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GC '09: Hands on with Fieldrunners PSP Minis

Playing the field...

Product: Fieldrunners | Developer: Subatomic Studios | Publisher: Subatomic Studios | Genre: Strategy, Tower defence
For: PSP   Also on: Mobile, Steam
Fieldrunners PSP, thumbnail 1
There have been various contenders for iPhone gaming’s official poster boy, and Fieldrunners is definitely one among that number. It’s hardly surprising, then, that it’s been snapped up by a hungry Sony, eager to add some killer apps, or Minis, to its PSP Minis launch line-up.

We got the chance to go hands on with a relatively early build of the game in Sony’s booth at the GamesCom event in Cologne. Fans will be relieved to hear that this is very much Fieldrunners as you know it, and Subatomic has decided to leave the watertight gameplay alone in favour of slapping some extra layers of polish onto the game’s presentation.

But there's still the issue of how a game that was designed expressly for touch controls plays on the PSP. Well, the towers are now placed with the D-Pad, moving in a grid like fashion that actually helps to avoid some of the erroneous inputs possible on the iPhone.

It is slightly slower, but it’s not sluggish enough to cause frustration and there's no reason why it shouldn’t become second nature after a bit of practice. Embarrassingly, however, we did attempt to press the PSP screen when playing through force of habit.

One of the ways in which the PSP controls handle better than the iPhone’s is with the analogue nub, which works as a very swift zoom in/zoom out input that’s miles quicker than the iPhone’s satisfying, but slightly laborious, pinch and pull gesture.

In the build we played, the nub was perhaps slightly less accurate than pinch and pull and prone to toggling between two extremes, with not much scope for adjusting accurately. Not ruinous, of course, and there's still plenty of time to fix it.

Using the face buttons to apply and cancel emplacements, as well as to sell towers, was all easy as pie and overall the adjustment for players used to the iPhone version will not be a dramatic one. Which is good, because that leaves head space to admire the beautifully updated visuals.

Fieldrunners was always a thoroughly well turned out effort, but the PSP version pushes every element of the visual presentation into the premium realm.

From the particle effects that shower the ballistics to the death animations of the Fieldrunners to the high-definition detail of the backgrounds - every pixel sings from the PSP’s screen, making this anything but a slapdash port.

Obviously, with no word on pricing, or how any sort of updates structure will work, there is the possibility that Fieldrunners as a PSP Minis title will put some noses out of joint.

That’s just doom-mongering, though, as every indication so far is that Fieldrunners is going to be every bit as compelling a package in Minis form as it is on the App Store.

Look out for our review in October.

Reviewer photo
Fraser MacInnes 24 August 2009
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