Tag Archives: PSP

God of War: Chains of Olym…oh

As shallow as they are, I do rather enjoy the God of War games. It’s no Ninja Gaiden or Devil May Cry when it comes to depth of the combat system, and Kratos makes Marcus Fenix look like a Marlon Brando performance, but in terms of spectacle and art design it’s almost peerless. Last year I said how ridiculously good God of War II looked for a PS2 game, and now I’m pretty much about to say the same thing about the PSP prequel. I mean, just look at it…

God of War: Chains of Olympus

It’s so pretty that I’m just going to drop in another screenshot here…

God of War: Chains of Olympus

Epic temples with nice lighting are all well and good, of course, but what about enemies? Here you go…

God of War: Chains of Olympus

And it wouldn’t be God of War without the ludicrous sex scene that mysteriously never gets debated on Fox News. I’ll be kind to the working folks and leave that one as a text link.

Wowee. And those don’t even show the most epic areas, coming as they do from within the first hour of the game. In other words, the first 25% of the campaign. There lies the major problem with this game.

Chains of Olympus is really short – less than five hours the first time through – and while it’s all extremely high quality stuff and I’m already on my second playthrough (admittedly not entirely from choice, given that the save from the promo copy I was playing for the last week doesn’t carry over to my retail copy), it’s getting slightly annoying when big games all turning out to be slightly slim on the content front. Halo 3, Uncharted, Gears, Heavenly Sword, this…all recent high profile games which are lucky to hit eight hours, and yet still cost £50.

Still, I’ve always said that I’d prefer a short but great game to an artificially extended and average game, and I’m sticking by that. Chains of Olympus is a proper God of War game – spectacular graphics, a rollicking rollercoaster ride – and I still enjoy them despite the flaws. The games are a guilty pleasure, like watching Independence Day on Blu-ray when I have 2001: A Space Odyssey here, and five hours of great spectacle on a handheld is something to dip into, almost short enough to blast through in one sitting on a long plane or train journey.

What with it being a PSP game, I don’t expect this game to do particularly well, but if you’re one of those people who’s fallen off the PSP wagon and hasn’t bought a game in months, this one is well worth a look. With Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII due this month as well, it might even be worth charging up the thing again.

Patapon or: Me and My Tragic Lack of Rhythm


It’s been quite a while since my last PSP game, as is probably the case with most people, so it looks like the game to take the cherry of my recently purchased slim PSP will be Patapon. It’s been mooted as a successor to LocoRoco, sharing as it does a developer and a vaguely similar art style, and, as the Wikipedia entry puts it, combines gameplay elements from “music and rhythm games, real-time tactics and God games”. A clear example of a peanut butter and chocolate combination, if I ever saw one.

It also helps that it’s being released as a budget title, and you can get it from Video Games Plus for £12.49 plus postage (even cheaper if your importer of choice is in the US), which I think is an excellent way to sell a niche title that will undoubtedly get great reviews.

Anyway, I’ve been plugging away with the English-language demo of the game. There’s a nigh impenetrable version available through a PS3 on the Japanese PSN store, but for US preorderers and those with a more nebulous moral compass (and/or custom firmware on their PSP), there’s an English-language demo “out there”. Even if you’re buying the game, finishing the fairly lengthy demo is worth the effort as it unlocks an exclusive weapon in the full game. Have at it.

The Almighty Olly

So I was plugging away at it in the wee hours, mostly with a smile on my face because I enjoy being told what an excellent god I am (who wouldn’t?), when I found myself hitting the wall that has scuppered me in everything from Dance Dance Revolution to the later stages of Guitar Hero: I have no sense of rhythm whatsoever. I can just about keep my tribesmen – who, I’ve noticed, occasionally sound just like the Ro-Bear Berbils from ThunderCats – marching, bar the occasional scolding for doing it too fast or too slow, and can usually at least get them into a frenzy, but task me with changing to another beat without losing time and I’m like a deer in headlights.

Surely I can’t be the only one with this problem? It’s like I was born without a certain part of the brain, and the fact that I enjoy this kind of game – this one particularly so – just makes it all that much harder. I conquered games like Samba De Amigo and Guitar Hero II (on normal difficulty, at least) almost by force, just trying the same sequences again and again until muscle memory kicks in, while people that I know – damn you, Barney! – can seemingly just waltz in and do it.

It won’t stop me playing Patapon, since Ouendan showed how little my inability to play rhythm games can damage my ability to enjoy them, but surely if it’s a learned skill I would have picked it up at some point between PaRappa in 1997 and now?

GOTY Honourable Mentions

Naturally, this year had more great games than anyone could possibly whittle down to just ten. So, as I did last year, here are a few that I liked but didn’t quite make the list. All are worth a try.

