Crispy Gamer

Your Console and Handheld Guide: PSP

The PSP has a similar "I want to touch that!" quality that the iPod has. This is mostly because of the terrific engineering and design. Shiny, black and very cool -- or sleek, gray and smaller -- the PSP has a screen that seems larger than should be possible. The screen is clear too, as the UMD movies demonstrated (UMD as a movie format seems to have failed miserably, however you can still find geek-friendly flicks and Sony movies in UMD). It plays games well (though it takes a long time to load a level) but the battery only lasts about eight hours or so. It can synch to the Internet wirelessly for gaming or even Web browsing. It can play home movies and music -- even a slideshow of your photos that will make people gasp. The screen is really beautiful.

This is why when it was released all of the so-called experts predicted that the PSP would succeed and the oddball little Nintendo DS would fail. For a long time it looked like the opposite was true, as PSP sales were flat for much of its two-year lifespan and the DS is still setting records. Sony redesigned and relaunched the PSP -- and perhaps most importantly, lowered the price tag to $199.00 MSRP -- and things seem to be turning around for the excellent little game player.

Peripherals (first-party)


Sony has made a wide variety of protectors, a car-charging kit, fancier headphones and a lot of UMD movies to watch. A separate program downloaded from Sony is required to convert movies to Sony's format, and it's available on its Web site. Sony just announced that owners could purchase and download a variety of original PlayStation games for use with the PSP. Also available now is a cord to let you play games on your TV set.

Peripherals (third-party)


If you can imagine something to use with a handheld, a third-party manufacturer is probably making it for the PSP, including fancy covers to protect the screen, skin stickers, cases, cases for UMDs, and more.

Top Games


Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters: All the fun, wildness and weaponry found in any Ratchet & Clank game is here and accounted for.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare: CoD4 is excellent on any platform you choose, but it really shines on the PSP simply because it's better made than most first-person shooters ported to, or even created for, the system.

Sid Meier's Pirates!: An extremely addictive and very underrated remake of a PC classic, Pirates! is almost better in handheld format. Want to make a long car or plane trip fly by? Take to the seas and seek ye some treasure, says I.

Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron: One of the best Star Wars game of the last couple years, the PSP exclusive Renegade Squadron combines Star Wars action with terrific online play.

Loco Roco: Every list should have something oddball, and Loco Roco is certainly that. Playing in classic side-scrolling 2-D, you use the shoulder buttons to tilt the world to make the little yellow Loco Rocos move along the maps. This game offers challenging pick-up-and-play gameplay along with an awful lot of charm and fun throughout!

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories: The Internet heaved a sigh of frustration when Grand Theft Auto IV was delayed, but PSP owners know that the only new GTA content after San Andreas was made for the PSP. Both these games are excellent and stand proudly alongside their console brothers.

Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow and Dark Mirror: Both games are great. Dark Mirror is a little better, but don't ignore the excellent Logan's Shadow.

Jeanne d'Arc: In the tradition of French tactical classics like La Pucelle, this game tackles the famous historical legend with an entirely original story, but enough history and solid gameplay to keep players interested for a good long time.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08: Most sports games pale in comparison to their big-brother console versions, but Tiger's brand of golf really shines in handheld format. Best of all, the PSP's sleep mode makes it easy to carry the game around and play a hole whenever you get the chance -- even on a busy workday!

Conclusion


The best way to think of the PSP is as a pocket-sized PlayStation 2 that can handle movies, music and Web browsing. In that context, it's easy to imagine why the PSP has more of a niche audience than the more mainstream-appealing DS handheld. If your tastes run more toward hardcore fare, the PSP is the handheld to play. Enjoy it!