Sunday, July 29, 2007

PSP Holiday Review

Home, sweet home, I'm back from my holidays. During three weeks a PSP was my only gaming device. So did the PSP do what I wanted it to do, give me a sufficient dose of computer gaming fun in the absence of bigger computers and consoles? Here's the review:

The Good

I played 4 games from start to finish, all of which I liked very much: Puzzle Quest, the two Metal Gear Acid games, and Field Commander. I had another 4 games with me that I also liked, but didn't play that much: Worms Open Warfare, Sid Meier's Pirates, Everybody's Golf, and Lego Star Wars The Original Trilogy. Of these especially Worms and Golf seem more suited for a quick game in the train or while waiting for something, and not so much for playing it for many hours. But that is fine, the PSP is suitable for both styles.

The PSP kept me entertained throughout my holidays, whenever I needed entertainment beyond going to the beach or taking walks with the wife. I also brought books, which I ended up not reading. And on an "hours of entertainment per weight / volume" the PSP easily beats books; I put the 9 UMD game discs and the manuals, plus the PSP and charger in a small bag I had once bought for transporting my Gameboy. All in all that was smaller and less weight than the Lord of the Rings trilogy I had with me. And though that is a big book with nearly 1200 pages, I can read it in the same time it takes me to play through one PSP game.

The Bad

I was disappointed by Tales of Eternia, mostly because I didn't like the twitchy combat that didn't leave enough room for tactical decisions beyond mashing buttons. I'm still looking for a good turn-based RPG for the PSP.

I also had a few crashes, which I found unusual, as I never had a Gameboy crash on me. But other than that there was nothing really bad to report.

The Ugly

Two very general things in this category: other PSP features and money. Let's talk about money first. Single-player games are much shorter than MMORPGs. So if you buy a PSP game for $40 and then play it through in 20 hours, you paid $2 per hour. Compare that to World of Warcraft, which with 12 monthly fees and one game or expansion box to buy costs you $200 per year. If you play 20 hours per week, each hour costs you $0.20, and thus is ten times cheaper. Of course that doesn't include the price of the platform and the internet connection, but that is hard to calculate, because you don't use your PC and internet only for WoW. Still, I didn't list the PSP games cost under "bad", because that is just the price you pay for being mobile.

The ugly thing about the other PSP features is that I didn't use them during my holidays. Yeah, the PSP can theoretically connect to the internet via WiFi. But not only is the browser fiddly to use, but the whole concept relies on you having WiFi internet access. That might happen in a business hotel, but not in a holiday resort. The PSP can also play videos, music, or show photos. For experimenting I had transformed a CSI DVD into the PSP format, and stored it and some songs on my PSP, but I never watched the videos or played the songs. For a video player the PSP is too small, and for a music player too big. I'm certainly not going to buy a movie on a UMD disc, which costs the same as a DVD, and can only be played on the small screen PSP. And if I needed a music player I'd buy one the size of a USB key. The only extra feature I did use was looking at photos, as my wife has a Sony digital camera using the same type of Memory Stick, and the PSP screen is bigger than the LCD screen on the camera. But other than that I used the PSP exclusively as a handheld gaming console. Which makes you wonder how well a "PSP Lite" without all those useless extra features would sell, as it would be cheaper.

So, all in all I was happy enough having brought my PSP. It wasn't perfect, but certainly better than going cold turkey and living three weeks without computer games. I could have survived just spending the time reading or watching TV, but playing games on the PSP was preferable

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