Earlier in this forum, I dumped on the general state of the shiny useless portable gaming device market. Against my better judgement, I picked up a PSP and Madden 06 anyway, on the theory that I could return them if they did in fact meet expectations and sort of suck.
I’m happy to report here that I must apologize to the consumer society, and that the PSP and Madden are generally better than I expected them to be.
First, Madden plays pretty much exactly like you would expect Madden to play on a device that is slightly slower than a PS2 and only has one analog stick. The press reports on this game have complained bitterly about “load times” to menu screens. I find the menus to be slightly sluggish, but not ludicrously so. I adjust by turning off the accelerated clock, so I have more time to set up between plays. Aside from a few stuttery transitions in situations like interceptions and fair catches, I have seen no performance problem that is much worse than the PS2 version of the game. Since these same press reports have seen no need to report these problems on the PS2, I can only assume that they didn’t play the game on the PS2 before writing their reviews for that platform.
Just about everything you want has been crammed into Madden for the PSP. All of the minigames and strange modes I never play are there. All the plays in all the playbooks are there, as are most of the important pre-snap adjustments on offense and defense. A few “playmaker” adjustments are missing on defense, but the all important playmaker audibles on offense are there. The wireless multiplayer appears to work well too. You can also transfer data between the PSP and PS2 versions of the game. This seems to work, but I haven’t experimented with it yet.
After the snap, the game seems to play faster than the console version, maybe because they didn’t have to slow it down for the QB Eye of Sauron cone.
I also obtained Hot Shots Golf. This is a great colorful cartoony crazy golf game with a nice “kick-meter” swing mechanic instead of the more annoying analog stick mechanic. It plays a lot faster than Madden and is clearly better designed as a mobile game. Nothing like winning tokens with which to buy clothes. See, it’s really an RPG.
As a device, the PSP works beautifully. Even my wife noted the quality and brightness of the screen. The analog stick, to my mind, is a much more useful control device than the touch screen that no one uses on the DS. The only thing that would be better is if there were two of them. From a gaming standpoint, two things stand out as important about the PSP:
1. Memory cards are big. I like this.
2. Instant sleep. This allows any game to be suspended at any time and then picked up again instantly. On the GBA, this function required support from the game in order to work. On the PSP this is not the case, which is a much better way to implement this. On the PSP, you are never at the mercy of some moronic game designer and his stupid save points to tell you when you get to go to bed. Bravo.
The battery life is not as good as a GBA, but we knew that. I find that charging the battery every night or every other night (depending on the play to sleep ratio), is good enough to keep the machine going without too much worry.
For now, Madden and Hot Shots should keep me happy. I’m looking forward to crazy Japanese-style RPGs in the future. The notion of an RPG without worrying about savepoints makes me happy.
Anyway, consumer society, all is forgiven. Don’t be angry with me, I need some stuff at the Target tonight.