Tag: PSP

lara croft: tomb raider legend

Progress: Halfway
Very few travel companions are quite as pretty as the legendary Lara Croft. I’ve been glued to my PSP the past few weeks during my morning and afternoon commutes. I’ve seem to have developed a good working relationship with Miss Croft, solving puzzles and discovering new uses for motorcycles. She was nice enough to join me in person this morning for a chat, let’s see how it went:
LARA CROFT: Does it always smell this much down here?
ME: Well, yea, NYC subways are about as dirty as it comes but I’m sure you’ve seen much worse in your travels.
LARA: Interesting you should say, why, in the game Tomb Raider Legend I traveled to the Himalayas, the cliffs of Bolivia, Japan, Ghana, I even parachuted into Kazakhstan.
ME: Lets talk about that first location. This story has a flashback into your past we haven’t seen before. How do you feel about that?
LARA: I think it gives people a look into how I was brought up but also valuable clues about my childhood “friend” Amanda.
ME: Wasn’t she dead?
LARA: That is, what I thought…
The train then arrives with a gust of wind that catches Lara’s hair, blowing it up behind her making her look more majestic than ever. With the ring of the train horn, the doors close behind us and we enter the crowded, rush hour train. Even with all the morning congestion we manage to find two seats adjacent to one another.
LARA: Must they stand in the doorway? It doesn’t seem an efficient way to fill the train with the most passengers.
ME: Yea, that happens.
LARA: It’s as if they are trying to aggravate me, do you think they would like to learn a lesson I first learned studying with the Royal Marines?
ME: Woah, woah.. lets get back to the game. Speaking of aggravating, can you tell us more about the wonky camera controls?
LARA: They hardly do me justice. I can complete some complex puzzles and amazing climbs but my games have yet to grasp the camera work just right.
ME: For veterans of the Tomb Raider franchise this isn’t anything new. With games like Uncharted 3 to compare controls, it is hard to measure up. That said, this is some of the best controls I’ve seen on the PSP. I rarely find myself button mashing and climbing feels natural with a movement of your thumb.
LARA: (Looking over my PSP) It is cute.
ME: I was happy to see the inclusion of the motorcycle chase and swimming sections. Those levels, while quick, are a great way to break up the gameplay in the story.
LARA: I am skilled at many motor vehicles its only natural that content was included.
ME: (Bites lip at a sudden “woman driver” comment that would probably get me killed) What about your R&D team? I see they are back helping you navigate through your comm link. Didn’t Zip die?

LARA: That was Bryce and it was just a movie, darling. My games are more accurate to the actual events.

ME: About movies, your sure to have heard comparisons to Nathan Drake before. Any advice for the soon-to-be movie star?

LARA: Yea, well, we’ll see how his movie does.

The train is reaching my midtown stop. I fiddle with the handle of my bag while getting ready to get off the train. I start to wonder where the day will take Miss Croft.

ME: This is me, where you heading today anyway

LARA: The Museum of Natural History, darling. They seem to have found something they would like me to take a look at.

Of course.


I never get tired of watching this girl climb

resident evil: director’s cut


ESRB RATING: M for Mature
Progress: Finished

Interesting or irritating? That depends on your sense of nostalgia for the Resident Evil (RE) series. I (and for the sake of this review) am leaning towards interesting. Resident Evil in its original incarnation was more of a puzzle game than the survival horror/shooter franchise it has become. Once called “The Greatest Game Series of All Time” Resident Evil games have a special place in my game collection but how does the original game play now? Can I play it on my PSP now as a PSOne classic?

You bet I can and did.
There are two things I want to get out of the way when discussing the original RE. First, with this recent play through of mine I am finally proud to say I have finished the game. I never had the PSOne, the system this game was released on first, back in 1996. My first experience was with the remakes for the NGC. I’m not too proud to admit that I was too scared to finish and didn’t even make it to the second disk.
 See the uncut version of the opening cut scene here
Second, there was a strange decision made to have a live action cut scene at the beginning of the story. This was America’s first introduction to beloved RE characters Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Rebecca Chambers and Albert Wesker; all of which have reappeared in the continuing franchise. This cut scene was a pretty neat feature in 1996 but really dates the product today. Some of the wonkiness of the cut scene might be explained by it being edited down from the Japanese release for length and gore. For a game that creates suspense and scares, the voice acting is comically bad. With lines such as “Quick, head for that mansion” or “I’m sorry for my lack of manners, but I’m not used to escorting men.” In fact the whole game’s dialog is right up there with Duke Nukem‘s sexism and subtlety. Luckily, this hokey cut scene does what it needs to do, introducing the characters, setting the scene then going away.

