Return of ‘Play At Home’

Danial Norjidi

Last year, as a thank you to people around the world doing their part to lessen the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sony Interactive Entertainment introduced the Play At Home initiative.

The initiative was first launched in April 2020 with two components, the first of which provided free games for the PlayStation community in the form of Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection and Journey, while the second component was for establishing a fund to help smaller independent game studios.

This year, on February 23, Sony announced the return of Play At Home, kicking off in March and extending through June.

According to a post by Sony Interactive Entertainment President & CEO Jim Ryan on the PlayStation Blog, “The past 12 months haven’t been easy. And I think we’re all hopeful that we may be starting to see some flickers of light at the end of this long COVID-19 tunnel thanks to the tireless work of the medical community and people around the world.

“In these historic times, the team at PlayStation wanted to thank the community by giving something back. These days, we could all use something to look forward to and another reason to stay safely socially distanced, so we are happy to be able to offer a free selection of great games and entertainment.

A scene from ‘Abzû’. PHOTO: GIANT SQUID

“This year, we wanted to go further. So we’ve designed a series of free games and entertainment for our PlayStation community to make the next few months a little more fun and enjoyable.”

PlayStation and Insomniac Games made PS4 action-adventure title Ratchet & Clank available for free for a limited time through the PlayStation store from March 1 to March 31 at 8pm PDT.

On March 17, Ryan announced the next content drop, which arrives on March 25. “This time our focus is a selection of free games from some of our top independent partners, and the previously announced extended trial offer for Funimation (or Wakanim) in the countries where they are available,” he said.

“PlayStation and some of our favourite indie partners are collaborating to provide free games while you’re staying at home.”

One of the games added to the Play At Home initiative is Abzû. “From the artistic mind behind Journey, Flower, and The Pathless, Abzû is a beautiful underwater adventure that evokes the dream of diving. Immerse yourself in a vibrant ocean world full of mystery and bursting with colour and life.”

Another title is Enter the Gungeon, which is described as “a gunfight dungeon crawler following a band of misfits seeking to shoot, loot, dodge roll and table-flip their way to personal absolution by reaching the legendary Gungeon’s ultimate treasure: the gun that can kill the past”.

Also included is Rez Infinite, “a thrilling journey of sights and sounds and shooting action, remastered and upgraded by members of the original development team exclusively for PS4 and PS VR.”

Underwater adventure title Subnautica is also a part of the initiative. Describing the game’s premise, the PlayStation Blog post stated, “You have crash-landed on an alien ocean world, and the only way to go is down. Subnautica’s oceans range from sun-drenched shallow coral reefs to treacherous deep-sea trenches, lava fields, and bio-luminescent underwater rivers. The water teems with life: Some of it helpful, much of it harmful.”

Puzzle game fans will be in for a treat with The Witness, a single-player game in an open world with dozens of locations to explore and over 500 puzzles to solve. “This game respects you as an intelligent player and it treats your time as precious. There’s no filler: each of those puzzles brings its own new idea into the mix. So, this is a game full of ideas.”

As part of the initiative, a selection of PS VR games are also free starting March 25.

One such title is Astro Bot Rescue Mission. “Take control of Astro in a massive adventure to rescue his crew, where the PS VR headset puts you right in the thick of the action. Judge every jump with accuracy and be curious – there are lots of secrets to discover in your daring quest.”

Single-player action-adventure puzzle game Moss from Polyarc is another VR game included in Play At Home.

“In Moss, players meet Quill, a young mouse with dreams of greatness beyond the confines of her settlement. While exploring the woods, she finds a mysterious Glass Relic and an ancient magic is awakened.”

The VR selection also features rhythm game title Thumper. According to Sony, “Thumper is rhythm violence: classic rhythm-action, blistering speed, and brutal physicality. You are a space beetle. Brave the void and confront a maniacal giant head from the future.

“Every crushing impact is interwoven with a pounding original soundtrack. To reach synesthetic bliss, you must go through the rhythm.”

Paper Beast is the final VR title announced so far in the initiative.

“Experience a dreamlike odyssey in virtual reality. Discover a wild ecosystem, born from lost Internet data. Be the first to explore a world inhabited by exotic and surprising creatures, and shape your environment to overcome obstacles and puzzles. Unravel the mysteries of Paper Beast, a game born from the imagination of Eric Chahi (Another World, From Dust).

This combined selection of PS4 and PS VR games will be available for free download from March 25 to April 22.

Sony also has announced that Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition will be available for free download between April 19 and May 14.

Horizon Zero Dawn is an open world action role-playing game that sees the player take on the role of a skilled hunter named Aloy and explore a lush world inhabited by mysterious mechanised creatures.

The Complete Edition includes the full game as well as The Frozen Wilds expansion, a digital art book, PS4 dynamic theme as well as bonus weapons, outfits and resources.

The Sony Interactive Entertainment President and CEO said, “We’ll have more to share soon. We appreciate the support from the PlayStation community, and hope you enjoy our latest content drop – please stay safe and thanks for playing!”