Tagged "PSP"

psvita_oneyearold_top
Feb 24
By Adam Philbin In Features 13 Comments

We almost didn’t notice, but it turns out the PS Vita is one year old this weekend. Being the modest little handheld that it is, we thought we’d bake it a cake and surprise it with the birthday bumps!

When the PS Vita was first announced in January 2011 we were reasonably impressed with it, silly name aside. Sony’s decision to use commodity smartphone components was a wise move, one that they’ve recently repeated with the x86-based PlayStation 4. The launch games – particularly Uncharted: Golden Abyss – were suitably impressive, and once we got the device in our hands we were really satisfied with the high build quality of the device. Viva la Vita, we thought.

“we wait for a genuinely system selling game”

At the same time, everyone has been a little skeptical about Sony’s handheld. The original PSP suffered from a slightly generic and malnourished games catalogue, with the Nintendo DS ultimately beating it up and stealing its lunch money. This time around, whilst the Nintendo 3DS poses a threat to the PS Vita, ultimately the biggest threat to both devices (and arguably console gaming in general) has come from iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. £35 PS Vita games will always struggle against 69p or even free mobile games.

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top_oforcsmen
Dec 19
By Matt Gander In Features 2 Comments

It seems very odd that in a time when it’s vital for a game to turn a profit, there are a still a few games released with very little publicity or fanfare. Games such as these, for instance:

Of Orcs and Men – PS3, 360, PC

We assume the title is meant to be a play on ‘Of Mice and Men’, and if that is the case then we approve. This RPG was sneaked out during the summer where it met a steady string of 7/10 review scores.

Although quite a hard game to find in the UK, we imagine that’s not the case in other parts of Europe – a lot of the reviews online are from gaming sites based in Germany, Sweden, Italy and Finland. “Dat est gut” no doubt at least one of them said.

Damage Inc.: Pacific Squadron WWII – PS3, 360

Flight games do have quite a large following. Well, certainly on PC, but not so much on consoles. This sky-bound shooter was available as a standalone game or bundled with a flight-stick that could be customized with a ‘decal set’ (read: super fun stickers).

We haven’t seen either for sale on the high street. In fact, the flight-stick set is still a staggering £89.99 on Amazon.

See also: Air Conflicts: Pacific Carriers and Jane’s Advanced Strike Fighters.

Capcom Digital Collection – 360

When Ubisoft announced a retail collection containing just three Xbox Live Arcade games, most of the gaming websites covered the news in great detail. When Capcom announced their collection containing twelve XBLA games though – including Final Fight Double Impact and Super Street Fighter II HD – barely an eyelid was batted. We have absolutely no idea why.

Now available for around £15, it’s very good value for money and loaded with easy achievements. Just don’t expect to find many people playing the likes of 1942 online.

Shifting World – 3DS

Usually when a demo of a 3DS game is available on the 3DS eShop the game in question ends up getting a little bit of extra press coverage. Nintendo sites, if nobody else, are quite happy to dedicate news articles to reporting that demos of new games are now available. That didn’t happen with monchrome puzzler Shifting World though – both the US and European releases passed everybody by.

Given the mediocre review scores it’s probably for the best.

Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward – 3DS, Vita

A demo of this RPG is also available on the 3DS eShop, but even that combined with a £24.99 price tag and slew of glowing review scores failed to get tongues waggling.

We should be incredibly grateful that it was even published in the UK seeing that its predecessor – 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
– wasn’t released over here.

New Little King’s Story – Vita

It’s sad to think that New Little King’s Story has more than likely sold worse that the Wii original, a game that failed to set the charts alight itself despite gaining glowing review scores. It even made the cover of NGamer magazine.

Pre-orders for New Little King’s Story in particular must have been criminally low – every single online retailer had a different release date for it and as such it ended up arriving almost out of the blue. Fans of the different and quirky would do well to take a look.

Port Royale 3: Pirates and Merchants – PS3, 360

With no new Tropico city-building sim to publish on consoles this year, Kalisto thought that Port Royale 3 would make a good substitute. It didn’t prove to be, but it’s still far from the worst game to be released in 2012. After you’ve earned enough money to buy a fleet of ships and set up a few trade routes, there isn’t a great deal to it other than holding down a button to speed up time while your coffers fill up with cash.