A series of bizarre murders has been reported in an area outside of Raccoon City. Possible reports of cannibalism. The police department of Raccoon City wastes no time sending its S.T.A.R.S. agents to the scene. Broken into two teams, Bravo was sent in first. Communication was lost with the Bravo team so the Alpha team is sent to investigate. Immediately after being dropped by helicopter, the Alpha team is attacked by morbidly deformed dogs. The encounter with the dogs does not go well, the three remaining agents find shelter in a nearby mansion. As you might guess this mansion is much more than it seems.

My play through clocked in at just under ten hours. That was ten hours of edge-of-your-seat exploration and puzzle solving. Aside from the obvious zombie slaying, the game play is mostly puzzle solving. Solving each puzzle will get you into the next part of the mansion. Some puzzles are very Zelda-like, moving statues and lining up lights. Others involve collecting a few items to unlock another area. The rewards in this game come from opening up a new section of the mansion which in turn provides story-reveals about the mansion, the zombies and how the shady corporation, Umbrella, is involved.
Gameplay restricts you to holding 6 items on your person, making it a puzzle in and of it’s self. This is managed through careful use of ammo and game saves and the storage box. Ammo is in short reserve and it can even be advisable to run past some zombies rather than shoot them to conserve. Games saves come in the form of using the scattered typewriters with the ink ribbons. You only find 20 or so ink ribbons in the whole game. The storage box “system” allows you to store extra ammo and weapons you can’t carry and claim them at any of the storage boxes found in the game.
The main frustration with the game is too much back-tracking through the same game map. This requires you to basically memorize the mansion and other locations. If this zombie outbreak was really happening I hardly believe I would be running back and forth through the same hallways. My second frustration is the ominous “door opening” scenes that you see while the game loads. While I do prefer this to a standard flashing “loading” page, it gets old fast. Remember when Voltron was formed in the old cartoon and they showed the same animation for it every time? That kind of frustration.

Spawning four sequels, up to five movies, and various other on-rails shooters, portable games and remakes, the original nightmare called Resident Evil is a classic game experience. Join the S.T.A.R.S. and enter the infamous mansion of horrors for a zombie experience that has pretty much inspired the entire video game zombie genre. Originally released by Capcom in Japan under the title Biohazard, RE was renamed for the US release because of problems trademarking the name Biohazard. Resident Evil goes down in history as being the ground breaking game of its time that still warrants your play-through today. So, conserve your ammo and make some room on your PSP for this trip.
Respect your elders

I know the “Director’s Cut’ isn’t actually the original release from 1996 on the PSOne. For the record I played the Director’s Cut Dual Shock Edition now available on PSN. I just didn’t want to get into the whole version thing.

Who can tell me what the “T” in T-Virus stands for?

burnout legends psp

DEVELOPER: Criterion
Progress: 17%

The PSP is quite a gaming machine, to say I’m excited about the new NGP is an understatement. Part of that excitement is because all the old games for the PSP 3000 should drop drastically in price to make way for their new iterations. This means there will be a lot of great games available at a fraction of the price as Sony tries to eliminate the UMD (Universal Media Disc) once and for all. One such game that I got at a drastic price drop ($10!) that really surprised me is Burn Out Legends.

