Review by Qzor
"The games are of a high quality, but the hardware is flawed."
The Sony PSP is Sony's premiere hand held gaming platform. It promises to offer extreme backwards compatibility with existing PS2 games, while also offering the latest in portable gaming hardware. While the games themselves are often top-notch and of a very high quality, my experience with the hardware has been less than ideal. I have spent countless numbers of dollars on repairs and game replacement that I have lost faith in Sony.
The game cartridge design is less than ideal. While rather small and portable, they are easily lost and or crushed. They are not as sturdy as the previous PSP-style cartridges, and are susceptible to snapping. I myself have had three snap while being inserted or removed from the Sony PSP system while traveling by bus or cab. In a noisy environment it can be difficult to hear the clicking sound produced when the game cartridge is fully inserted. Excessive pressure often leads to a damaged cartridge. Another issue is that the little stickers that indicate the name of the game easily peel off and are frequently lost making games unidentifiable in circumstances in which time is of the essence.
Due to the small size of the game cartridges, the labels themselves are far smaller than before, and are often quite difficult to read, which results in major anger problems when you choose a game then go on a road trip and find out that the game you chose was not the game that you wanted. This can prove to be very problematic when traveling or when attempting to find games in unlit areas. The small cartridges may also be eaten by pets or children if left lying around.
Upper LCD Screen:
The upper screen is a 256 pixel by 192 pixel, back lit TFT color LCD. While it does offer stupendous graphics when working, it is prone to failure. The LCD screen developed a dead pixel in the center of the upper left quadrant of the screen. This dead pixel was extremely distracting when attempting to play games such as Super Mario 64 PSP. Also, over time the area around the dead pixel will reduce in clarity. Having been a long-time PSP user, this is the first time I have encountered such a problem with a hand held system from Sony.
Lower Touch Screen:
The lower screen is identical to the upper screen, but contains a transparent analog touch screen. While this is an innovative and intriguing feature, it lacks the durability and quality of traditional PDA-style touch screens. The screen itself functions, but it is often not sensitive enough to the touch. Nothing is more aggravating than trying to navigate menus or play mini-games using a touch screen that fails to work a majority of the time.
The screen is also prone to scratches. Applying moderate to excessive force when using the stylus can lead to a torn screen membrane. This in turn will degrade the performance of the touch screen. Without use of the screen, most games become unplayable due to the need of the lower screen.
The controls are severely lacking in size, responsiveness, and are perhaps the worst part of the Sony PSP gaming experience. While perhaps suitable for use by a young child, they are completely unsuitable for anyone with moderately large fingers. It is not uncommon to hit several of the buttons at once, which can often result in a lost character life, if not total defeat. The small buttons are nearly completely unusable when traveling by bus, as the slightest bump can cause an incorrect button to be pressed.
The battery itself lives up to expectations. It uses lithium ion technology, and easily lasts for six to ten hours of continuous play. Best of all, it will do so on only a four hour charge. The power-saving sleep mode is a fantastic benefit while traveling, preserving battery life very well. As with previous hand-held devices, one is able to use a typical AC adapter to power the Sony PSP hand held. Overall, the power supply system is very reliable.
The casing is made of hardened plastic. The casing itself is fairly durable, and will stand up well to constant use. The hinge between the upper and lower portions, however, is not of such a high quality. It was found to be very sticky, and often difficult to open and close. Threads, hair and debris would often become entangled in the joints, and would hinder the ability of the hinge to function properly, let alone well. While the original PSP devices could withstand very harsh treatment, that same level of case quality has not carried over to the Sony PSP hand held systems. After a 5 foot fall from a table, there were several small cracks in the casing around the corners and hinge. I was forced to either buy a replacement shell or a whole new system. Attaching the replacement case was near to impossible.
There are a number of third-party add-ons available for Sony PSP. Such add-ons range from global positioning system enhancements to digital camera devices. While such implements are readily available at many retails, they are still relatively expensive. The quality of such add-ons may be lacking, and many cannot handle frequent wear and tear of everyday play.
The games are the highlight of the Sony PSP system. It can be said that the games are of such a high quality that they make up for the insufficient, if not completely lacking, Sony PSP hardware. There are wide range of titles available, from classics such as Super Mario 64 PSP to innovative and enticing games such as Dogs of War: Labrador.
I was surprised to find that I needed to set up the Sony PSP upon first turning it on. Having never had to do this with any other hand held gaming device, it was completely unexpected. Selecting the wrong language accidentally (which is quite probable considering the low-quality touch screen and lousy controls) can prove to be quite disastrous. The whole setup, from setting a nickname to the local time, turned out to be nothing but a massive annoyance. This setup procedure would be very difficult for a child to perform. It is a great leap backwards from the power-on-and-play of previous Sony hand held systems.
The multi-player capabilities are vastly improved over those of the original PSP. However, they are still not at the quality level one would expect from Sony's latest and greatest hand held gaming device. The wireless capabilities are quite unsuitable for use outdoors. Even when indoors, interference with wireless PC networking hardware has been a problem. Connection interruptions are frequent, and when playing an exciting multi-player game can be extremely disappointing. Even having the transmitter slightly covered will result in a loss of connection.
Overall, the Sony PSP promises quite a bit, but in reality was found to be quite lacking. I would rate it a 4 out of a scale of 10. It does offer a very reliable and sustainable battery system, but other than that the hardware quality is less than ideal. The physical quality of the system is questionable, and perhaps not suitable for a child. Only a teen or adult capable of properly caring for the system would be able to keep it in a maintainable state.
The system benefits from the fact that the game titles offered for it are often fantastic, and the utmost of quality. Were it not for the super gaming experience offered by games such as Jump Superstars and Magnesium Prime: Hunters, the Sony PSP system would most likely be looked down on as one of the worst hand held gaming systems developed by Sony. So while the games are somewhat of a redeeming factor, do not be surprised by a lack of quality hardware.
Overall, I give this game a moderately low 4 out of 10.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10, Originally Posted: 01/02/07