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Opinion

PSP Minis Review Round-up

Tetris, Hero Of Sparta, Fieldrunners, Alien Havoc and Brainpipe reviewed.

The first batch of PSP Minis is upon us, and despite the silly pink logo and the lack of multiplayer, there’s some real treats to be had in the first set of games – nofi and I take a look at five of them that shouted the loudest, and hopefully we’ll get around to another set as soon as our finances permit. Let us know in the comments which games you picked up, and which PSP you’re playing them on!

Hero of Sparta

A God of War-a-like title for £3.49 doesn’t sound too bad, and considering its price, you do get 8 levels and about 4 – 5 hours of gameplay. In Hero of Sparta you play a rather angry leftover from the film 300, hacking and slashing your way through mythical creatures. Square and triangle are your main attacks and for bigger beasts there are quick time events just like Kratos’. So far, so expected, and it sounds like a good Mini, right? Well, no. The sound is awful, the fighting is incredibly repetitive (no combos, just mash square and triangle) and worst of all, it’s very glitchy: on one occasion I got near the end of a level, only to actually get stuck in the graphics. I had to restart the whole level (not even from the last checkpoint), which was bad enough, but then, second time through, an enemy I needed to kill in order to progress managed to get stuck himeself and I couldn’t kill it. Again, I had to start all over again. Glitches like this seriously hinder a game that could have been a mini GoW or Onimusha. 5/10

Tetris

Well, what can be said about this? It everyone’s favourite block-busting game, Tetris, on the PSP. I think most people have a place in their heart for Tetris (it was my first ever computer game) and know how it plays. This is totally as you expect. Being a “new” version though means bright colours and a remixed soundtrack (one that’s not as good as the original) and you can’t help the feeling that some things have been tinkered with for no reason other than it’s now 2009 and not the 1980s. Neatly, you can watch replays of expert Tetris players which really show the depth of such a seemingly simple game and makes you wonder if they actually do anything else with their lives. Extremely addictive it may be, but it doesn’t move the game on in terms of originality or push the limits of what can be achieved with PSP Minis, instead, Tetris just plays safe. 7/10

Brainpipe

Essentially, Brainpipe is like being inside Boris Johnson’s mind. Well, I hope not, but I imagine what goes through his brain while being the Mayor of London must be pretty similar. Practically impossible to describe, the only thing I can think of that bears any similarity is when you boot up a game by UbiSoft and you travel through the purple UbiSoft logo, like a time-warp – or even better, the opening credits of Dr. Who. You control what seems to be the inside of an eye (looking outwards) down some sort of wormhole which is coloured in all sorts of trippy shades. You move the nub (or d-pad) in order to collect objects that come your way, or avoid ones that you don’t want. As your progress through a level, the speed at which you travel increases, but you can use the x button to slow it down a bit. There is no tutorial or instructions, just complete bewilderment. Oh, and an extremely creepy soundtrack. Brainpipe is difficult to grasp and will almost certainly not appeal to everyone, but it is completely and utterly original and unbelievable addictive. 8/10

Alien Havoc

In Alien Havoc, you play a little 2D alien, who has crash-landed on earth. You then need to capture cows and bring them back to your ship. Odd premise aside, it’s a pretty enjoyable game. As you run around the level trying to find a cow, there are farmers. The aim is to avoid being captured by a farmer and still manage to carry the cow back to the UFO. You can throw a rock to daze a farmer or crouch in long grass to hide. The basic retro gameplay is simply enough, but the later levels are very difficult as they are littered with rival farmers and the distance you have to travel increases. If you fail 3 times, it’s game over and you have to start from the very beginning. Alien Havoc is a real blast from the past and is designed to be played in short 10 minutes bursts, which is ideal for a PSP Minis game. There are only 20 levels, it can get repetitive repeating levels over and over again and because there are no save points it can be extremely challenging – still, great fun. 7/10

Fieldrunners

The darling of the early iPhone gaming scene, Fieldrunners is a masterful Tower Defense-style game expertly converted to the PSP platform with a few extra bells and whistles.  The analog stick zooms, the d-pad moves around the playing field and the triggers are used to select your various towers, of which there are plenty enough to portray a deep set of gameplay mechanics.  Yes, we’ve all played TD games before (and PixelJunk Monsters turned the whole thing around anyway) but Fieldrunners is a supreme example of how to make a PSP Minis game – for £4 you get a massive amount of game here, with loads of levels, near endless replayability and some fantastic graphics (although on full zoom they lack a little sharpness).  Absolutely the best of the launch titles in our opinion, and one that should be right at the top of the list for anyone wanting to see what all the fuss is about.  Lets hope multiplayer gets patched in at some point, even if we have to pay for it.  9/10

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