After what seemed to be an eternity of silence, On the Metal’s BigFest burst onto the PlayStation Vita earlier this month and has given some much needed festival spirit to December’s quiet release line-up. Being that I used to have fun with the now defunct Bullfrog titles such as Theme Park and Theme Hospital, I was quite excited to see whether BigFest could handle the headline slot on the PlayStation Vita or whether it would fade away into obscurity like many opening and middle-of-the-card acts do.
Back when it was first announced BigFest was planned to be a free-to-play game, instead this musical management game has scrapped the micro-transactions in favour of charging you a one-off fee for entry to the festival. It can be quite clear at times where the micro-transactions would have slotted into the game but I feel that the right choice was made in making this title a paid-for game rather than relying on people to purchase in-game packs in order to progress.
The gameplay itself is relatively simple. Each level is a festival ‘poster’ in which you can earn up to three stars depending on the completion of the three tasks that are associated with the stars. The more stars you collect, the more levels you unlock – a mechanic you may associate with many pick up and play titles.
At the start of each poster you will pick the bands that you wish to play the festival (generally an Opener, a Support act and a Headliner playing one track each) and once you have picked your bands you will have until the headliner finishes their track to complete the objectives that are set. These objectives will usually include having a certain amount of tents in your festival, having a festival that has a ‘Vibe’ score over a certain amount or ejecting a certain number of undesirable festival goers from your event.
To build a busy festival you will need to build and maintain the amenities that you would associate with a real-life music festival. Food and drink stalls, merchandise stands, showers, toilets even down to the basics such as trash cans, toilets and showers are required to keep your festival goers happy. Speakers and video display screens are also available to give your gig the extra awesomeness it needs to keep the punters coming back for more.
These items are all purchased using the game’s currency, ‘BigNotes’, and you will earn more money from the customers that purchase items from your stalls. One thing that you will notice is that you cannot build a load of stalls and the best items from the start of the game, you will need to unlock the ‘luxury’ items by upgrading the BigFest stage and the areas behind this.
For example, you will not be able to build a toilet block or showers until you upgrade the sewage treatment facility behind the stage, nor will you be able to build the best video screens or speakers until the generators behind the stage are big enough to handle the voltage required by these mammoth items.
In order to build (and repair) these items you will need to hire roadies who will carry out any tasks required of them provided you have the funds to cover the build or repair costs. These roadies are overseen by Big Dave – who is effectively your best friend during your time as a festival promoter, providing you will hints, tips and information about what is going on within the perimeters of your festival grounds.
One thing that you will soon learn is that people are hard to please! Your crowds will call out their feelings about your festival via speech bubbles above their heads and will walk out if something is not to their liking. Due to the fact that BigFest restricts and prevents you from ploughing all of your BigNotes into one area at a time due to its upgrade system you will find that as soon as you rectify one complaint another one will rise, meaning that you are endlessly dealing with disappointed punters as you set out to become the number one promoter on the scene.
You will also have undesirable attendees arrive at your festival unannounced, from people that have a cold who will infect the rest of your crowds with their germs forcing people to leave for the warmth of their own homes to smelly tree-hugger types who refuse to shower – making the masses leave due to the off-putting odours that fill the air. By finding these undesirables and ejecting them you will earn tokens that can be used in the online element to BigFest which I will get to in a moment.
Not only do you have to keep your audience pleased, but the bands that you sign up to play your festivals will have diva-like demands as they become more famous on the festival scene. The artists that feature in BigFest are part of the Jamendo Music service – indie artists who span a variety of genres, allowing for you to effectively find the next big thing and play them at your festivals. By using these artists at your festivals you increase their popularity in-game, meaning that your crowd will compliment (or criticise) you on your choice of headliner – although if you do pick a popular band to play your small festival you will find that they do not like performing to small crowds and they will also be more demanding in their requests prior to taking to the stage and putting on the performance of a lifetime. I like the fact that On the Metal have taken this approach with how to incorporate real music into the game, the variety of bands on offer means that there is something for everyone – whatever your musical preference.
BigFest’s control scheme makes use of both the PlayStation Vita’s touchscreen and physical buttons. You can manoeuvre around the festival using the left-analogue stick while placing and moving items on the map using the touchscreen. A press of the Left trigger will switch the camera from an isometric perspective to a birds-eye view of the festival field – allowing for you to spot any undesirables or unhappy party-goers with ease. The one thing that I did find a bit annoying was the fact that the reliance on the touchscreen makes it hard to select the speech bubble that you want above a crowd members’ head when there are other objects/people in the same vicinity.
BigFest also includes an element of online play, where you can invade your friends’ festivals and cause mischief whilst you are there. The undesirables that you eject in the single-player game will drop tokens that you can then spend to terrorise the festivals of others – with items and customisations unlocking for use in the single-player mode when you visit other players’ creations. The game also features online leaderboards where you can view who the best promoters and most popular bands are – you will earn XP as you play and this helps boost your promoter score.
One thing that I worry for with BigFest is its lasting appeal. This game contains an easy Platinum trophy that can be obtained in around 15-20 hours, and I fear that a lot of players will then put the game down as soon as they have achieved it. Sure there will be completionists who will strive to obtain all of the stars on offer, I think that the majority of those that play the game will simply go for the platinum trophy and then fail to return to the title – meaning that any bands that may be added to the game at a later stage may get overlooked.
Another problem I had with the game is that it was a struggle to get the online functionality to work all the time. Despite my PlayStation Vita being connected to the PlayStation Network I constantly got a message saying that a connection could not be found and would I like to play offline. This happened more often than not, and for a game that relies on online connectivity to allow for you to download artists to use at your festivals I found thus a little disappointing.
Overall, I found BigFest to be a great little game that does the management-sim style of game very well. Although it does not offer the depth of titles like Theme Hospital or Rollercoaster Tycoon it certainly has the same humour that features in these titles. I love the concept of the festival management and the music choices on offer are not only welcome, but show a great initiative to support indie music. However, the questionable longevity of the title and the constant issues I had with the connectivity mean have played a part in lowering the overall score that I have given this game. I would recommend BigFest to anyone that has an interest in either music or management sims, but its time at the top of your Vita’s ‘most played’ charts may be shortlived!