Hopefully the game’s failure to sell won’t stop Kalisto publishing other niche titles on consoles – the two Tropico games are underrated gems.

Fate/Extra – PSP

The PSP did receive a few new games this year and, amazingly, not all of them were annual sports titles. We reviewed Rising Star’s Blazing Souls: Accelate back in June and found it to be a bit of a slog with little reward.

Thankfully for fans of RPGs, Fate/Extra was also released in Europe, and was a much better role player, set in a curious virtual world. Publisher Ghostlight even gave it the collector’s edition treatment.

US gamers also received another two JRPGs – Gungnir and Ragnarok: Tactics. Four RPGs in a year – that’s not a bad way for a system to bow out, even if we can’t buy half of them in this country.

Oct 26
By Jake In Features No Comments

I was thinking about handheld screens recently – don’t ask – and a question occurred to me: when did everyone decide that, yes, widescreen definitely is the answer?

There’s only one way to answer that question: a scatter graph of screen width by year. WITH A TREND LINE.

Handheld Aspect Ratios

Look at that: what a trend line! Thanks to him, the gradual shift from nearly square screens (1:1) to widescreen (1.78:1 being the standard 16:9 widescreen TV aspect ratio) is clear to see. What a hero.

In fact, there was a square screen, on the not particularly legendary early ’90s Supervision – Quickshot or Watara, depending on your persuasion. The Game Boy and Game Gear were barely more rectangular, mind, at 1.11:1.

Around the same time, the Atari Lynx was being much more ambitious. The 1.57:1 aspect ratio nicely illustrates that: there’s nothing closer to widescreen on our graph until Sony with the PSP, 15 years later.

Around 2000, the next generation of handhelds started to move to slightly wider screens. Nintendo were strange ones around this time, the DS retreating back to 1.33:1 from the Game Boy Advance’s 1.5:1. They got back in line with the 3DS though, and a more respectable 1.67:1.

In fact, over the last few years it’s the iPhone 4 which looks most anachronistic, matching the Game Boy Advance’s aspect ratio of 1.5:1. Again, Apple got back in line though, with 1.78:1 – which looks close to an industry standard now – for the iPhone 5.

Analysis over. Source data follows, if that’s your thing.

(more…)

Apr 18
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

Contrary to popular belief, Sony’s ‘PSP Essentials’ brand isn’t just for budget-priced re-releases. Over the past year or so a trio of PSP Minis collections have been released, each containing five games.

Four of the games are on UMD while the remainder is download only. You can also download all of them to either a PSP or PlayStation 3 and do away with the UMD entirely. It’s a nice idea. These games were designed to be played while on the move, after all.

When these Mega Minis packs were first released they made an appearance at £7.99. With shops currently clearing out their PSP stock they can now be found for less than fiver.

A quid a game doesn’t sound too bad a deal, does it? Let’s take a look at what’s on offer.

Mega Minis Volume 1

The first volume is something of a mixed bag – although to be fair, all three of them are. Amiga classic Pinball Fantasies is the highlight and suits the PSP rather well thanks to the ability to turn the screen vertically. The music is still brilliant too after all these years. Spot the Difference is as casual as you may expect but it’s an adequate time waster and appears to be made by the people who make those pub quiz machines.

YetiSports – which was in actual fact one of the last PAL PSone games – is likewise rather casual. It has better presentation than we expected, although not particularly fitting to the game in question. It’s a simple affair – press the X button at the right time to send a penguin flying through the air – but there is a slight addictive quality about it.

Zombie Tycoon sounds promising – create your own zombie army and then cause chaos in various towns, but it’s too slow paced to keep interest levels up and the controls aren’t intuitive in the slightest. It’s very rough to look at too, resembling a mid-life PSone game. Vibes is the download only game for this package. It’s Gitaroo Man minus everything that made Gitaroo Man great and about as much fun as that sounds. Next!

Mega Minis Volume 2

Volume 2 is a funny old thing. There’s a licensed game present for starters – Ice Road Truckers, based on the TV show of the same name. It’s a terrible checkpoint racer in which the trucks appear to be made out of Lego bricks. There is one original feature – when driving over thin ice a certain speed has to be maintained – but that’s no reason to play to it.

Archibald’s Adventures and Who’s That Flying?! both fare immeasurably better. Archibald’s Adventures has a rather low budget feel to it but it’s still a nice little platform puzzler with loads of levels to play through. 178 to be precise. In comparison 2D shooter Who’s That Flying?! feels like a big budget production with plenty of love and attention lavished onto it.

