PSP Mini-Reviews I

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Hey. A lot of people are getting interested in the PSP lately so I thought I'd blog some mini-reviews of my favourite games.


I'm really astounded by the quality of this game. Released back in September 05, Gripshift is a hybrid game of four genres, Puzzle, Platform, Driving & Action. A strange combination to be sure but a very successful one. At first Gripshift seems like a strange racing game with crazy tracks. The controls take a little getting used to, the car physics are by no means real, they feel much more floaty than games such as Burnout. For this many reviewers called the controls broken but this is by no means true! They take a little getting used to but once you're passed the beginner levels you should be fine.

Now let's go through how it blends the genres together. Driving is self-explanatory. Puzzle comes into play in figuring out how to collect all the stars, how to get to the Gripshift symbol and how to finish the course as fast as possible in order to get the gold. Platforming refers to how a lot of the time there are gaps on the course and you must boost over them or in getting the Gripshift symbol where much of the time you have to drive your car off the beaten path as it were, in order to land on one of the surrounding cliffs where the GS symbol is. An example of this would be when doing a vertical loop, as you're going up you may have to drive off to the side in order to get enough height to land on the cliff. And lastly action refers to the races you have against the AI, which follows a similar pattern as Jak X or Wipeout where there's boost and weapons in order to beat your opponent.

In Single Player there are 3 modes, Challenge, Race and Bonus. Race is as described above, similar to Wipeout or Jak X. Bonus games consist of Playground (a large skateboarding bowl with stars and boost, collect the stars as quickly as possible), Penguin Bowling (Drive the car and knock them down), Bomb Pool (Pot all the balls with a car and the longer you take the more bombs will litter the table). There are also Snaker, Ice Hockey and Soccer Crazy but I haven't unlocked them yet. The 1st 3 are fun diversions from the main game and you'll probably play them from time to time when you want a little break from the Challenge mode.

Challenge mode is the main mode in the game. Here is where you find the combination of the four genres. Each track has 3 criteria, get the gold medal (time), get all the stars and get the GS symbol. You complete one at a time, you don't have to complete all 3 criteria in one run. It's actually impossible to do so on most tracks as collecting the stars will destroy your time. Anyway the tracks are all extremely well designed. Some will take you a number of tries to complete each criterion and even in the Easy section there are one or two pretty challenging ones. You do not need to complete everything to proceed though you will need to complete a certain amount to access the more difficult sections. In order to finish a section all you have to do is cross the finish line of each track but you get credits when you complete the criteria and these are needed to unlock the later sections.

The challenge mode is ridiculously fun. It is challenging, fast-paced, the graphics are pretty simple but the game is really nice to look at and the combination of the floaty physics and the powerful boost function mean you can make some pretty epic leaps, some of which will be necessary but not altogether obviously in order to get the gold. Each criteria has it's own challenge and you'll play each track differently depending on which criteria you're trying to complete. This makes each track playtime three times as long but it doesn't feel that way at all. For the gold you'll try to boost and cut huge chunks out of the track by jumping off inclines. For stars you'll play it totally differently. And for the GS symbol you'll play it differently again. It's the variation in the gameplay that I find the most rewarding and the fact that any of the three criteria could be the most challenging in any one track.

As well as the single player the game supports ad-hoc multiplayer. I haven't played as very few people I know have PSPs and none have Gripshift.

And lastly comes the track editor. Yes you can create your own crazy tracks and it's incredibly simple to do. You don't even need instructions to figure it out. It a powerful editor, very streamlined and easy to use and you'll seriously be creating your own tracks in minutes. You can also download some free tracks from the official site if you wish.

As I said I am astounded at the quality of this title. The average on Metacritic isn't the best but this is a truly excellent fantasy racer, challenging in an enjoyable way and I'm having more fun playing it than I ever did playing Wipeout or Burnout. I highly recommend you pick up a copy.

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

I wasn't really sure if I would like this game. The mesh of bejeweled-like puzzle gameplay with an RPG-like fantasy story seemed to be an unusual combination and I doubted it would work. But it got great reviews and seemed to be very popular so I decided to pick it up. And I'm very glad I did.

While the combination seems strange it actually works very well. Think of it as an RPG but the turn-based combat system has been replaced by a turn-based puzzle-combat game. Basically there are 7 different symbols in the battle system, blue, red, green and yellow gems, a purple star, skulls (some of which have a 5X multiplier) and a wild card which has a multiplier and can be used to match any of the four gems. During combat you switch two adjoining symbols with each other either horizontally or vertically in order to make a row of three or more. Gems are used to use special abilites, stars gain you experience which in turn levels you up and skulls deal damage to the opponent.

It is a very fun system, doesn't get old (at least nearly as quickly as normal turn-based battle systems) and is also very challenging. The enemy AI is very good and some opponent will be very difficult to beat. However if you do happen to lose, you don't lose any progress (you may even gain a little experience), you just have to try again.

The game also has a pretty good story. It is pretty standard fantasy fare but the dialogue is excellent, really fits the game and compared to normal RPG fare it really is excellent. You won't really find characters that you care a great deal about which I guess is a bit of a weakness but still I feel the dialogue is above the norm even if the over-arcing story isn't. There is no voice acting which I like, I usually hate the voices in JRPGs.

There is no real exploration in the game, you basically move across a map in straight-lines which join points of interest. However dialogue sequences, story progression, battles and new and interesting characters keep your interest peaked.

The game is perfect for quick sessions and for longer ones. The combat system is interesting and pretty easy to get the hang of but can be hard to master. And the dialogue is excellent with a good enough overall story. It's also really really addicitive. I'd recommend it to everyone but especially those who enjoy or are good at puzzle games.