  • Jeanne d’Arc (PSP) – Level-5’s strategy RPG arrived with almost no hype and, therefore unsurprisingly, didn’t exactly set the world alight. What was the last PSP game that did? Nonetheless, it’s as gorgeous as Dragon Quest VIII with even better production values – check out the fully animated and voiced anime scenes – and is portable, which for me makes an RPG infinitely more playable. It’s also not as hardcore as many SRPGs tend to be, so virgins to the genre shouldn’t be afraid of trying it out.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS) – As the game in this list that came closest to making the top ten, I shouldn’t need to tell you what’s good about Phantom Hourglass. It’s Zelda. You’ve played it. This one just gets extra credit for mapping workable touch screen controls to a traditional game style. As with Twilight Princess, I found myself enjoying the unique controls rather than simply tolerating them.
  • Mass Effect (360) – Despite suffering from many of the issues of Knights of the Old Republic minus such an immediately appealing world (though this one is certainly far better than most sci-fi RPGs), Mass Effect is an enthralling game that will become a huge time sink if you let it. Both technically stunning (the facial animation) and disappointing (the frame rate), it’s still a lesson in how to do a sci-fi adventure. Let’s hope that it doesn’t mark Bioware’s descent into the same hole that swallowed Westwood and Bullfrog.
  • Ninja Gaiden Sigma (PS3) – I’m cheating somewhat here, given that I’ve played Sigma for little more than a couple of hours. This is really a chance to honour Ninja Gaiden in general, a game that I played to a meaningful extent for the first time this year and thought was absolutely fantastic. Sigma looks better and has more content, and is therefore just as easy to recommend. Play any version (the original and Black both work perfectly on a 360) in time for the sequel later in 2008.
  • Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords (360/DS/PSP) – If Viva Piñata was 2006’s best game that nobody played, surely Puzzle Quest is 2007’s. Yes, at its heart it’s yet another Bejeweled clone, and yes, the AI can be frustratingly prescient, chaining massive combos using off-screen gems that no-one could know about without cheating. But even so, Bejeweled is an addictive and fun game without a well-developed RPG component. Since its appearance on XBLA there can be few people without access to this gem. Sorry, couldn’t resist.
  • Resistance: Fall of Man (PS3) – While it’s consistently overrated in certain camps, Resistance was a solid shooter with an excellent suite of multiplayer modes, and deserves mention for the extensive support post-release. Insomniac’s feature-laden patches have brought everything from balance tweaks to a screenshot function and Dual Shock 3 support, even while they’ve brought another game to market and have undoubtedly started work on the sequel. Other developers could learn from the example.
  • Super Stardust HD (PS3) – In the flood of twin-stick shooters that have followed Geometry Wars, this is arguably the best. While I felt it slightly overcomplicated, it gave the genre a modern sheen that Geometry Wars had lacked, coupling mightily impressive graphics with a superb soundtrack. With more content to come and the recent patch bringing more features to the table, this is an overlooked gem.

PSP Themes: My First Attempt

Having shared some of my favourite custom themes for the PSP in the previous post, I now bring you what I have to show for the last couple of days.

I don’t think it’s half bad for a first attempt, although perhaps I could have gone for a bit more consistency with the logos I used to mark options. And it is, of course, yet more proof that I need something more productive to do with my time.

Feedback is welcome.

PSP Theme Showcase

The recent 3.70 PSP firmware (also in the 3.71 M33 custom firmware) added support for custom themes to personalise the XMB. Using this utility it’s possible to make your own, and since the homebrew community has been customising the XMB for months through less legitimate means, it naturally hasn’t taken long for some good, highly professional ones to show up.

I downloaded a rather impressive theme pack and trawled some forums for the best, as well as a couple that are a bit rubbish really but I found funny. Here are some of my favourites, both official and fan-made:

Cookie (official)




Continue reading PSP Theme Showcase

Jeanne d’Arc (PSP)

Jeanne d'Arc

Could this turn out to be Viva Piñata’s successor for the title of best game nobody played this year?

It’s not often that a game is a genuine surprise, least of all when it’s a strategy RPG – a subgenre which combines a genre that I dislike and one for which I’m largely ambivalent. Being that I’d read nothing about this game, I had visions of a grim, serious SRPG based on the real life heroine, probably drab and with lots of horses and archers, and maybe even some light immolation towards the end.

I’m only a few hours in and so can’t speak for the outcome (surely Joan of Arc without fiery death is like Titanic without an iceberg?), but nonetheless I implore you not to write this one off. It’s from Level-5 – those of Dragon Quest VIII and Rogue Galaxy – and while it still takes place against the backdrop of war between France and the invading English, Henry VI is now a possessed child in cahoots with the forces of darkness. While the full extent (and source) of Jeanne’s supernatural abilities are yet to be revealed at the point that I’ve reached, it’s safe to say that there’s more to it than voices in her head.

The presentation here is stunning. Many of the significant cut scenes are told through anime, fully voiced and with excellent production values, and the main game is no slouch either. It maintains the look of DQVIII, and while it gets the most out of the PSP by limiting the scope of each location (one of the necessities of the genre), the characters and environments stand up well to being zoomed it for story scenes. Even on the small screen the towns have personality, and the characters remain as charming as any of Level-5’s creations as they trade quips and words of encouragement during battle.

Coming at the same time as BioShock and certain other games due in the next month, even at its budget price ($30 in the US) I can’t see Jeanne d’Arc being a hit. It’s unfortunate when it’s been out in Japan since last year and we’ve just had our usual summer with nothing to play but alas, this is the industry that we rely on to give us what we need. Don’t miss out on Halo 3 to play this, but if you have a flight (see? Another boat plane they missed with a late release) or just want something portable it seems worth a go. If you like SRPGs you should have no hesitation.