Arcade Air Hockey and Bowling is very much like Spot The Difference – it does what it says on the tin, and thus it’s rather hard to look down upon it. The presentation is rather nice. Rounding this package off is the distinctly retro Breakquest, a jazzed up rendition of Breakout with extra physics-based fun.

Mega Minis Volume 3

Volume 3 also contains a licensed game – Red Bull X-Fighters. It’s Trials HD for the PSP, pretty much, albeit with shoddier physics and a slow-mo feature that takes a while to get used to. It’s passable but lacking in polish.

Arctic Adventures: Polar’s Puzzles is rather polished however, which is unexpected seeing as it’s a mere block-shoving puzzle game. Originality isn’t high on the agenda but it hard to knock it for that when it’s so nicely made. It really shows up the self-explanatory Coconut Dodge for the slapdash effort that it is. It’s the type of thing you’d download off the App Store for free, play once, then delete.

Young Thor and Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess are thankfully present to keep the quality level up. The former is something of a hidden gem – a polished hack and slash platformer with RPG elements. It could have benefited from a full release though – every level has to be replayed five times, albeit with enemies in different locations. We presume this was due to memory constraints rather than laziness on the developers behalf. Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess meanwhile reminds us Rainbow Islands, of all things. It’s a vertical platformer in which you double-jump your way to the top of a tower, occasionally stopping to bash a boss on the head. Animation impresses and just like the Who’s That Flying?! – which is by the same developer – there’s a sense of humour throughout. It’s also available as an Xbox Indie game if you fancy the sound of it.

If only there was a way to combine the best games out of each package we’d have an essential collection. Seeing that it works out cheaper to buy all three Mega Mini volumes than to download the best games listed here individually though, it’s quite hard for us to have a grumble.

Mar 07
By Matt Gander In Retro 3 Comments

Our recent farewell to the PSP sparked a desire to start a collection of the format’s finest, and while snapping up titles for literally pocket change it dawned on me that the PSP had a very similar life to the Sega Game Gear.

The aesthetic similarities are as clear as day but there are also similarities not quite so obvious.

Just as the Game Gear lived off a diet of Master System conversions during the start of its life, the PSP was fed a diet of PlayStation 2 games. As the Master System and PlayStation 2 respectively died out, developers attempted to bring more ambitious games originally designed for more powerful systems to them. The GameGear had conversions of Ristar, Earthworm Jim, Mortal Kombat 3 and Primal Rage, while the PSP saw Dante’s Inferno, Army of Two: The 40th Day, Tekken 6 and Need for Speed: Shift. All of the aforementioned were not quite as good as the original versions.

You can also argue that Columns and Lumines – their premier puzzlers – couldn’t touch Tetris.

Then there are the spin-offs. Sony brought most of their biggest franchises to PSP in scaled-down forms, such as Killzone: Liberation, Motor Storm: Arctic Edge and Resistance: Retribution. The Game Gear? That had Tails’ Adventure, Panzer Dragoon Mini and Virtua Fighter Animation.

Even with familiar franchises as the above, the PSP and Game Gear were both technically superior to Nintendo’s handhelds at the time (the DS and Game Boy) but couldn’t outsell them.

Eastern support was stronger than Western for both systems too. Both have numerous RPGs not released outside of Japan and countless niche titles. Japanese developers were responsible for each system’s most memorable titles: Monster Hunter, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Lumines and LocoRoco on PSP; Sonic the Hedgehog, Streets of Rage, Shinobi and Mickey Mouse on Game Gear. Both had a shelf life of around seven years but neither grew old gracefully, with the final years seeing little more than budget re-releases and annual sporting titles.

Piracy harmed Sega and Sony, but Sony more so. Bootleg Game Gear cartridges are hard to find but a quick look on eBay reveals many PSP systems with “custom firmware” and “loads of games on a memory stick”.

Perhaps the most amusing similarity is the battery life – between 3 to 4 hours at the very most for both, depending on battery quality and screen brightness. That’s progress for you.

Feb 22
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

The PSP’s release schedule hasn’t been a picture of health for a long time, but with the PS Vita hitting Europe this week and Sony now focusing all their attention on their shiny new system the release lists look bleaker than ever. There are a few RPGs lined up for American gamers, and we may see FIFA 13 on it if we’re lucky, but now seems a fine time to say farewell to Sony’s premier handheld.

