It’s been a while since we’ve had a look at some of the PSP’s Minis, mainly because of the PSN crisis and recently a lot of them looked like complete pump. There hasn’t exactly been a deluge of titles since PSN resumed normal service either. Two of the three games we’re looking at today come free with PlayStation Plus, which some gamers might still have as a part of their Welcome Back package.
Just look at that name. That’s f**king awesome. Man, I wanted this to be awesome. After almost chewing the skin off my knuckles on more than one occasion, I’ll have to settle for ‘pretty good.’
Ninjamurai is a 2D side-scrolling platformer, with a few beat em’ up elements too. The swordplay is a little on the weak side as attacks never feel solid and lack in variety. The throwing knives feel more deadly. Most of the game’s challenge comes from its old school approach to platforming.
Welcome to this week's Playstation Store roundup, where the big news is that Fallout New Vegas: Dead Money expansion pack is no longer a Microsoft exclusive. This store update has now added the DLC to the marketplace- which we highly recommend checking out.
As far as new games are concerned, relaxing (and completely inexplicable) casual hit The Undergarden has made it to PSN- along with the third Alien Breed Title. However, PSP owners are in for a major treat with Tactics Ogre: one of the best tactical RPGs of all time.
In terms of deals, this latest update has brought another massive saving on PSP minis (a smorgasbord of which are down to 99p) as well as a slew of more traditional offerings. Alien Breed: Assault and Impact are both down to a bargain price, as well as a continuation of the £19.99 DC Universe Online 90 day subscription offer.Click here to see the deals- or click the banner to take a look at the blog
We kind of love Armor Games here at Dealspwn. They were a regular staple of Matt's Click To Play column in the early parts of last year, and they've built up a cracking stable of indie developers looking to offer some really nicely polished and fantastically addictive gaming experiences for absolutely free. It's no surprise that when Apple offered a superlative crossover platform for casual gaming, it'd only be a matter of time before we saw some of Armor's finest appear in the App Store. So it was that Shift found its way onto the iPhone and now, stuffed with twice as much content, the game's finally come to the PSN.
As a part of a strange experiment you're tasked with escaping each room using your Shift ability in this maze-treading, platforming puzzler. If you're a fan of games like Exit, Crush or Echochrome, you're going to love this. It's even better.
To reach the exit door, you must activate a 'Shift' (L or R button) to invert the game world. You can move along the white background or change to travel the opposite black side. When a Shift is activated you sink into the ground and the world is flipped 180 degrees. Shifts can only be performed when your feet are planted on the ground. So when confronted with a spiked column, just change it around so it's a hole to jump over. Still confused? Have a quick look at the video below.
It doesn't take long to adapt to the gameplay, the biggest problem is usually keeping track of where you are when the world has stopped flipping around. You'll need to have your wits with you to avoid getting pushing off platforms by moving blocks or impaled by spike traps. Thankfully the controls are perfectly responsive and although your jumping height is locked you can change direction mid-air.
For anyone that may have downloaded this side-scrolling shooter when it was first released, you have my sympathies. It wasn't just you, it was ridiculously and miserably tough.
Thankfully Laughing Jackal listened to the fan feedback and have since re-released a new version on PSN. If you've already downloaded the game just delete it and download it from your PSN account again to get the new version at no extra cost. I'll explain the improvements throughout the rest of this review.
For new players, Ace Armstrong is a bright and sharply drawn shooter that wears its old school badge with pride. So expect to be on the receiving end of plenty of one-hit-kills and swarming enemies. Your ship is a bit too big for navigating the cluttered levels and avoiding buildings, lasers and enemy vessels. However, the hit detection around your ship is 25% more forgiving since the update, meaning you can get away with shots that just 'graze' the edge of the ship. It's still nails though.
The easier difficulty settings now actually feel easier. Enemy ships take less shots to kill and there are continues for when you run out of lives. Some enemies leave a cloud of coloured plasma for you to vacuum up to get a secondary fire function such as concentrated fire, tri-directional, shotgun or mortars. It doesn't take as long to collect them as before the update, but it's still usually more trouble than it's worth. Traditional floating pick-ups will always be better.
Platforms: PSP | PS3 compatible
Developer: Laughing Jackal
Publisher: Laughing Jackal
Guitar Hero and Rock Band have made the traditional button-controlled rhythm-action game obsolete thanks to their Fisher Price-style range of plastic instruments. However, those of you who'd like to see the return of games like PaRappa the Rapper and Frequency might want to take a look at Vibes.
