly features two control methods. Erica is available to purchase from the Sony PlayStation store at £8.99, correct pricing as of today (13 October 2020).
Initial Release Date – 4 July 2017
This game was the flagship release for the PlayLink series of games and one of the first games I experienced using PlayLink. I found it worked and connected very well, ran and played smoothly and had a nice presentation.
That’s You is a hilarious quiz game developed by Wish Studios and includes more than 1000 varied questions and mini-games as players aim to earn points, use jokers and discover how well they know each other.
Party with friends and family taking selfies, answering amusing questions about each other and get involved in challenges that may involve drawing, writing, mimicking and photos. Answer certain critical questions and more points will be awarded if there is consensus among the group.
That’s not all though – players may have the choice to play Jokers if they’re confident with their answers and possibly double their points.
Initial Release Date – 24 October 2017
This dark contribution was developed by Supermassive Games who brought us the hit teen thriller, Until Dawn (2015) and other varied titles which you can check out in my other post.
I think Hidden Agenda is one of my favourites mainly because it plays out like a movie and includes motion-captured characters, CGI elements rather than the fully acted production like Erica (2019) from Flavourworks. I do favour the story, narrated games.
Hidden Agenda invites players to assist detective Becky Marney and district attorney Felicity Graves in solving the mystery of a serial killer who is trapping his victims. This game picked up awards at both E3 and Gamescom, one of which was The Game Critics Award – Best Family/Social Game, not surprisingly as the gritty crime thriller storyline is very engrossing and is like having an interactive movie night with friends or family.
Supermassive Games developed this title in a way that players can either work together in a group, unfolding the story or can play an alternate hidden agenda version, hence the title. I’ve played both of these angles of which offer differences in play and player cooperation. As the story progresses, players take in details, characters and clues which all are accessible anytime as a database file on their smartphones.
Players will all have to vote on a course of action when prompted at a crucial decision point, which then branches the story in a different direction and could have serious dramatic outcomes or that results in death for a certain character. Trust plays a big role in Hidden Agenda’s story and amongst the group as a player may have a Hidden Agenda card flash up on their device, giving them specific instructions how to steer the story a particular way and being awarded points for completion.
Knowledge is Power
Initial Release Date – 18 October 2017
Wish Studios created and developed another quirky PlayLink title that tests a player’s brainpower inside the Pyramid of Knowledge. Although a little on the short side of playtime, the quiz is structured out well enough with variation and is so fun with others, the temptation for a rematch is always inevitable.
Knowledge is Power plays like a competitive and combative quiz game as players race each other to the top of a layered pyramid in the final. With over 5000 questions as well as using Power Plays on unexpecting players to slow them down, it’s not just a case of how smart you are but your dirty tactics in play.
This animated trivia quiz is hosted by an excited host who talks you through the action which is easy to get to grips with. As with all PlayLink titles a companion app is needed and all your answers and actions are commanded on your smartphone, whether it be wiping slime from your screen or tapping away on it to break concealing ice.
Knowledge is Power is a lot of fun with multiple players and a great game to launch just for a quick blast, party atmospheres or group gatherings of friends or families.
Initial Release Date – 24 October 2017
Unleash your inner pop star with this competitive, fun, novelty game from SIE London Studio where your smartphone is transformed into a microphone.
In the same vein as the original Guitar Hero (2005) developed by Harmonix and published by RedOctane, various arcade dance machines, dance mats, and other interactive singing games and accessories, this title lets you choose from 30 featured tracks to sing and listed below.
Players must follow a moving stave or coloured sections, hitting the notes correctly to score big. The game can be played with up to eight players and features a host of fun-packed party modes. Players can sing duets with a partner or record their performance with an installed PlayStation camera, sharing any of their epic moments by uploading videos or photographs to the SingStar social community for all to see.
So whether it’s a birthday, Christmas or celebration party or even just a Saturday night in with friends, SingStar Celebration is the perfect playlist for the evening.
- Adele – Hello
- ABBA – Dancing Queen
- Amy Winehouse – Rehab
- Avicii – Wake Me Up
- Blondie – One Way Or Another
- Brandi Carlile – The Story
- Britney Spears – Oops!… I Did It Again
- Calvin Harris & Disciples – How Deep Is Your Love
- Ella Henderson – Yours
- Elle King – Ex’s and Oh’s
- Fun – Some Nights
- Hilary Duff – All About You
- Iggy Azalea feat. Charli – XCX Fancy
- Jason Derulo – Want To Want Me
- Kings Of Leon – Use Somebody
- Lost Frequencies – Are You With Me
- Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
- Meghan Trainor – All About That Bass
- Oasis – Wonderwall
- OMI feat. Nicky Jam – Cheerleader
- One Direction – What Makes You Beautiful
- Roxette – It Must Have Been Love
- Shawn Mendes – Stitches
- Sia – Cheap Thrills
- Tegan And Sara – Closer
- The Chainsmokers feat. Halsey – Closer
- U2 – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
- Wham! – I’m Your Man
- Young Rising Sons – High
- Zara Larsson – Lush Life
Initial Release Date – 6 March 2018
Explore a full range of 15 fun mini-games that feature frenetic action arena brawls to strategic turn-based competitions using your smartphone or tablet device as the controller of your chosen animal character.