When the PSP first arrived on the scene it got off to a glowing start. It was a sleek and stylish piece of kit that was effortlessly desirable. Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories helped to gain the system plenty of press attention, and publishers and developers alike approved of the ability to bring their PlayStation 2 titles to it with relative ease.

It’s keeping the publishers faithful that Sony has struggled with – even EA has backed away slightly, not dishing up a new Need for Speed since 2009.

We could go on to talk about the faux pas that was the PSPgo – which a few retailers refused to stock – and the dead format that is UMD video, but the PSP shouldn’t be remembered for these mistakes.

Few could argue that it doesn’t have one of greatest collection of RPGs of all time. It’s Square-Enix and Ghostlight who have kept the system alive for the past year thanks to the likes of Tactics Orge, Lord of Arcana and The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky. Many of Square-Enix’s efforts can now picked up for around £7.99 on the PSP Essentials range, making them incredibly good value for money.

Cheap development costs and popularity in the East also lead to a wealth of inventive and experimental niche titles such as LocoRoco, Gitaroo Man Lives, Half Minute Hero, echochrome, Me and My Katamari, Patapon and Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero?. The PSP iteration of Katamari is one of our favourites because after this one the series was flogged for all it’s worth. A few of the above were popular enough to spawn sequels.

There are some fantastic retro compilations as well including EA Replay – the only retro collection the publisher has even released. Apparently you can get your own assortment of retro games on the system too, although we wouldn’t know anything about that.

Sony were also able to keep the PlayStation 2 going for a couple of extra years by slowing drip-feeding PSP conversions such as Secret Agent Clank, MotorStorm: Arctic Edge and WipEout Pulse. We never did see the rumoured PlayStation 2 version of God of War: Chains of Olympus but we suppose Sony had to keep some of their biggest titles exclusive to PSP.

We can’t ignore the system’s success in Japan either, which Sony mostly have Capcom’s time-sapping Monster Hunter series to thank. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker helped the slimmer and lighter PSP 3000 get off to a good start too. It’s a game that most gamers are only discovering now for the first time, via the recently released Metal Gear Solid HD Collection. On a similar note, 3DS owners have only recently been treated to CRUSH3D – a puzzler that first made its début on PSP under the guise of CRUSH.

If you’re thinking of making a late entrance to the PSP party then now is a brilliant time to do so – many of the the system’s finest can be picked up for literally pocket change. Prices of the handheld itself are quickly descending too. The Slim & Light model is the fan favourite and can be found for around £50 if you spend a little bit of time on eBay.

Here’s a round-up of our favourite titles:

Matt

Lumines

For years after the PSP’s launch Lumines was a game that I kept returning to. A block-stacking puzzler made with the widescreen format in mind, with music so aurally pleasing I wanted to play it both loudly and proudly.

A few PSP games were made frustrating to play due to their loading times but this wasn’t one of them – due to having not a single polygon in sight, it loaded in a blink of an eye. It was the format’s Tetris, pretty much – a game that once removed from its host system it never felt quite as nice to play.

Capcom Classics Collection Remixed

If only we could have combined the contents of Capcom Classics Collection Remixed and Capcom Classics Collection Reloaded, we would have one of the best retro collections ever. This is was the better of the two, mind, and although it didn’t feature Street Fighter II it did have Strider, Captain Commando, Mega Twins and a couple of 2D shooters that required the PSP to be held on its side.

The real hidden gem in the package for me though was Block Block – a simple but addictive Breakout clone. Capcom must have been aware of how well this game played on PSP as it later formed part of Capcom Puzzle World, along with two other games.

Power Stone Collection

You may not think that the PSP was the ideal home for Power Stone on first thought, but once it was sat in the palm of your hand it quickly came apparent that it’s a game perfectly suited to the handheld. Battles were short and satisfying – ideal for passing a few spare minutes – and like the Dreamcast, the PSP only had one analogue stick meaning Capcom didn’t have to rethink the control system. They were even kind enough sharpen up the visuals and carry over the VMU mini-games, presented here in the style of a faux LCD game.

I’ve never been a big fan of Power Stone 2, but the original is a game I think many would love to see resurface for PSN and Xbox Live Arcade.