Vibes is a PSP Mini released last year that passed most of us by with barely a whisper. However, I recently gave it a go and decided it was well worth a mention as it's one of the finest Minis I've played in ages.
Notes represented by the four PlayStation symbols, fly towards the centre of the screen where you control a pointer in a circular zone, to aim at them and hit the corresponding face button as the icon gets to your circle. Hit it bang on halfway for perfect points and the circle flashes green. Too early but still touching your zone will net you less points, while hitting a note too late will result in a saddening red glow. If you really want to enjoy Vibes, then play it on your PS3. The analogue stick is much-better suited to the gameplay compared with the PSP's stiff and inaccurate nub. If you ever have to look down at your pad when a game prompts you press a specific button, then you might want to avoid this for a while as it'll eat you alive.
You'll be attacked from all sides by the invading notes, that aren't restricted to coming in from their sides of your control pad, X from below, O from the right and so on. They will some times though just to lure you into a false sense of security, before cheekily swapping the O and Square ones around. Get ready for different speeds and angles later on too, meaning you'll need to make quick decisions about which ones are going to arrive first.
Platform: PSP Minis
To all PSP Minis developers: more simple games like this please. At £1.99 this is ideal for a quick blast. This shoot 'em up title has you controlling an Apache helicopter for 99 levels of traditional side-scrolling shooting. It's simple, fun, and it shares a similar art style to the Metal Slug games. What more could you ask for at £1.99?
The controls are responsive and the helicopter feels nippy but weighty as it tilts forwards and backwards with momentum allowing you to fire upwards or downwards sometimes without having to move up and down yourself, handy for staying in one piece under a torrent of missile fire. Enemies go down very easily and you can take quite a lot of damage as you have a health bar rather than having to cower under a one-hit-kill policy. It's a balance we can all enjoy.
You start with default machine guns that get an extra shot or two after a handful of levels. Small missiles are fired at the same time if you have them in stock. Extra weapons, 1up lives and health packs can be found parachuting pack down to earth from destroyed enemies. Large rockets, lasers, bombs are all useful in their own way. The only dud weapon is the nuke, that works well for a quick screen clearing, but is useless for boss fights.
Enemies vary from fighter jets, choppers and solo-troop pods in the sky, and tanks, turrets and speed boats below. Things start off easily enough, but by level 8, there are swarms of enemies hurling bullets and missiles at your chubby chopper.
After sneaking around on the DS and PC under the ‘Real Crimes’ banner, Jack the Ripper brings his mystery to the PSP Minis platform with this hidden object / puzzle game.
For those of you not familiar to the hidden object genre, you are presented with a cluttered screen filled with a ridiculously wide range of objects. The objects here all fit the setting of the late 1800s. Using a cursor you must find the items listed on your left. The graphics are well drawn and generally static apart from the odd bit of rain for example. The music sets a quietly sinister tone while the ambient noises add a decent touch of atmosphere to the game.
You can opt to play one of two ways. The Rookie setting will let you play through the game casually, while Detective mode will impose a time limit upon you and will remove ten seconds from your timer for every wrong item you select. You’re given plenty of time, but it would have been nice to see some sort of scoring system included.
The plot of the game has you investigating various suspects to discover the identity of The Ripper by visiting various London locations, the only really recognisable one being Piccadilly Circus. Other locations include barber shops, pubs, offices and bedrooms. Some locations are revisited in the same playthrough which feels a bit cheap even with different list of objects to find.Click here to read the rest of Brendan's review.
Platforms: PSP (reviewed) | PS3 compatible | iPhone
Developer: Invictus Games
Publisher: Invictus Games
How annoying are flies? The dumb bastards come in from outside and spend the rest of your hangover bouncing off the window despite you closing the curtain and opening a window. Well next time you roll up a magazine, just beware, he might know Fly Fu.
This is a simple side-scrolling beat 'em up. How simple? Well, all the backgrounds are basic grey pencil drawings on white paper and the cutscenes are basically doodles. But this only helps add to the game's charm. The game has no pretentions as instead of saying 'loading' it will say 'doodling.'