Every portable gamer should add this game to their library. Racing games and portable gaming go hand in hand. All the fun and speed you expect from it’s major console counterpart but in the palm of your hands. You can still get those edge-of-your-seat gaming moments during the short spurts while you’re in transit. This game does not disappoint. There is just something natural about having your hands at 10 and 2.
Burn Out Legends falls a little short in the graphic details but they do get the most out of the little PSP screen. Really, the PSP makes all sorts of whizzing and chugging sounds as if it is really trying hard to run the UMD. This is not a pathetic mobile phone driving game. The graphic experience is equivalent to the early Burn Out games for N64 and PS2. The graphics look great but some of the cars are a little “boxy” and some of the depth of field fails in its intent. This is, being rather nit picky though because what Burn Out Legends is all about is speed and when your driving this fast the details don’t matter.
Racing is were this game shines. The steering is mapped to both the analog stick and the D-pad so you have your choice of which your most comfortable with. The R button is your gas with the L button being your brake/reverse. Nitros are accessed with the X button and in typical Burn Out fashion they build up/restore by driving into oncoming traffic, drifting and “taking out” other drivers. Racing is judged with a bronze, silver or gold medal awarded at the end of each race depending on how you score.
The cars themselves are not based on real makes or models but they are realistic enough for a Burn Out game. (Upcoming review of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit features an amazing library of actual cars) The cars in Burn Out Legends are split into categories: Compact, Muscle, Coupe, Sport and Super. Each class requires you to finish the class before it before you can partake in that class of races. The increasing difficulty at each class level will have me returning to play Burn Out Legends for a long while.
One cannot review a Burn Out game without mentioning the Crash Events. This is different than the car crash take-downs you can perform during races. Basically you are set up with a crash scenario and you have to do your best to make it as big of a pile up as you can. You are judged by the estimated cost of the damage you have caused. These Crash Events have been a staple to the Burn Out franchise helping it stand out from the rest of the racing games.
This UMD has a lot to offer any racing fan. Multiple tracks and racing events. Many custom cars to unlock. An incredible soundtrack to get your blood pumping as you drift through oncoming traffic. Multiplayer is pretty deserted as this is an older game however you can play between two PSPs via “Game Sharing” over a local network. Unlock-able rewards: (in game) trophies, signature takedown photos, special event postcards and crash headlines which are all just for bragging rights but fun additions to the game.

Very impressive even when compared to it’s superior console versions

spyro (ps one classic)

RELEASE DATE: 10/2011 PS Plus (Originally 10/1997)
DEVELOPER: Insomniac

Progress: 70%

Commuting can be rough. The monotony of the same trip to work everyday can lead to depression and at its worse needless rage. Looking around any subway car I can see almost everyone’s eyes glued to their damned iPhones playing “games”. Some of us know the truth, while their are a few exceptions, real games are played on game systems. Lately, I’ve be chugging through one such game on my PSP. Making progress in 30 minute intervals during my commute. It is safe to say the little dragon named Spyro is helping with my sanity.
I never owned a PS1 myself so I missed Spyro when it was originally released in 1997. I bought my sister a PS1 but it basically became her boyfriend’s console. Thanks to my PS Plus subscription I’ve now been introduced to Spyro and I have Spyro 2 already queued up and ready to go.
Spyro is a little, purple dragon (not to be confused with Figment). Something dreadful has happened to the major dragon families and you have to go save all the dragons encased in crystal. Along the way discovering your abilities and collecting the missing members of the various dragon families. Sparx the dragonfly is along for the ride following Spyro closely and helping find gems. In a genius bit of design Sparx also acts like the player’s health meter refillable by feeding him butterflies. It’s a fun little romp and you can see the roots of the humor and storytelling that team Insomniac would later use on Ratchet & Clank.
Spyro is the Mario 64 for PS. Simple controls, cutesy graphics and many, many levels to challenge your skills. I sure this game was hailed fondly by critics when it was originally released much as was Mario 64. The game mechanics are not difficult and they adjust to the PSP controls well. As a baby dragon you can’t outright fly but you can glide, breath fire, charge an enemy which are essentially the three skills you will hone to beat the game.
Spryo himself seems to be modeled after the movements of a puppy. The way he walks and runs are just like the movements of a small dog. I particularly like when he falls or is picked up by a gust of air, his feet slip out from under him like a dog on a slippery wood floor.
The graphics are pretty dated and angular (a fate suffered by games from this time) though I’m sure were rated very good at release. Viewing them on the 3.5 inch PSP screen is possibly the best way as they look very crisp and the screen size is more forgiving. There are some times where the camera struggles to follow you but (again) like Mario 64 you have controller options to change the camera angle.
Levels start out extremely easy and get more difficult later in the game. Completionists will have a great time finding all of the different levels and collectibles. At any time you can check your inventory to see if you may have missed an item. Which is a handy refresher after a busy day at work you hardly remember where you were at in the game.
While I enjoyed this game a lot, I think most of it was not having played it when it first came out and always wanting too. For your average gamer, with no sentimental attachment to it, this game will not hold up. It is dated looking and if wasn’t for the full 3D world to explore and the great character designs it just wouldn’t be playable. It would be interesting to hear how someone who played it new in 1997 would feel about it today. Hoping to see some improvements in the sequel.
BONUS: Learn to draw Spyro yourself.

