The mighty PSP Mega Minis

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 a 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 being 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 developer’s 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.

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