You are a fly on a mission to rescue your bride to be (Kate Moth) who is stolen on your wedding day by some bigger insects. It's like a really simple plot from Dragon Age. No? Ok then. Each stage takes around ten minutes to complete by strutting from the left side of the level to the right and slapping every insect in sight. The insects vary for each level and every level has a boss too. The insects are in colour and are possibly animated photos. It's all a bit cheap and cheesy like South Park.
Fighting is really basic with X and O being used for melee strikes. Pressing them in conjunction with forward or double tap combinations will result in various amusing Fly Fu martial arts. The fly can also pick up weapons like matchsticks and pins. The most fun is when you activate 'Berserk' mode after using standard fight moves to fill the bar -it fills up nice and quick too- letting you unleash your true Fly Fu skills as you don some red boxing gloves and a kamikaze bandana and take out enemies with one satisfying hit that will smash them into pieces. If you nail a group with a flashy move (forwards and O is a good place to start) you're treated to a cool slow motion finisher.Click here to read the rest of Brendan's review.
*COMPETITION NOW CLOSED
My earlier review wasn't exactly flattering to this game. But don't let that put you off a free copy. Yes if you've got a European PSN account we've got a code for you to own the game too.
You never know, you might like it. Ed Wood had fans too. The game drops you off on a series of islands with a list of prehistoric terrors to gun down for points in this FPS that has decent movement controls for a change on the PSP. There are some non-list dinos that won't give you any points so just leave those poor things alone. Chances are if something is running towards you and showing teeth, it's on your naughty list. The maps are expansive and the game will last you quite a while, just don't be expecting Monster Hunter. It is only a PSP Minis title after all.
If tracking down dinosaurs armed with tiny supplies of ammo sounds like a challenge that you'd like to try then simply enter your name below and don't forget your email address.
*The code will only work on Euro PSN accounts.
Platforms: PSP (reviewed) | PS3 compatible | iPhone
Developer: Tatem Games
More Poundsaver Turok than Monster Hunter for this PSP Minis title. You roam across several islands hunting dinosaurs with modern weaponry. There's no plot, just here's a gun, kill as much as you can, then return to base. Rinse and repeat.
The landscapes are just so deserted. Without the radar you're only going to come across small dinosaurs that aren't on your specified hunting list. It's like going to a safari park that's mainly populated with the dino equivalents of dogs and squirrels.
The environmental graphics are bland but the dinosaur animations have a slight charm to them, even if it’s just because you’re grateful to see something move once in a while. If the maps had been a little smaller there might have been more room for a bit of polish.
The rest of the game's presentation is sorely lacking. The menus only respond to pressing up and down even though most of things are side-by-side. Navigation through them is often slow and unresponsive too. The map screen also seems to be possessed, as when you leave it on while moving and travel in an apparently straight line you can see your ‘this is you’ dot change directions several times over.Click here to read the rest of Brendan's review.
Platforms: PSP (also PS3 compatible)
Developer: Frima Studio
Publisher: Frima Studio
Young Thor is a traditional side-scrolling platformer / beat ‘em up title. It follows the journey of Thor on his way to rescue four maidens from Hel, ruler of the Norse Underworld.
Combat is pleasingly simple and the lack of depth is hidden by the way you can attack enemies in different body parts for better effects. Numbers fly off enemies to indicate the damage done and when these numbers turn yellow, you know you’ve just discovered a weak spot. For example, the best way to deal with the tall trolls is to jump over them, turn around in mid-air and give them a crack to the back of the head. Another awesome attack is the ground pound where you shake the ground with a hammer blow from a jump, which lifts everyone up into the air for a bit of juggling. More standard moves include normal, strong, and lightning attacks which can also be charged by holding the button. Charing normal attacks results in a rising uppercut.
Enemies are traditional fare for this sort of title, namely goblins, trolls giant spiders, huge armoured knights howling banshees and undead warriors. Most of them can be quite troublesome in the later levels with their epic health reserves. If you are finding things a little tough you can always come back and get revenge later when you’re a bit stronger.Click here to read the rest of Brendan's review.
Formats: PSP (also PS3 compatible)
Developer: Rake in Grass
Publisher: Rake in Grass
£2.49 and 191 levels. BAM! That’s what we call a good deal.
This is a 2D puzzle/platforming game that starts off with easy puzzles before soon leaving you scratching your head wondering what the hell to do next. You control Archibald on his skateboard trying to find his way out of Professor Klumpfus’ creepy mansion/laboratory by hopping across gaps, avoiding mutants, flicking switches, moving boxes and teleporting, with the aim of reaching the exit door for each of the levels.