Frantics is developed by NapNok Games and is hosted by a scheming, manipulative crafty Fox. Frantics can be played with up to eight players connected on each challenge which range in novelty value and have titles like, Para Chu Chu, Bomb Slingers, Dough Knights and Icicle Pickle to name a few.
Players compete with each other through the challenges to win more Crowns than others and use their controller device to shake, tilt, swipe, flick, and snap their way towards victory and barnyard domination.
The wise-cracking Fox is there though to cause mischief and throw a spanner in the works by using bribery tactics and relaying secret messages and missions to players devices, trying to get them to backstab or sabotage their rivals and in doing so, changing up the gameplay and outcomes.
Ticket to Ride
Initial Release Date – 14 November 2018
This familiar and well-known board game from creator Alan R. Moon and published by Days of Wonder has been developed by Asmodee Digital to be played on the PlayStation 4 (PS4) using PlayLink, connecting up to five players.
The game can be played as a single solo mode play, global online multi-player mode and a local multiplayer game with friends or family via PlayLink.
The game is available from the PlayStation Network (PSN) and as of today (10 October 2020) is priced at £15.99. The original game features a USA map does include a map of France too, expansions to this game can be brought featuring alternative maps of Europe, India and Germany.
As with the board game version, players compete for points by laying down rail routes between cities, making connections using train tokens and playing them once they’ve acquired a set of coloured cards.
Players can also take on the challenge of trying to secure routes that are featured on tickets that they’ve been dealt and score bonus points. Any unfinished routes at the end of the game are a penalty to the player and score is deducted. Other players will have their strategy during the game and will attempt to sabotage your plans and placements.
Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier
Initial Release Date – 21 Nov 2017
Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier was developed by The Imaginati Studios and published by The Imaginarium, Foxnext Games and Creative England.
The game story takes place around a year after the events within the movie, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) directed by Matt Reeves.
This title is available from the PlayStation Network (PSN) currently priced at £15.99 as of today (10 October 2020).
Like with Erica (2019) from Flavourworks and Hidden Agenda (2017) from Supermassive Games, this is a narrative adventure game where players will take control of action and decision making towards the fates of both human and ape species.
This is a game of survival, conquest and betrayal and players will play as both sides of a growing conflict using their connected smartphones or tablets. The destinies of the species rest in the player’s hands as they guide the story to a fragile peace or final bloody battle.
Initial Release Date – 18 November 2018
In October 2018 Sony announced that a further batch of PlayLink titles was about to see the light in November. As with previous releases of PlayLink games some are quick-fire games, cards, quizzes and puzzle elements and other narrative stories.
The following games below were released and all work in the same way as the others, controlling the action and decisions with a connected smartphone or tablet device.
- Knowledge is Power Decades
- Melbits World
- Just Deal With It!
Although Uno was originally released 16 Aug 2016, this game also got the PlayLink treatment and allowed up to three other friends or family members to play locally on their device, once they downloaded the companion app. It made its return featuring an assortment of extras like video chat support and an all-new theme system.
As I’ve mentioned above I’ve personally got a few of these PlayLink titles in my collection in the off chance I’ve got a group of us together under a Christmas, party or social gathering. These quick, easy set-up titles are then fun to get out and have a laugh with, rather than opening my cupboard to a board game and some rules reading, as most people these days have a smartphone in their back pocket and don’t need to be a solid video gamer to play.
They are well presented, colourful, animated and whacky in places and parts, they’re aimed to be just a little bit of fun in the right environment with the right crowd.
Even the addition of downloading the extra and free companion app isn’t too much of a bother either, allowing the players involved to jump onto your home network. The only issues I have with them is that they are short-lived games, don’t last long and have short narrative stories. They won’t be regularly played, you can’t progress or challenge yourself with them either.
They are what they are, a time or gap filler for social get-togethers and I do believe that because of these opinions and reasons I didn’t pay more than £10.00 (including postage and packing) for any of them I own.
I hope that independent and mobile game companies still make use of the technology and keep PlayLink games coming and keeping PlayLink alive, but as stated above and by what I’ve read the future of the Sony PlayLink innovation may have died out, but I’m not entirely sure why apart from braving my conclusions to the demise. Thank you for reading this article, I hope you found it of some help or interest. Please feel free to drop a comment about these titles, the written content or even your own experiences with PlayLink games.