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Sony PSP - a month later

The games

Of course, the whole point of buying the PSP is to play games. So what of them?

Well, like most, I picked up the Japanese version of Ridge Racer with my console, and played it to death until the PSP was released Stateside, and English-language titles were widely available. Since then, I've grabbed Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix and Lumines.

Sony PSP - a month later Games Sony PSP - a month later Games
The most immediately amazing thing about Ridge Racers and Underground Remix are the graphics: some of the sunset effects in RR are absolutely unbelieveable. Underground Remix doesn't look as good as the PS2 version - in fact, one of the major problems with it is that there is a little too much aliasing because so much of the game - electricity wires, barriers etc - is made of straight lines.

Sound quality is as you'd expect, really: using the built-in speakers is somewhat tragic, but plug in some headphones, and the audio is easily comparable to an MP3 player, with the UMD's storing audio without using too much noticeable compression.

The most overwhelming thing about the PSP gaming experience is just how different it is, yet with an unmistakable familiarity. Anyone who's played one of the current generation consoles will feel immediately at home here. Transitioning from the PS2 or the Xbox to gaming on the PSP causes no problems whatsoever, and the conversions of the top titles play exactly as you'd expect, right down to button configurations.

The bizarre thing is that every so often, it kicks in that you're doing this with a handheld. Honestly, picking up a GameBoy Advance or Nintendo DS after playing with the PSP feels like picking up a toy. The DS has got some brilliant games available, and the touch screen has really led to some great innovations, and the GBA still has plenty of awesome titles. That said, they're just not in the same league as the PSP, which has the same mainstream appeal as the PS2 did, by providing high-quality graphics with familiar titles and licenses. It's difficult to explain the almost 'adult' quality that the PSP has. (Steady on - there'll be no jokes about 'adult' handheld gaming here young man! -Ed)

Sony PSP - a month later Games
Ridge Racer itself is a cracking game that almost every PSP owner has played to death. The cars look great, and the handling is fantastic - the game makes use of the analogue 'slider' for car control, and you can pull off pixel-perfect overtaking moves with a bit of practice.

The sensation of speed is spot-on, and some of the backgrounds are simply breathtaking. There's not a hint of slow-down either, although the disc access times between levels are a little long.

Sony PSP - a month later Games
Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix is a conversion of the original, but with some added levels thrown into the mix. Perhaps the strangest thing about this version of the game is the widescreen perspective, which seems to cramp your view a little at times - it's almost as if the game's developers cut the top off a 4:3 screen to make it 16:9, rather than adding extra onto the sides.

Everything that you love about the series is there, with a full music quotient, create-a-skater, missions, and the like. The game suffers from a few audio bugs, where the sound can cut-out in a cut-scene occasionally, but there's nothing to stop the show. If there's a major difference from the console versions, it's the use of the D-Pad for control, rather than the analogue stick. There's no option to change this, which is a little aggravating.

Sony PSP - a month later Games
Lumines is really the sleeper hit of the release titles for the PSP. It's a simple, Tetris-esque concept: blocks fall from the sky in groups of 4, and each block is one of two colours. Make a square out of 4 blocks of the same colour, and continue ad infinitum.

The hook is that the backgrounds, the block 'skins' and the music all change, depending on how you're playing. It's hypnotic, and absolutely, insanely addictive. Forget the Crackberry handheld email, Lumines will keep you hooked by allowing you to discover new techniques and tricks every time you play, and consequently hooking you right back in. I think that Penny Arcade sum it up pretty well.


From my cold, dead hands

When I initially bought the PSP, I figured it would be like most of my other gadgets - extortionatly priced on import, fiddled with for a few weeks and then hocked on eBay. Not a chance. The range and quality of games available has meant that it's actually replace my Xbox and PC as my primary game-playing device over the last month - after taking 2 weeks to play through Tony Hawk's, I've spent another two weeks solid glued to Lumines. You can take it anywhere, play it anywhere, and a fully-3D gaming experience can be carried around in your bag wherever you go. Personally, I can't wait until someone converts Timesplitters for this thing.

And all of this without ever touching on multiplayer (I don't know anyone that has one yet), battery life (you get 5 hours - stick it on the mains at night and avoid worries for the next day) or the fact that Grand Theft Auto is going to be out before Christmas.

The revolution won't be televised. It's going to be carried in your jacket pocket.

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