PSP Minis Review Round-up 5

More Minis under the spotlight, and we’ve got some crackers for our fifth Minis Round Up, including the absolutely stunning VectorTD and the wickedly addictive Cubixx, and a few more too in case you’ve already bought those.  Seriously, Minis are now starting to really pick up and I’m hugely excited to see what else is coming soon to the rapidly expanding game list…

Stand O’Food

I like the oddly spelt Stand O’Food. Essentially a restaurant management game, Stand O’Food finds its own ground by virtue of a superbly flexible control system (you can work much faster than your character does and ‘stack’ your inputs), some neat ideas and some gorgeous sprites. Don’t worry about the tutorial, which for some reason piles everything at you like an avalanche, just play through it and the game opens up.

There’s no plot as such, but you are supposed to be going around various fast food outlets and manning the increasingly busy front of house. As each customer arrives they’ll shout (by way of a speech bubble) what food they want and it’s your job to run up and down the aisle picking out the ingredients in the right order.

Of course, you can’t always get the food in the correct order so you’ll need to juggle things about – pushing a burger onto a temporary hot plate, for example, or shoving some lettuce back onto the conveyor belt whilst you pick up the burger bun. Added to this are various other power-up mechanics, such as ketchup, a radio to keep customers happy longer and boxes that allow you to give the customer their food without having everything in the right order.

It’s a lovely little game, appeals to the organised side of us and looks smashing. If this sounds like your sort of game – fast paced but always logical – Stand O’Food should be right up your street. Plays like a dream on the PS3, too. 8/10 [AC]

Telegraph Crosswords

Crosswords are a staple of most daily newspapers, and the Telegraph ones are up there with the nation’s trickiest puzzles. Telegraph Crosswords gives you a massive stack of some of the classics (it’s not clear when they were taken from, though) and arranges them into groups of two sizes. They’re hard, for sure, but if you only manage to get through one or two a day you’ll be busy for weeks, so this Mini offers fantastic value for money.

There’s some work been put into the design of the game, too – the interface is nice and slick (certainly looks like something you’d pay £20 for anyway) and the controls work as expected, with the game flicking from row to column as you move along the clues and once selected, the on-screen keyboard is responsive and intuitive.

I didn’t really know what to expect from Telegraph Crosswords but fancied something a little more cerebral and wasn’t disappointed. The game keeps a track of your quickest times for each crossword, too, which seems a little dumb until you really that each time you ask for a hint it adds an incremental bit of time to your record – a nice touch and reminiscent of Picross on the DS. So, great value for money, slickly presented and tough as old boots. Brilliant. 8/10 [AC]

Heracles Chariot Racing

Heracles Chariot Racing is essentially a God Of War themed Mario Kart. Seriously, had Sony been on the ball they’d have gotten rid of the Kratos look-a-like and shoved Kratos himself in here instead, because everything else – the other riders, the level backgrounds and the big bosses floating around certain parts of the maps – are pretty much carbon copies of the best God Of War has to offer.

It’s also actually pretty good. Sure, the tracks aren’t going to bother Nintendo and there’s some weak, non-descript weaponry on offer, but for the price you’re getting five courses (with a variation on each) and a far bit of challenge. Everything moves at a decent pace, the graphics are occasionally rather smashing and the karts themselves handle nicely. There’s no multiplayer, sadly, but for a fun diversion there’s enough to keep you busy. 6/10 [AC]

Circles

Circles, as you find out all too quickly, is far too complicated for its own good – a nice premise ruined by a lack of clarity. Faced with a grid of blue and yellow circles, the player must rotate blocks of four circles with the triggers with the result of the rotation depending on the value of the circles within. Written on each circle is a number, and the group of circles with the higher value wins out, eliminating the other.

If this sounds a little complex, wait until the game introduces numbers inside the groups, and those ‘power ups’ can be negative or positive, too. The game then further complicates things by giving the player two win situations: either get rid of all the yellow circles, or capture what it calls the ‘golden zero’, with the player being awarded a gold medal if they do so, a silver is they have less than the required number of blue circles.

Furthermore, if a group doesn’t contain any blue circles, it can’t be rotated. Despite being a nice idea there’s at least 2 levels of complexity on top of the core idea that simply aren’t necessary – the game itself could have been a great puzzler had it relied on a simpler mechanic and just concentrated on the two colours, but adding in what amounts to mathematics means that Circles comes across as simply too much work for too little reward. 3/10 [AC]

VectorTD

A port of the popular Flash game, and in itself a version of the now classic Tower Defense game, VectorTD strips away the visuals normally associated with the genre (especially post Pixeljunk Monsters) and distills everything into vector graphics, as you’d expect from the title. But what starts as a plain screen of dull looking blocks soon decends into a complex series of interlinking power ups and pulsing Vectroids as your nerves begin to crumble.

Let me explain. If you’re not familiar with the Tower Defense (TD) genre you basically have a series of waves of enemies coming from one direction and you’ve got to stop them reaching your base. To do this you place various ‘towers’ along the pre-set path to try to shoot the encroaching bad guys before they get there. In VectorTD each enemy is a set colour, and choosing a tower of the same colour will give you a damage boost.

Likewise, though, and this is where VectorTD starts to shine, each tower has a colour pair, and the damage taken by (for example) a green Vectroid by a red tower is halved. Don’t worry though, as the game manages to cram all the information you’ll need into its single screen so such important information is always to hand. Additionally, each tower can be upgraded (up to a maximum of level 10) which increases damage and range.

Another feature of note is that after each boss stage you get a bonus token, which rather than just cash (which you need for building and upgrading towers) the bonus token lets you place a damage multiplier, a range multiplier, a profit booster or a pack of five additional lives. Thus, you’ll need to not only manage the various towers and their levels, but also where to place these multipliers which connect to neighbouring towers.

It might sound complex, but it becomes second nature very quickly and because the game (optionally) pauses after each wave (and shows you what colour wave is coming next) you’re free to micromanage each tower between onslaughts. The controls to do all this are very slick and the game’s pack of levels will offer a massive amount of gameplay. VectorTD is lacking a little polish (the end game screen and menu system are a little too basic and there’s no sound effects, only music) but it’s a compelling example of the genre and easily one of the best Minis around. 9/10 [AC]

Cubixx

Cubixx is massively addictive. The first time I played it, I was there for over an hour and I’m still going back – that’s much longer than most of the other Minis. The concept is simple, move from edge to edge of the square cutting away areas while avoiding the hazards – including moving enemies in each square, moving dots on the edges and your own trail. You have to remove a certain amount of the cube (starts at 50%) to progress to the next stage and can create combos by chaining all of your cuts together, which dramatically helps increases your score.

The graphics are very simple, and remind me of old arcade game Qix, but they are perfect for the PSP and remain smooth. The soundtrack also blends well with the style of game adding to the retro feel. My compulsion to keep playing comes from the leaderboards. I’m slowly moving up, in an attempt to secure the top position but Laughing Jackal have made it no easy feat. However, I do think that once I’ve reached the top its replayability will diminish due to the lack of online leaderboards but that’s more Sony’s fault. Maybe in the future this will be possible.

I’ve encountered no glitches at all with the game and for £2.49/€2.99 you can’t go wrong. Cubixx has been tailor made for the PSP but still works well on the PS3. 9/10 [MC]

In case you missed any of our earlier Minis round-ups, here’s the list of other games in their entirety along with the scores we’ve given them.

Thanks to Murdo for his assistance with this feature.