Here we are, then, in the final week of the year – the nebulous period between Christmas and New Year. A good time to let others do the thinking for you, perhaps.
As such, we've looked back at the PSP releases over the last 360-odd days and picked out ten that should slot into your UMD drive at some point.
Feel free to disagree, obviously, but first bear in mind that in order to celebrate the variety of experiences found on PSP, we've deliberately strayed from obvious genres such as racing and football (otherwise you would have found the likes of OutRun 2006: Coast to Coast and FIFA 07 listed below). Similarly, we've concentrated on official UK releases, which explains the absence of, say, Every Extend Extra and Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, amongst others.
So that just leaves a handful of very difficult choices between our top ten and those that after much consideration just failed to make the cut (Exit, Gradius Collection and Power Stone Collection spring to mind).
Enough stalling and excuses. The list has been finalised and we stand firmly by it. Below, then, are our final ten.
One of the early titles to showcase the PSP's potential as a handheld able to match home consoles in terms of delivering accomplished, highly polished gaming, Daxter is noteworthy for being one of the very few 3D adventures available on Sony's portable hardware. That and the fact that it's an excellent example of the genre, of course. Playing as the eponymous furry orange 'ottsel', you're tasked with exterminating the city's metal bugs with a variety of increasingly efficient gadgets. Doesn't sound like much, but a tight game dynamic and exceptional visuals ensure it emerges as one of the PSP's more compelling rides.
|Gitaroo Man Lives!|
Any game featuring a talking dog who coaches you in the art of air guitar would immediately make any top ten list, right? Perhaps it's me, then. How about one where you fight progressively harder opponents through the power of music alone, by hitting the right notes at the right time? Sound better? Good, because Gitaroo Man Lives! is here not because of chatty canines, as it happens, but specifically because it's an exceptional rhythm action title that will enchant those who play it with its outrageous soundtrack, quirky storyline, extravagant visuals and perfectly pitched gameplay.
|Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories|
The year's biggest release, though not necessarily its finest, Vice City Stories easily makes the list thanks to its unrivalled status as the free-roaming urban criminal simulation of choice on PSP, a position it predictably takes over from its predecessor, GTA: Liberty City Stories. The game's plot may have gained an unwelcome darker edge, but it's not something that ultimately quashes the great fun to be had playing reckless lawbreaker within Vice City's vast, living, breathing metropolis. The freedom to go off and create your own enjoyment, regardless of narrative constraints, has always been GTA's special genius, and thankfully that part remains gloriously intact.
|LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy|
Hardly a surprise of Death Star proportions, true, but LEGO and Star Wars are as perfect a partnership as Ben and Jerry. Lego Star Wars II is an exceptionally designed, technically impressive and brilliantly accomplished adventure (masterfully converted from the home console versions), offering one of the most compelling and delicious playgrounds in videogaming. It will delight both Star Wars fans and anyone who's been hiding in the Tunisian desert for the last 30-odd years.
If you could encode pure joy into the pits and troughs of a UMD, it would look something very much like LocoRoco. One of the most delightful games we've had the pleasure to discover on our PSP, no doubt in part to the wonderful uniqueness of its aesthetic and, of course, concept: with only the ability to jump, squashy locoroco blobs rely on gravity to negotiate an increasingly inventive game world while eating flowers in order to grow in size, with the player's work confined to rocking the environment left or right using the shoulder buttons. It's that simple. And it's brilliant.
Sometimes, the simplest ideas are the best. When Lumines, a superlative puzzle game involving grouping – and so eliminating – four squares of the same colour together while blocks continually fall from the top of the screen, turned up on PSP last year, it was love at first sight. Wisely, the sequel doesn't mess around with the core concept but it does add additional play modes, a wider range of visuals, and a better selection of music (a fundamental component of the Lumines experience). Call us easy, but we've fallen in love all over again.
|Me & My Katamari|
When you're a six-inch tall green alien prince, son of the galaxy-tall King of All Cosmos, you know your role in life will be special. But not special as in spending some time helping out villagers high up in a Peruvian mountain or building schools in the middle of Africa. No, here your royal role is to push a sticky ball around town, picking up anything and everything until it grows big enough to be dumped into the sea to act as a shelter. A shelter for animals. Me & My Katamari is as unique and delightful as it sounds. As such, it's one of the PSP's indispensable games.
|Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror|
True, initial impressions are worrying but persevere past the dreary tutorial section and you'll soon be relishing the astonishing 3D stealth action adventure that awaits. Tremendous presentation is effortlessly matched by a rousing tale of espionage that has you embarking on the kind of varied missions even Bond would envy. Some of the most intense gunfights on PSP are balanced out by sections of stress-soaked sneakiness, and while the expertly designed levels conspire with decently intelligent enemies to provide a tough challenge, it's a challenge whose difficulty is always immaculately judged.
|Tekken: Dark Resurrection|
Occasionally, a game is so accomplished within its genre that it effortlessly beats its competition into a cowering, twitching pulp. Enter Tekken: Dark Resurrection, which this year takes the spot of most satisfying PSP beat-'em-up with considerable ease. Some 30 wonderfully animated characters, more combos than you can shake a bo at, a fine variety of play modes (including a neat way of fighting players from around the world), a rewarding learning curve, and, crucially, fast, flowing action dressed in some of the finest visuals yet seen on Sony's handheld.
|Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins|