Ok, I’ve had my PSP for a few days now, and being the fool so easily parted with money I’ve got myself a reasonable collection of games. Given how much I’ve fallen in love with the wee beastie, I thought I’d put some review details here. Please note, screenshots have been borrowed from a variety of sources as I have no way of taking my own. If you recognise a screenshot as one of your own, let me know and I’ll remove it or give you credit.
1. FIFA 06
Another year, another FIFA game. Whilst on other formats FIFA is certainly starting to look more than a little long in the tooth, the PSP version appears to be reasonably solid compared to other FIFA versions. To all extents and purposes, FIFA 06 PSP is no different an experience than FIFA 06 on any other platform, minor graphical details aside. Ultimately, this is either a great thing or a horrible thing, depending on your point of view. In my case it’s a good thing, but not a great one. The last version of FIFA I bought was FIFA 2003, and I have to say I didn’t notice much by way of differences. Prior to that, the last version was Road to World Cup 98, which is visibly different and slightly different to play.
Therein lies the problem with FIFA, in that it tends to be a game that has been tweaked over time rather than re-written. This is an issue concerning all versions of FIFA though, not just PSP. Overall, I’d say FIFA is worth getting for the PSP if you love football games and can’t wait for Winning Eleven. There are better games available for the PSP, and if you already own FIFA on Xbox, PS2 or PC then you might want to think twice before going ahead.
2. Ape Academy
I first came across Ape Escape when I had a PS2 some years back. I thought it was a fantastic game with a great storyline, but that’s just my inner child talking there (back in the box, inner child!). Ape Academy is a Mario-Party style multi mini-game experience. Like the old Cascade Cassette 50 compilation on the Spectrum, most of the games are utter crud but are thankfully short enough and numerous enough for you to forget them.
The difficulty ranges wildly from the easy one-button-bashing 1 metre sprint to the downright frustrating handing out flowers sub-game. It seems that the quality of the games also varies wildly, with some looking good and being fun to play and others that appear rushed and pointless. To be fair, any ‘party’ mini-game compilation is going to have its good and bad sides, and on the whole Ape Academy just about manages to make it onto the good side. Graphically, Ape Academy is average fare, with photo-realistic graphics eschewed in favour of cartoon mayhem. Still, it’s good for a quick 5 minute blast waiting at the train station, which at the end of the day is what mobile gaming is all about.
3. Ridge Racer
No Playstation-branded device would be complete without a version of Namco’s Ridge Racer series. True to form, Ridge Racer offers faithful renditions of various tracks from RR games over time as well as what appear to be new ones (although to be fair, I haven’t played all of the Ridge Racer games so I wouldn’t know). One thing immediately sticks out about Ridge Racer. It’s smooth. It never appears to drop a frame no matter what goes on. Add the gorgeous graphics and pumping sound and you could be forgiven for feeling like you’re playing a a minaturised version of the arcade game.
It’s certainly very polished, but I find it very awkward to play. It’s not that Ridge Racer isn’t a great game. It is. It’s not that it isn’t a flawless and perfect conversion. It is. The problem is that when I stick the headphones on and play it, it doesn’t feel like I’m playing a handheld game. It feels the same as playing it on a PS2. The atmosphere is a bit uncomfortable to me. It is a great game, and I can happily play it for hours on end in the living room, but playing it for 5 minutes whilst I wait for a bus? Forget it.
4. WipEout Pure
The original version of Wipeout probably shifted more Playstations than I’ve had hot dinners. It was gorgeousness and gorgeousity itself, with a brilliant soundtrack written by the cream of popular electronic music at the time, it broke new ground on multiple levels. To make things better, the PC version was so horrifically bad, playing it actually caused you to vomit. The soundtrack was awful, everything looked like an unpolished turd. The whole experience was physically disturbing.
Wipeout Pure was written by Studio Liverpool, formerly classic publishing firm Psygnosis who brought us Lemmings, Shadow of the Beast and Rollage. Playing Wipeout Pure is a lot like playing Rollcage. In fact it’s so like playing Wipeout Pure, I felt like I was playing Rollcage rather than Wipeout. It’s a great game though (or should I say both are great games) and it’s a fantastic experience. Here’s the thing: Playing Wipeout Pure on PSP is an easier to handle experience than playing Ridge Racer on the PSP. The issues with the pumping soundtrack and the I-feel-like-I’m-back-home- after-a-night-on-the-town-but-I’m-really-waiting-for-the-87 -bus-to-Chertsey feeling aren’t anywhere near as present. I also feel a lot more comfortable pressing pause to do whatever it is I was meant to be doing. Wipeout is fantastic, and draws a lot of parallels with F-Zero, a futuristic racing game launched with the SNES. F-Zero was a great game too, but ultimately lost out to other games such as Mario Kart. I do get the feeling that while Wipeout Pure is a great game, it’ll be forgotten by the time GT PSP is out.
5. Burnout Legends
Burnout Legends is a mobile rendition of the classic Xbox (oh, and PS2 sorry) Burnout series. Despite coming from the EA stable, Burnout Legends is a damned fine game. Subject to the same identikit veneer that all EA games have (‘EA Trax’, similar design and layout for menus etc) you may think for a second that you’re about to play a game about John Madden going over the edge and pumping lead into colleagues and co-workers at the Oakland Raiders. Of course, EA would never come up with anything that original, so instead we have a fantastic racing game with the focus on causing damage and taking risks.
It’s a pretty good port of the Xbox/PS2 version with a few differences. Thankfully, that c**t Stryker from Burnout 3 is gone, hopefully having died a slow and painful death. Instead we can get on with the racing, and what fun it is. Graphically it’s a similar experience to the PS2 version, with the same gameplay. This is good. The downside is that you get a similar feeling to when you play Ridge Racer, the feeling that this is a ‘grown up’ game, and should be played sat down somewhere with some time allocated, beer and maybe something stronger.
Whlist doing this writeup I noticed two distinct issues:
1) The games are all sequels or ports of sequels
2) With the exception of Ape Academy, the games are all ‘grown-up’ games
Number 1 is unsurprising, after all this is Sony we’re talking about and given that two of the 5 games are from EA, the chances of some originality here are low (I don’t count Ape Academy as original as the sub-game thing has been done to death many times before, although it is well executed). Number 2 is more difficult. Grown-up games (such as Burnout Legends, FIFA, Ridge Racer) are designed with longer plays in mind than you may well have available. On my gameboy color, I would play Super Mario, Tetris and other smaller games. Yes, I had Final Fantasy Legends and would play that too, but it was much easier to put down than say, Final Fantasy VII. The greater degree of involvement in larger games such as Ridge Racer and Burnout could work against the PSP rather than for it. Already after less than a week, the PSP is banned in the house as my wife considers it as much of a threat to our marriage as the Xbox (RockStar games has more to answe for than hot coffee, I can tell you!).
What are your thoughts on the PSP? How does its launch line-up compare to the DS? Is having larger, more complex worlds to play in a blessing, or a curse destined to make you miss your connecting bus/train/flight?