Pretty much anyone who's into gaming or owns a PSP has heard of this game. There has never been a game quite like it, it is unique in terms of presentation and gameplay and it succeeds very well in both areas.

The premise of the game is that you are the god of a tribe of small, bipedal, one eyed warriors who wish you to guide them to Earthend in order to find IT so that they may have eternal bliss, peace and safety. This premise works extremely well in the game and I love the god aspect. Because the game is on the PSP, a small portable device, you really get the feeling like you are the god of these little warriors and it is your responsibility and your right to guide these Patapon to Earthend. In between missions, when the Patapon are partying after a hunt or just sitting around they will constantly call you by your chosen name, asking you for help or just praising you for a victory or a successful hunt. The presentation of the game is fantastic feels very well rounded and gives a great overall experience, ensuring you enjoy all of the gameplay and not just the battles.

The gameplay is basically a rhythm game in which you must give your orders in time with the 4 beat drum-beat of battle. You give your orders with godly drums of your own. There are four in total and each is assigned to a different face button. There are a number of commands though you start your first battle with two unlocked, Pata and Pon, which are assigned to Square and Circle respectively. The two commands you start off with are Pata, Pata, Pata, Pon which makes the Patapon move forward and Pon, Pon, Pata, Pon which orders them to attack. You unlock new drums and new orders (like defend) as you progress through the game.

There is a background drumbeat and a border around the screen which also moves along with the beat to help with timing. So when you give an order, the Patapon sing the order (taking a another 4 beats) and then you give another order. If you keep your orders running one after the other the Patapon go into fever mode which increases their speed and combat efficiency. It is more difficult to keep the orders running in this mode with the detection system using a much smaller range for error but it's still possible and obviously the longer you keep it going the better. It can be difficult to beat some bosses if you don't get fever mode before attacking them and then keep Fever mode while attacking them.

Now while the gameplay may sound simple it is also quite deep and tactical. Firstly you can collect items and weapons during battles when you defeat enemies which the Patapon can then use in subsequent battles. You unlock new Patapon souls or types as you progress also... you begin the game with archers and basic infantry but can unlock long-bowmen and cavalry as well. However since you can only use 3 types of Patapon in any battle you must choose your Patapon carefully. For a simple example you shouldn't use infantry men for hunting because they have to get too close to attack and the animals will smell them. Neither can you use Cavalry as the animals hate the smell of horses and flee the entire map if they smell them.

During the lulls between battles you can visit a magic tree, or the chef and use the food that you hunt for to create new items. Also if a Patapon falls in battle and you collect its hat you can revive the soldier afterwards by burying it.

The gameplay can get quite difficult at times and some grinding is required in order to get the experience and equipment needed to beat some of the later bosses. However it is still a great game, challenging, long, new and unique, definitely a must experience if not a must buy. You will never play anything like it and the quality of the presentation alone merits a try.

Sid Meier's Pirates

This is a very fun game. There have been many iterations of this game, I have no idea if this is the best but it is very good. As the title suggests you play as a swashbuckling young Pirate out to make a fortune of gold-bullion, battle ships, have sword-fights with mortal enemies and retire a rich, happy and wealthy man. As with all of Sid Meier's games there is a ridiculous amount of replayability. Firstly there are 5 difficulty settings. Then there are five eras though only the easiest era is available on the easiest difficulty setting. You can play any of the other eras on any of the other difficulties. And then there are 4 countries, one of which you start the game allied to. So overall there are almost a hundred combinations in which to start the game. Also you can retire your man whenever you want which I think is a very nice touch if you feel you have been playing that game for too long. Then just create a new character and off you go again.

If you have liked any of Sid Meier's previous games you will probably like this. Any interest in pirates obviously helps. However I'd recommend everyone give it a shot. Some of the minigames may seem a little outdated in terms of control though one is extremely like a very popular tactical GBA game called Advance Wars... not as complex or as deep mind you, after all it's a minigame but still there are a large number of similarities. Overall the game is easy to get into and play and I've had a really good time playing it.

Worms: Open Warfare 2

I've always loved the worms games. From the memorable anthem, the few well made, truly funny cut-scenes, the crazy weapons and.. well... the fact that they're worms. And this is the definitive worms game.

If you've never played worms before, you basically create a team of worms (you can customise their names, voices, colour and clothing) and they are scattered randomly across a 2D map and you have to reduce the other teams health to zero. To do this you have a number of weapons a abilities. Some of the weapons include the usual bazooka, shotgun etc. and then move onto sheep, a flying sheep, a concrete donkey, banana bombs, holy hand grenades and even a kamikaze... the list goes on. To get around the environments there are a number of tools such as blowtorches and drills. There is also a Ninja Rope, a Jetpack and a number of other handy items. The game is quite tactical, you must take wind into account when shooting and you have to be very skilful to score direct hits. And you'll need to think one or two steps ahead to win.

The game is very charming, has a long campaign and extra puzzle levels where you have limited tools to defeat an enemy or have to get from A to B in a really unorthodox way (like sitting on a cylinder of fuel and use a bazooka to blow it up... that'll send you flying). You can play online, both ad-hoc and infrastructure. The cut-scenes between each setting during the campaign are genuinely funny and had me actually laughing.

It's a great title, perfect for handheld play or for lengthier session and it's perfect for all ages. No matter what age you are you'll probably enjoy this game.

More coming soon.

Updated 05-19-2009 at 02:00 AM by Burrich