Thursday, April 23, 2009

The biggest bantam

I was recently given a PSP by a friend - which is, by any criteria, a rather splendid gift. The PSP itself is an excellent piece of technology, especially the screen, and it looks the biz. There were a few things that put me off purchasing one though when it came out. The first thing was that I already had a Nintendo DS which I was using rather a lot at the time, especially having purchased Meteos (and later, Mario Kart). The second thing was the disappointment of finding out it had an analogue 'stick', but one that required a disjointed thumb to use comfortably. The third was the price - that was a biggie; the result of my wife finding the receipt was more than my medical insurance would be able to cover. The fourth was the battery life, thanks to the rather splendid screen it was sporting. The fifth was the battery life, thanks to the use of discs to play games.

This was all pretty much swept away when the PSP fired up (with a larger battery at the ready) to play something. Burnout Legends was the first game and it looks magnificent, the sound was also snuggling up close to the graphics in the magnificent category. The only doubts that remained were from the pain in my left thumb after playing it for an hour; but, you know, tendons can stretch.

One of the benefits of getting a console that has been out for a while is the host of budget, traded-in and generally cheaper games. I headed out for a search and picked up Echochrome ($38) and God of War: Chains of Olympus ($25). Starting with Echochrome for the train journey to work, the time flew by as my brain tried to kick in. It turns out to be a rather original game that occupied my mind in pretty much the way puzzle games should. There were minor flaws, with my brain capacity being the main one; but in any original concept I don't see the flaws as a show-stopper - unlike most of the reviews I read later that day. Giving my brain a well-deserved rest, I kicked in God of War the next day and was very, very impressed indeed. Although I had completed God of War and its sequel on the PS2 a while ago, I wasn't sure what to expect from the hand-held incarnation. But from the get-go, it plays smoothly with the same grandeur and impact that the console games had.

I guess that the games and the console itself belie one of the biggest problems it has had since release. It is more like carrying a full living room console around, with proper living room console games and the suite of media options that you would expect from such a machine. Whereas the DS really feels like a hand-held with cut-down games, quick games and nothing apart from games.

When you buy a Tomb Raider game for the DS, it is generally a sprite driven, top-down or side-scrolling affair - it feels like a hand-held game. You get the game for the PSP and it is the full monty - not a proper hand-held game at all. You have to invest yourself in a full game much more to learn the controls, follow the story line, sit through the cut scenes, etc, etc. I can pick up Meteos and play far quicker than I can get to grips with Echochrome; I can't even remember the last game I played on a DS that had a tutorial to work through. So I guess that maybe for the PSP, perception is reality and it is not perceived as a hand-held. Which is very much a shame.

Anyway, I'm forcing myself to put God of War down for enough time to write this and will be back to it before I get home; but as someone who has to use hand cream, I do have some issues with finger prints. This PSP would be CSI's most easily solved case...

As a final point, I've never actually had any problems with the battery life.

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