The story told in Portable Ops (not to be confused with Portable Ops Plus) is a key part of the Metal Gear saga. It starts directly after the events of Metal Gear Solid 3 with Naked Snake’s first adventure as the rogue soldier, ”Big Boss.” It’s a great story, but the game itself is terrible. Each mission is played the exact same way, using a four-man army to kidnap enemy soldiers and send them back to base for recruitment until you reach your mission goal. Each level can take hours to complete, especially if you’re spotted, because it takes roughly 4-6 minutes to get the enemy soldiers off your tail. The controls are decent for a PSP game, but that’s not saying a lot. Other than the several memorable boss battles that the franchise is famous for, there isn’t much to enjoy. You could force your way through 20+ hours to destroy the final weapon (in a cutscene), or you could keep your respect for the franchise and watch the important parts on YouTube.
In honor of my favorite PSP game dying last night, I write this short eulogy. You were true to me in every situation. Long car rides, short waiting periods, and sitting through movies. I’ll always miss you, and your quick button presses will remain on my fingertips for years to come. I’m truly sorry I could not revive you. Tekken has been a staple for me since the original Playstation. The fighting is intense and full of tricky combos to master and “juggling” opponents in the air before they have a chance to even hit the ground. For those not familiar with the series or who just want to master new characters and moves, there’s a practice mode where you can learn up to 10 hit combos and dozens of special moves for the 34 characters. You can play story mode, arcade, teams, survival, and timed or fight your way to the top of the Tekken Dojo tournament (my favorite). There are also unlockable games like bowling and such, but I couldn’t get into that. I had a lot of fun earning money to purchase items for my characters to make them look as cool as they deserve. I miss this game so much, I might just buy it again.
The Lost Frontier doesn’t stay true to the franchise. There’s a lot of really fun Jak and Daxter platforming on each of the locations you visit, but between areas there’s too much piloting, including optional races and airborne firefights. The air combat is pretty bad, too. I’m not much of a flight simulator fan, so, although severely watered down, it took me a while to get used to. The dark Daxter levels are just plain weird, and if you’ve played the other games, you know Daxter was already completely soaked in dark ico, and all it did was make him small and furry. Suddenly turning him into a strange monster didn’t fit. The game’s plot progresses pretty fluidly, and the characters are charming as always. There’s just something missing from the overall presentation. I think it doesn’t have the Naughty Dog kiss of awesomeness. Although I enjoyed my playthrough, I’m not certain if I’ll ever play it again, and for those who are new to the franchise, it’s still a bad place to start. The tale ended perfectly after Jak 3 and should be left there.
If you’re looking for a huge plot twist, or a Desmond Miles sub story, you’re looking in the wrong place. This is simply the tale of Altair hunting down the last of the local Templars before they can rebuild their Order. As a huge fan of Assassin’s Creed, I fell immediately in love with the combat. It’s exactly the same as the original. Fleeing is much easier, too, but who can resist a hidden blade counter attack to a Templar’s face? The new city, Cyprus, isn’t as lively as the cities in other Assassin’s Creed titles. The watchful Templar guards have conveniently scared most civilians out of the streets, so side quests are rare. The main characters carry the story well from section to section, but the really fun ones are the bosses. That’s right, boss battles, which are a huge upgrade from simple stealth kill missions. They also added several decent, surprisingly well-done cut scenes. Bloodlines was a very convenient mission-based game for those on the go. The only disappointment was the truly anticlimactic ending. However, I would play the game again just for the thrills and kills any time.
I’ll admit, I’m usually bored to tears by gladiator games, but Gladiator Begins breaks this mold for me and delivers a really enjoyable experience. It’s a hack-and-slash, arena battler RPG that starts you off as a newly-bought slave and allows you to work your way up through the gladiatorial ranks in numerous battles. Unfortunately, it’s all tied together with a completely forgettable story. The combat can also get a little difficult from time to time, but the difficulty spikes are so infrequent that you don’t really mind them when they do crop up. Outside of the story mode, the game provides exhibition battles where you can create a match to your liking, ad-hoc battles that allow you to play with friends, and a really cool “exchange character” feature that lets you trade your gladiator with other players! Overall, Gladiator Begins is a delightful hack-and-slash that definitely deserves your attention.
LittleBigPlanet for the PSP is a solid platformer. The first thing you’ll notice that’s different from its big brother is the lack of online play. That doesn’t mean you can’t create and share levels, it just leaves you alone to play them. Aside from that, in some respects, it’s more fun than the PS3 version. The levels all share a certain cuteness that runs through every challenge, big or small. There are two planes to switch between instead of three, but that doesn’t hurt the gameplay in any way. There’s an obvious lack of story, as well as end bosses, but you still feel quite pleased with yourself after completing each of the 24 main levels. Some annoyances that stuck out to me were that, seemingly, most of the hazards were electric, and some of the puzzles had you covering the same areas twice. Other than that, I enjoyed every moment of the game, and my love for the LittleBigPlanet franchise was completely rejuvenated after riding in the big parade at the finale of the game.