WTF (Byte Hell 2000)

Is WTF a brilliant game? No, which is perhaps why it never saw a European release. It is however perhaps the oddest piece of software for the system. Odd in the best way possible, I must stress.

We all know what WTF really stands for but here it stood for Work Time Fun, due to the fact that it was filled with stupid little time-wasting treats. Clones of retro games, a fake e-mail system where random and time-sensitive messages and images appeared, and dozens of ‘tools’ such as a instant noodle timer which featured a FMV clip of either a greased up beefcake or a girl in a bikini who did their best to entertain you while your noodles cooked.

There were also Shenmue-style gashpon toys to collect with some amusing descriptions. “This toy is horribly painted. No child would want it,” read one of them. By far the PSP’s biggest curio.

Jake

LocoRoco

As mentioned above, for a while the PSP had a fairly healthy stream of innovative little games. Not all of them were entirely successful, but LocoRoco emphatically was.

From the colourful first screenshots, via the unusual move of a PSP demo, to the final game – and even its sequel – it delivered on its promise of pretty much pure platforming joy.

With delightful level design, simple but satisfyingly weighty controls, and endearingly enthusiastic sound effects, the whole thing was never less than charming. Not to mention the titular blobs breaking into song at any opportunity, which I’ve run out of synonyms to describe.

Dec 01
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

The PSP has pretty much been ignored by publishers this winter, with just a few annual sport games and LEGO Harry Potter to see it through the bleak winter months. Square-Enix though are coming to the rescue – not only have they almost single-handedly kept the system in the public eye over the past year or so but they’re also giving it one final hurrah.

Many of the RPGs that Square-Enix have released on the format are being re-released this week, available for a stupidly cheap £7.99 a pop on the likes of GAME and Play.

There are six different Final Fantasy games in total along with Tactics Orge, The 3rd Birthday and Lord of Arcana. Namco are also re-releasing Gods Eater: Burst for £7.99. If we could find our PSP we would be having a bit of that.

3DS owners get a second helping of Mario this week too. Mario Kart 7 has though received some mixed reviews, including a 5/10 from Destructoid and 10/10 from Games Radar. We should bare in mind here that EDGE gave Mario Kart: Double Dash on GameCube 5/10 and that went on to find plenty of fans.

Nintendo are also releasing Super Pokémon Rumble on 3DS. It’s not a ‘proper’ Pokemon game as the name suggests; our cynical side thinks Nintendo wanted a Pokemon game on the 3DS as soon as possible and thus this mediocre sequel to the WiiWare original has been dished up. GameSpot called it simplistic and repetitive.

Don’t be so quick to judge Puss in Boots as a cynical movie tie-in. Reviews have been very positive so far. It’s out on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii and DS. Power Rangers Samurai also hits Wii and DS. We were (whisper it) curious about the Kinect Power Rangers game but that seems to have vanished off the release schedules.

Finally, there’s Now! That’s What I Call Music: Dance and Sing on Wii which boasts of 16 UK #1 hits. It’s being published by Tubby Games, and no, we have no idea who they are either.

Next week: Pocoyo Racing (Wii), Just Dance 3 (PS3) and Order Up! (PS3, 3DS).

Aug 16
By Matt Gander In Blog 2 Comments

Sony has shown a new budget priced model of the PSP at Gamescom – the PSP E-1000. Wasn’t E-1000 the name of the bad guy in Terminator 2?

It’s set to retail at 99 Euro (which works out at £86 by today’s exchange rate) and resembles the original PSP rather than the horrid and flimsy beast that was the PSPgo.

There’s no WiFi, presumably to keep costs down, but games can still be purchased from the PlayStation Store via Media Go or played from UMD. It’ll have the same charcoal matte finish to match the slim PS3, because everybody loves to have matching consoles.

The PlayStation Blog reports that “PSP E-1000 will be available across PAL” suggesting that it might not be due for release in the US.

The PSP has a fine range of titles, including some brilliant RPGs, but you have to wonder what Sony’s train of thought is here. The PSVita is just around the corner and the number of titles left for release on the original PSP is pitiful. A quick view of the ‘coming soon’ lists on both Game and Play reveals just 10 titles between them, three of which are annual sports updates.

Let’s hope they’re not going to be selling this one at a loss because they certainly aren’t going to make that money back from new releases.

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