The PSP is on its way out. The powerful little handheld had a good run, proving that jaw dropping visuals and immersive console-like experiences still get thumbs twitching on lengthy train journeys and brain numbing camping trips. But it’s on its last legs.
In 2011, the portable will likely slink into retirement as Sony announces the console’s successor, the heavily rumoured PSP 2, which might just have two analogue sticks, ten touchscreens, PS3 quality graphics, and a petting zoo under its memory card flap.
Couple that with the fabled PlayStation Phone, an Android blower with high quality games, and the PSP is dead.
But the little handheld that could has had a good last year, pumping out some impressive games that will help define the platform when the history books swing around to Sony’s foray into the handheld space.
Here are just ten games that set the PSP on fire this year, probably the last year of the PSP’s heyday.
Half Minute Hero (Marvelous Entertainment)
Sick of slow and stodgy role-playing games that crawl through stat-swapping battles and epically boring background exposition?
Half Minute Hero is the cure, throwing every element of classic RPGs into a blender and shooting it out in thirty second bursts.
You sprint around over-worlds, take out fantasy beasties by running into them, and swap out armour and weapons for better versions with a tap of a button.
It turns genre conventions on their heads, and does it all with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. Half Minute Hero is fun, addictive, and rather hilarious.
Age of Zombies (Halfbrick)
Age of Zombies ticks all the boxes for the perfect PSP Mini. It’s quick to jump into for a few minutes, but its addictive choke hold will have you playing for a lot longer.
It’s cute and it’s clever and it’s alarmingly simple. This is a twin-stick shooter that has you decimating wave after wave of undead corpses.
This cheap and cheerful Mini is a perfect game to have installed on your Memory Stick, providing bus journey thrills and bathroom break fun when the epic RPG in your UMD slot isn’t up for the job. Just don’t be surprised if you miss your stop, or your legs go numb.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep (Square Enix)
Kingdom Hearts might look like a kooky tale of Final Fantasy characters meeting up with favourite Disney heroes, but looks can be deceptive.
This is one seriously complex story, with scores of characters and giant wars and all that. Not sure how Winnie the Pooh fits into it all, but he must be important.
Thank god for Birth by Sleep, then, an impressive portable version of the popular Square Enix action RPG that helps tie some loose ends together.
You’ll take three new characters, Terra, Aqua, and Ventris, on a journey to become Keyblade masters, and learn a whole lot about the Kingdom Hearts backstory while you’re at it. Grab a pen and paper - this is going to get complicated.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (Konami)
This creepy survival-horror game has a creepy concept at its core. You’re pulled away from the bitter, icy cold world of Silent Hill and dropped into a psychologists’ office, where a brain doctor probes you with uncomfortable and deeply personal questions. Your answers dictate later elements of the game, hoping to scare you as much as possible.
And when the game isn’t changing characters and swapping out story elements in accordance with your personal answers, there’s still an unsettling psychological horror game underneath - a pleasant change from the awkward action focus of the most recent Silent Hill entries.
Dante's Inferno (A2M)
Dante’s Inferno might have little to do with a certain 14th century poem by the same name, but it’s still a rather stellar God of War clone, with developer A2M managing to squeeze the console game onto handheld with alarming success.
It’s a perfect, lengthy treat for anyone still craving button-mashy, blood-soaked action-adventure carnage. Dante’s Inferno doesn’t hit quite the same highs as Kratos’s campaign, but if you want a hack and slash edition of the Divine Comedy, filled with demon babies and giant nightmare boobs, you can’t really go wrong.
SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 3 (Sony)
If not Game of the Year, SOCOM deserves some kind of award for its name alone. Most acronyms? Biggest mouthful? Hardest to remember? Fittingly, SOCOM is a massive, deep package that has almost as many modes as it does words in its title. Almost.
There’s an extensive single-player campaign, the ability to team up with a buddy to play co-op, online multiplayer deathmatches, and custom designed missions, making the entire package almost infinite in its replayability.
It’s also a smart, tactical shooter the provides the perfect antidote to bombastic, TNT-packed firefights present in other military blasters.
ModNation Racers (Sony)
Mario Kart meets LittleBigPlanet is the name of the game here, slapping Sackboy’s “Play Create Share” slogan on a cute and cuddly kart racer.
ModNation Racers lets you make the game your own by giving you access to an expansive track editor, the ability to pimp your ride with loads of options, and a bottomless wardrobe to customise your racer.
Sure, the handling never quite manages to beat Mario’s game on the track, but a lengthy single-player campaign and an astonishing suite of editing tools will keep you coming back to this charming portable racer for one more race, or one more tweak to your perfect circuit.
Valkyria Chronicles II (Sega)
Did you know World War II was fought by wide-eyed manga kids in skimpy military outfits? So says this strategic PSP shooter, which marries Japanese anime visuals with a tactical war game, and a little bit of a Persona-inspired school simulator on the side
The game is a mix of both strategic planning, as you command your troops around the battlefield from a top-down commander's perspective, and action, as you jump into the shoes of your soldiers and take down enemies as in a third-person shooter.
It’s addictive, smart and satisfying, calling on your wits as much as the dexterity of your digits.
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (Konami)
Forget collectible card-battling spin-offs - this here’s the real deal. Slotting into the series canon and directed by Metal Gear daddy Hideo Kojima, Peace Walker is every bit as Solid as its PS2 and PS3 cousins.
Set in a 1974 Costa Rica, about ten years before Snake Eater’s events kick off, the game has Big Boss running a mercenary unit to sort out the civil war tussle plaguing the country.
This is one seriously massive game, featuring a giant Story mode as long and confusing as its console predecessors, as well as co-op play, versus matches, standalone challenges, and a strategic team-building simulator.
It’s a top notch stealth title, and it likely won’t leave your UMD slot for months and months.
God of War: Ghost of Sparta (Sony)
Visually visceral and gorgeously gory, Ghost of Sparta cranks the PSP up to 11 with a drop dead beautiful game that shows exactly what the little machine is capable of.
How Ready at Dawn managed to top its own efforts and make a game deeper, longer and prettier than Chains of Olympus is anyone’s guess, but the studio pulled it off.
God of War is filled to the brim with satisfyingly feral combat, armfuls of combos, and breathtaking boss fights, culminating in an epic hack and slash every bit as impressive as its console brethren.
If this is the PSP’s last hurrah, it will be one big, bloody, beautiful hurrah for the system.