Saturday, April 1, 2017

Someplace like ‘Home’ – ‘Atom Universe’ the successor to Sony’s defunct social hub?

Today marks the second anniversary of the day Sony shutdown PlayStation Home, a virtual world experiment that all PlayStation 3 owners could enjoy for free. The sting of Home’s closure has long since subsided, but that doesn’t mean dedicated Homesters haven’t been on the lookout for a spiritual successor to everyone’s favorite social hub/LSD simulator.

Some have pointed to Atom Universe, available now for free on PS4, as that game. But I doubt it. Atom Universe embraces all the worst aspects of PlayStation Home in one appalling package.

Nothing I can come up with is funner than the fact that this guy's name is "SpackerJacker."

To be fair, Atom Universe is in open beta. Also to be fair, if PlayStation Home was some nerd’s awkward but charming party where someone spiked the punch, Atom Universe is a handful of sweaty townies masturbating in a dumpster behind a Long John Silvers, and someone pissed in the punch. And that person was a gas pump.

There’s not a whole lot of clothing options for the new Atom Universe player. Male avatars can wear leftover bodysuits from the first X-Men film in charming colors like black, dark black, midnight, and neon green. Female avatars default to some kind of space robot dominatrix, which looks like it would be a real turn-on for terminators and replicants alike.  

Players can enjoy one of two equally depressing game spaces: The Hub, wherein users ignore nearly unplayable, carnival-themed minigames as well as each other; and The Arcade, wherein players chose a single dance move, then walk away from their PS4 seemingly forever, their freakishly dressed avatars doomed to do the Hustle until the end of time.

In this photo, my overgrown leprechaun stares creepily at the rabbit woman's behind.

Atom Universe doesn’t have many players, so a lot of my favorite PlayStation Home pranks don’t apply. Running past crowds of people exclaiming “I slapped a baby” doesn’t work without the crowds, and sadly, the word “anus” is censored. What if I’m a doctor trying to discuss the latest in proctological advancements, the neon drenched world of Atom Universe as my backdrop? We’d be forced to say “anu5,” and that’s just disrespectful.

Atom Universe tries to tap into the same zany charm that was one of PlayStation Home’s biggest draws, but with so few players, clothing options, and locations, it falls flat on its face. It isn’t a total wash, but Atom Universe’s value lies almost entirely in its comparison to its predecessor. In this case, lightning simply cannot strike twice. PlayStation Home was a shared experience among PS3 players, a unique solution to the question of how to bring players together in a social gaming setting. It was special. But Atom Universe aspires to be nothing more than a PS Home clone.

It's hard to read, but someone ran by and said "I gotta find hoes." 

Sometimes a clone can be just as good as the game that inspired it. Saint’s Row is every bit as fun as Grand Theft Auto, Streets of Rage stands tall with Final Fight, and Silent Hill 1 scares up some Resident Evil inspired greatness.

But there’s only one PlayStation Home. And that’s okay.