Archibald jumps automatically where needed just by pushing the controls left or right. He can jump ‘one block’ high or across. If he has roughly three blocks of open space he’ll be able to get a bit of speed going to clear bigger gaps.
Early on you get to use the bubble gun which can be used to fire large bubblegum-like spheres which can move crates around. You can float the bubble through gaps and upwards to reach otherwise inaccessible switches too. Things get more complicated as you go with some barriers blocking your bubbles, or you’ll have to use explosives to clear the way. You’ll even get a cool machine to replace your skateboard, a human metal hamster-ball which can grab onto metal surfaces and crush blocks.
Considering the large amount of levels, it’s surprising to see how often new elements are introduced to keep you interested. Puzzles constantly shift from working out how to create smooth surfaces for running jumps, creating staircases, or gently moving a crate through the air with a bubble being careful not to burst it on the spikey vines sticking out everywhere. Timing, logic, balance and brave jump-judging all come into play to create a gripping experience.Click here to read the rest of Brendan's review.
Formats: PSP (also PS3 compatible)
Developer: Tag Games
Publisher: Tag Games
It’s been a while since I’ve dusted of my old PS1 GTA games, so will this be a nostalgic experience or a grim reminder of why some titles are best left in the past?
The top-down view in the crime-sim raises obvious comparisons with the old GTA games, but for a £3.49 PSP Minis title it definitely has my attention.
Missions will be familiar to any fan of the genre. Drive here, pick up this or shoot that being fairly consistent themes. The in-game clock matches that of the real-world PSP clock. Some missions may only be available at a certain time so you may have to dither around for a while. This makes it even more annoying when you fail.
Failing missions in most games would give you another shot at it, but in a tribute to the old GTA games, you’ve had it. Or you’ll at least have to wait till tomorrow (literally) before it appears again. The money you earn from missions is used to pay off your epic mob debts in stages, which is the means of progression in the game. The main missions pay the big money, but if you exhaust them all for the day, you can deliver pizza, make taxi runs, steal cars and so on for smaller sums of money.
There are hidden packages to find and random goals to activate such as blowing up 20 cars, that suddenly appear onscreen, but they aren’t listed anywhere so you never feel compelled to just run around exploring or going postal like you do in GTA.Click here to see how this GTA clone turns out...
Formats: PSP (PS3 compatible)
Developer: G5 Entertainment
Publisher: G5 Entertainment
Hidden object games are a nice match for the PSP Minis range, with their relaxed nature passing the time on a commute or ad break with ease. Route 66 scored well with a 7 a few months ago, so let’s see what G5 Entertainment can come up with.
There’s an actual story here, as a young archaeologist (that absolutely does not look like Lara Croft) is searching for her father who went missing while searching for the Crystal Portal. It’s not exactly Fallout 3, but the effort is appreciated.
The levels take place around the world in America, Japan, the Swiss Alps, Guatemala, Africa and Russia; usually in a temple or villager’s hut/cave. Rather than have a list of items at the bottom of the screen to find you have to drag your cursor around the screen until it becomes a hand. Clicking on the item will then open up a sub-window with some black and white pictures of the items you need to find. Once you have found them, the original item you clicked may move to reveal something. There are typically five items with their own sub-collections in each screen.Click here to read the rest of Brendan's review.
Format: PSP (PS3 compatible)
Developer: G5 Entertainment
Publisher: G5 Entertainment
The launch of Minis on the PSP has been the best thing to happen on the underused console for years. Even the cack games only set you back a few quid. Mahjongg Artifacts (their spelling) doesn’t have to worry about such things and is well worth the £3.99 asking price.
We get the feeling this version of the ancient game is a bit simpler than the original, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be hooked within minutes. All you have to do is match up pairs of identical blocks, that have pictures on them. Some fall into groups like Roman numerals, Egyptian eyes and so on. Some blocks from the same group can be paired despite being different, such as flowers, weather icons or theatre masks. Special glowing blocks can be paired with any of its kind or suit.
The game feels like a hybrid of solitaire and Bejeweled 2. Every time you get rid of a block the one next to it becomes available for selection, so you sometimes need to plan your route. If you do mess up and reach a ‘no more moves available’ situation you can either start the level again (pftt!) or simply reshuffle the remaining pieces and carry on.