Great for dog lovers

marvel super hero squad (psp)

DEVELOPER: Blue Tongue
Progress: 100%
Welcome to the junior version of Marvel Ulitmate Alliance (MUA): Marvel Super Hero Squad (MSHS). I fell in love with these inexpensive, smurf size plastic toys when they first hit the shelves and collected a few of my beloved X-Men. Soon after an animated TV show depicting these bite-sized versions of the heroes hit networks, a video game was launched soon after. Aimed at younger viewers, these family friendly heroes are ready to put up their dukes in the name of the Avengers (err… I mean squad).
I’ve been gaming on my commute to and from work all week; add in a few extra hours here and there and I was able to complete MSHS. It was fun watching people lean over me on the train trying to figure out what I was playing. I could hear them thinking “I see Iron man but I don’t know what game that is.” I scream, but only in my head, “cause it’s a kids game!” I must say, it made the time fly by and was a lot of fun to play. I only got stumped in a couple of places but I don’t believe it was my fault (read on).

Wonky cameras can ruin a game. Especially when that game is played on a tiny portable screen. Unfortunately, MSHS has this issue. The camera does its best to focus behind the character. However, the characters are constantly twisting and turning to fight off various villains. This brawler can be fun but also very frustrating to play. What little platforming elements it does have, are ruined by inadequate jumps and camera obscura. Some key points in the game can flicker in and out of visibility which is unfortunate but smart players will easily overcome them. Its kind of sad but the game’s greatest villain is the camera itself.

The actual brawling in this game is fun. Instead of defining it as “Hack & Slash” it is more like “Bam & Pow” for the kids. You can’t really die; you just come right back. Not that you would know (cause it doesn’t say anywhere in game) but you can use various well known “Street Fighter” button combos to vary your fighting skills; so experiment away, it will only help. Speaking of help, you have a buddy in game that will knock out some of the baddies for you (“Hero-up!”). Button mash your way through the AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics) villains, the Mole Man’s hench men and Doombots to collect the missing fragments of the “Infinity Sword”.

Levels are fairly well designed. The art styles seem to shift between 2D animation style stills (like the show) to animated in game sequences and finally to fully rendered CG cut scenes. The fully rendered CG cut scenes look good even though the animation is really just panning back and forth. I prefer the 2D style character art myself, it fits the game’s lighthearted tone better.

Characters with flying skills and projectile weapons seem to be the most fun to use. There are some fun action sequences (quick-time events) that require you to push the right button sequence, when prompted, to get ahead in the game. Later in the game flying becomes crucial to advance, so it’s best to get good at it right away. All in all I think MUA could learn a thing or two from its younger sibling.

Brawlers are good for annoying commutes


DEVELOPER: Subatomic Studios


Progress: 60%

I don’t think much of “PS minis”; the smaller, more affordable and downloadable-only games, originally designed for the PSP and PSP Go and since ported to the PS3. Generally, I find them unimaginative, small and ultimately a waste of time. I have found few exceptions to this thinking, but I’m happy to say Fieldrunners is one of them. This is yet another iteration of the ever popular tower defense style games. The goal with Fieldrunners: stop enemies from crossing the field by building various styles of towers to kill them. Strategy is key. Placing your towers and using them to steer the oncoming herd of villains is how victory is accomplished.

Fieldrunners brings its own unique charm and style to the tower defense genre. Very animated soldeirs are running for the goal as you build gattleing guns, missle towers and flamethrower towers to destroy your enemies. Some towers can slow down your enemies such as the goo tower and tesla towers; lazer and mortar towers are unlocked after some game play and really help you mop up the field. The game encourages you to be creative with how you layout your ultimate defense; there is no one corrrect way, which enhances the replay value of the otherwise five-level game.

Game play is seen from an overhead view. Games consist of 100 waves of different style villains that you must survive and defeat. You can only let 20 enemies slip past before you lose the match. Enemies drop currency that you can store up and spend on new towers or upgrades for your current towers. Upgraded towers have a longer reach and faster rate of fire.
On the PSP you can zoom in and out to check in on the action or normal view to see the whole field at once. I’ve found this game to be equally fun on the PS3 too. The music isn’t all that memorable over the constant sound of gun fire. One final key feature is you can pause and quit at any time and continue where you left off next time you fire up the game – a nice option and one you usually do not have.
There are lots of tower defense style games available online if you’d like to get your feet wet before making a purchase. Try here, here and for something a little different here. Fair warning they are extremely addictive.
Great way to kill an hour

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