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J S Joust

Andy Robertson

Die Gute Fabrik

PS3, PS4, Mac, Linux PEGI 3+

Common thinking is that video-games are played by juvenile boys on their own in darkened bedrooms into the wee hours of the night. J S Joust challenges this and other assumptions while still having more in common with on-screen shooting adventures than first appears. Johann Sebastian Joust, to give it its full name, is played by up to seven people at a time each holding a motion sensitive PlayStation Move controller in a large open space. There are only two rules. Keep your controller still. Try move opponents' controllers by any means necessary. Initially this seems like electronic tag, with players wondering why they need the controllers at all. As things progress though, more layers are added to the games. Each controller lights up with a different colour to indicate which team you are, flashes red when you lose a life and goes out when you are eliminated. Music plays through the PlayStation and its tempo determines the controllers' sensitivity - meaning that players soon find themselves creeping around in time with the music. At dusk the spectacle increases with the coloured glow of the controllers silhouetted against a darkening sky. I've taken J S Joust to local parks (running on a Mac with a loudspeaker for sound), garden parties, school fetes and Greenbelt the last couple of years. Passers by of all ages are soon drawn in by the peculiar goings on and want to try it for themselves. Team tactics develop. I've seen young boys kick their shoes to move opponent's controllers. I've seen dads stooping super low for a better centre of gravity. I've seen players hide the controller behind their backs or attempt to sneak off while no one is looking. I've even seen women hold the controller close to their breasts, perplexing male opponents who are unable to attack fearing inappropriate touching. In this way J S Joust steadily challenges players to break public protocol. Adults find themselves cajoled into creeping around on tip toes in pursuit of Andy Robertson is a writer, broadcaster, Tedx speaker and games critic. He created and runs gamespeople. APRIL 2015 41 REVIEWS VIDEOGAMES opponents. Children are freed to push and shove each other, although soon discover doing is less effective than they imagine. Teenage boys grab for each other's hands in wrestling moves, only for the music to stop leaving them stood still in public embrace until it starts again. This boundary breaking may seem trivial, but similarly to how faith texts create a safe space to challenge cultural taboos, time in the J S Joust circle leads to imagination and invention. Canny players will strike pre-match alliances with friendly opponents, adding diplomacy to the growing list of physical tactics. One mode assigns a traitor player in each team with a secret vibration of the controller. They then have to get their own team out to without giving themselves away. This often results in one team remaining at the end because the traitor is still at large. Here parlour game discussions and tactics erupt as each player makes their case for not being "executed" as the traitor. Push things too far however and the community will reinforce its limits. If a player strays into behaviour that grants an unfair advantage, like putting their controller down and guarding it from being touched, the other players usually police this without being prompted and team-up to take the deviant down. It's a unique experience, but in this J S Joust highlights what video-games have offered all along. The colourful glee and mischievous tightrope balance of player goals and potentially violent interactions. The endless riffing on this success with a stream of new modes (kings, resurrection, shields, conductors and sudden death to name a few). The ability to take players out of their day to day life for a moment and visit another world with an involving emotional payload. More than any of this though, J S Joust is most like other games because you have little idea of what it's like without playing it yourself. Happily then it's available on PS3 and PS4 as part of the Sportsfriends compendium (£11.49). It's also available on Mac and Linux via Steam (£10.99). To play the game you'll need between four and seven Move controllers (one for each player) that will cost about £10 second hand and if playing outside on a laptop it's advisable to use a loud speaker or silent disco style headphones for sound. Andy Robertson