by ted2112 and Burbie52, HSM team writers
Spaces off the Home grid are kind of the urban legends of Home. Most of us have heard of them, but very few of us get to see them. When Sony or the developer who has made a space, then no longer wants to upkeep it, it simply falls off the menu. With no option on the menu to navigate to it, most people loose the ability to go there anymore.
But does that mean the space is no longer there?
The easy answer is a yes, but also a no. If you were lucky enough to save a phased-out space in your favorites, you can still enter many of them, but you’re entering a place stuck in time. You are entering a space as it was. In many of the discontinued grid spaces, the games no longer work and some play the same out-dated video over and over. Many still give rewards, and are as cool now to hang out in as they were when they were open. In fact, most of them are even cooler, because of how difficult it is to get to them and the exclusivity of the space. So without further ado, let’s set the way back machine for the granddaddy of them all, the Minis Space, or as it known by its urban legend name, the Observatory.
The Minis Space was created a couple of years ago to advertise the minis games available on the PlayStation Network’s game store. It is a huge area that has five store kiosks, representing some of the games and two mini-games that are still a lot of fun.
One is FreezeBall, a kind of bumper pool game with a twist. It is a two player game, but can be played on both sides if you choose to just practice. The idea is to get your balls in line with the other players and freeze them on the table. The first person who accomplishes this is the winner, but it is harder than it sounds, as there are bumpers set on the table that hinder you aligning the balls, and cause you to bounce all over the table if hit wrong. When we played, the final score was Burbie- 1; Ted- 0.
The second game is a matching game similar to Concentration, an old board game that I played as a kid. This game used to give you a reward of a neat minis-light that looked like the one that is flying all around the area there, for your apartment, but it no longer does that. In fact when the space was discontinued you lost the minis-light from your inventory even if you had won it previously, a fact I found rather odd. The game itself is like a cross between Concentration, where you have to remember where the various minis game tiles are to pair them, and Battleship, because you can lay two bombs to stop your opponent for a turn. It is a fun game even without the reward. This one was a little closer, but Burbie was victorious in this one as well.
The size of the space is impressive, with lots of natural light filtering through its glass walls and ceiling. The space itself is circular, perched up top a mountain range with some really amazing views of a lake off in the distance. Techno blares amid a great lightshow in the middle of the space, tempting you to press that R1 button. Video screens along the outside show old Kevin Butler PS3 commercials, which by the way, are still funny.
However, the real gems are the two glass rooms that jet out over the edge, with the larger one of the two over the lake, which is what gave the space its observatory tag. Little pink Minis helicopters flit about all over the space and there are huge PSN balls floating in the air as well. The Mini Space was clearly intended for mingling and playing; no right angles its design keeps people together. It’s also a space that invites staying, because of its size, it takes awhile to see everything there. The room’s audio triggers, however, leave a lot to be desired, It can be difficult to have a quiet conversation in most places.
The gaming kiosks no longer function as a direct path to the stores. Though they have Tetris, Zombie Tycoon, Monopoly, Minis, and Field Runner showing on their fronts. Looking at these in the PlayStation Network store, it shows that they are still available there. Most these minis games run from $.99 to the $5.00 range, though there are a few higher in price. There are literally hundreds to choose from there.
Perhaps the Mini space fell out of favor because of the general decline of the Minis themselves. For example in the heyday of the Minis, 2010, Sony released about 120 Minis games, and about 86 in 2011. Although 2012 has a few months left in it, the trend is clear with only 31 Minis for sale. Whatever the reason for the sun setting on the Minis, the space Sony made for it in Home is amazing. Its allure as a “secret space” has become part of the Home mythos, and that’s what the off the grid spaces are all about: going to a place not everyone can get into. No, you don’t need a gold suit, and you can’t buy your way in. You have to have the observatory saved into your favorites, or be invited in by someone who does.
Why these off the grid spaces are still there is a mystery. The observatory is just one of many. Some off the grid spaces like the Ratchet and Clank space was available for a short time via your saved favorites, and then just disappeared altogether one day, yet most are still there, waiting for those select few to visit. Why a space is kept on the server taking up valuable space, one can only guess, but maybe it’s just as simple as, it’s just a really a cool thing, a kind of glitch, a mystery, a quest, an exclusive matrix with bragging rights. We are all seekers in a way; we want to know what’s through that door, that’s why we are gamers. The Observatory and the other off-the-grid spaces fill that void.