My only real gripe with the whole game is the clunky block selection. Using the d-pad should make it simple to select available blocks. However, there’s a strange auto-selectness to things, as it tries to find the nearest block, so rather than going directly left, it’ll go upwards left. You’ll get used to it, but it can interrupt your flow sometimes.Click here to read the rest of Brendan's review...
Another block puzzle game for the PSP. It’s simple, colourful and cheap. What’s not to like?
The setup is very similar to the classic Lumines games. Blocks come down from the top in three different colours, either in squares of four, a block of six or a line of three. Rotate them on their way down to line up five of the same vertically or horizontally. Try and get as many connected to the line as possible for a combo. The last block of the five needs to be put in last as you can’t add to a highlighted group afterwards like you can in Lumines. After the timer at the side of the screen reaches zero, a line will sweep down from the top and clear away any linked squares. Sometimes it takes ages to arrive, 25 seconds can feel like a lifetime when your screen is filling up.
And that’s it really, don’t let the pile reach the top and keep going. As you progress through the levels, the background may change as will the shapes of your blocks. You’ll have hexagons, balls and solid squares for example. The squares are the best as they’re much clearer onscreen.Click here to read the rest of Brendan's review.
Dealspwn Rating: 5/10
Platforms: PSP (also PS3 compatible)
Deflector is a basically designed yet challenging puzzle game, similar to some mini-games you may have played in bigger titles before. The aim is to deflect a laser beam into a receiver on a complex grid with you looking at it from above.
This is done by placing mirrors on the grid and rotating them to bounce the laser off in a new direction. Before setting the mirror in place you must make sure -via a dotted line that indicates the resulting path of the laser- that it will not hit any environmental objects that will end the game. These objects include apartments, trees, bombs and explosive barrels. Take a quick look at this video for an example of the early levels.
It’s a simple premise that gets more difficult once multiple lasers get involved. Using triangular prisms along with mirrors, you can split one laser into two different coloured lasers. This added difficulty means you really have to plan ahead by placing several mirrors out ahead to catch the new lasers.
Unfortunately this means a lot of guesswork and trial and error. You only have a small budget for mirrors and prisms, misplaced mirrors can be removed but you won’t get the money back, so you may as well restart. Check out this video of a smart-arse nailing a typically mental level.
Once the game surrounds you with un-laserable property and starts asking you to use lasers to travel across holes and activate switches, it turns into a dull memory game of remembering where to place mirrors that did work and ones that don’t. Hitting restart over and over for the smallest mistake does not make for a fun game.
The Short Version: Looking after one laser was relatively fun, but as soon as the prisms get involved the game turns into a quagmire of trial and error and memory testing mundaneness.
Dealspwn Rating 7/10
Platforms: PSP (also PS3 compatible)
Forget all thoughts of motorbikes and possible cheap Road Rash thrills right now. This is a game that has more in common with the Where’s Waldo books that everyone had in the 1990s, albeit considerably less congested. It’s actually pretty damn good too.
Instead of looking for people, you use a cursor to find eight objects cleverly hidden onscreen in a scene picture from one of the many locations along the eponymous Route 66. You scroll around the picture with the analogue stick and move a cursor with the d-pad, selecting items with X. The items can range from broccoli to Buddha’s, hazelnuts to harmonicas and pinecones to peace signs. They’re very specific too, so don’t go thinking boot means shoe or anything like that.
They might be hidden against something similar in shape and colour to camouflage them. Or sometimes as a shadow, printed on the sky for example. Logic’s just out the window; they could be anywhere and any colour.
While you only have to find eight objects, there are many others scattered around and the tick-list will change every time you play it, although the location of the items won’t. There are 24 levels though, so it can remain a fresh experience for a while.
You are rated on each level for time taken, finding score, quick bonus and penalty (too many wrong guesses). There is a time limit for each level, but it’s unlikely to trouble you. It’s a shame there aren’t any other modes. One where you have to find all the items in each level would have been ideal.
Once you get into the swing of it you’ll hammer through it in an hour or two, but at least there’s replay value added by looking for different items next time.
The Short Version: This type of game might be more familiar on the PC or as a puzzle book, but I found it to be one of the most entertaining PSP Minis I’ve played in ages. There’s just something so compulsive about it, that’s perfect for playing for a few minutes or trying to hammer through it all in one go.