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PSP Minis Review Round-up 3

The latest batch of Minis put under the microscope.

Our coverage of the PSP’s Minis service continues after our first round-up which covered Hero of Sparta, Tetris, Brainpipe, Alien Havoc and Fieldrunners and our second, featuring Fortix, Breakquest, Vempire, Bloons and Pinball Fantasies. Let’s see what we’ve got this time:

Pinball Dreams

I’ll be honest, I think of the two current Amiga Pinball ports available on the PSP Minis platform, ‘Fantasies’ is the better game – the boards are richer, there’s more strategy and subgames and the third flipper adds a smart new dimension. However, ‘Dreams’ is still the stunning example of pure gameplay that it always was, and holds a special place in my memories and me and my old man used to play the hell out of Ignition, the first table, back in 1992. The other reason why I’m so keen on recommending this game (and Fantasies, of course) is that if enough people buy them maybe Cowboy Rodeo will port Pinball Illusions, too, and – hey – maybe they can get get their hands on even more Amiga games… Regardless, this is great fun – a quid too expensive at a pound per table, perhaps, but still decent value for money and a pixel perfect port – get the set: 7/10 [AC]

D-Cube Planet

An interesting one, this – the presentation is poor, the pace far too sluggish and the visuals could have been much, much stronger but the actual game is pretty good when it finally finds its feet. The premise is simple, even if the ‘story’ isn’t, you simply need to guide your little alien dude to whatever piece of spaceship you’ve lost. In the way, of course, are lots of cubes, and it’s your task as the player to shift them around to make a path for your rather tardy green blob. The art style’s terrible, and it seems to take ages for anything to actually move on the board, but once the puzzles get tricky the game actually starts to shine, and for the price of a pint of Skol you really can’t go wrong if you’re prepared to put aside the fact that the game could really have been much better in simple top-down 2D and a better aesthetic. Interesting enough: 5/10 [AC]

Kahoots

Kahoots is something of a cult hit for Honeyslug – the visuals might appeal to the younger PSP gamers but the gameplay is somewhere nearer old-school hits like Lemmings – you have no control over the cute little thing walking back and forth on each level, nor any explanation as to why he’s doing what he’s doing, but you can switch around the blocks on which he walks. By doing this, you can position jumping blocks next to spikes to avert a nasty end, or near the edge of a platform to force him to jump down a level. It obviously starts off rather simply before ramping up the difficulty pretty quickly with bolted down blocks and other characters, but the level design is smart enough to carry off any frustration that comes in later sections, which can be pretty tough. Even better is the look of the game, which is all plasticine blobs and imperfect textures which actually works really well and the various songs performed by the main protagonist are easily worth the £2.49 – striking stuff: 7/10 [AC]

Mahjongg Artifacts 2

I actually really enjoy Mahjong games, even when they’re spelt with two Gs, and this new PSP Minis game is one of the best – the idea is simple: just match up similar tiles on the board that aren’t blocked in on either side and they disappear. But why is Artifacts 2 such a good game? Well, for starters, there’s a nice globespanning ‘Quest’ mode with lots of missions to play through and a comic book look and feel; there’s a smart ‘auto zoom’ function which keeps the game screen locked around the remaining tiles and a ‘free tile only’ view which dims out the tiles that you can’t pick up. Because of all this, Artifacts is actually a rather accessible introduction to Mahjong but also offers a decent difficultly curve if you turn off the tips. The graphics are rather typical for a game of this style, the controls are a bit iffy when you’re trying to navigate towards a specific tile with just the d-pad, but it’s nice to have a mahjong game readily available on the XMB and this is as good as you’ll need: 8/10 [AC]

Yummy Yummy Cooking Jam

This is an odd game. Basically, working in one of four eating establishments, you’ve got to serve up food to waiting customers. The viewpoint is that of the server, rather than the top-down view you’ll have seen in other similar games, and thus you have to work out what each customer wants and then serve up the required goods, putting together the more complicated food stuffs from various ingredients. In principle, it’s actually a pretty good game but it’s let down by one fundamental problem – the game feels like it was tested with a mouse and then shoehorned onto the PSP’s analog nub at the last second. Rather than simply moving between the various icons as you tap a direction, you actually control the on-screen pointer with the nub much like you did with the joystick in old Amiga games like North and South. It’s a bizarre choice, and hurts the game when the action hots up – patch this out and we’ll take another look, but as it stands there’s little reason to stick with the game despite some great visuals: 4/10 [AC]

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