PSP Minis Roundup • Page 2

Size doesn't matter.

Brainpipe

  • 3.99/4.99 PC

This deliberately trippy offering wears its psychedelic visuals like a shield, bombarding the player with swirling colours at an epileptic pace. It's almost enough to distract from the fact that the game isn't particularly satisfying or even all that interesting.

You're controlling an iris as it travels down the titular Brainpipe. Steering past obstacles while scooping up floating rune fragments is the aim of the game, but the response from the PSP's stubby stick is far from conducive to the instinctual reactions the game demands. Sluggish to start moving, but then irritatingly skittish when it comes to fine navigation, you never feel completely in control.

Mitigating this is the ability to slow down time, a power that allows you to line yourself up for an unimpeded passage past hazards, or to grab a problematic rune at the edge of the play area. Slowing things down also heals any damage you may have taken, a curious decision which renders the early stages both frustrating and simple at the same time. It's only when you reach the end of the game's 10 stages that you're in any real danger of being permanently pulverised by the rush of barriers and blocks in your way.

The lazy comparison would be Rez or any of Jeff Minter's tubular acid trips, but those all had fiendishly precise and beautifully balanced gameplay elements purring away under their glowing vectors. Brainpipe has the looks but not the heart and since the only evolution in gameplay is that it gets faster, the sparse 10-stage layout only offers long-term appeal to those who care about score-chasing.

5/10

Breakquest

  • 2.49/2.99

Breakout with a physics twist, Breakquest is held back by control that is never as precise or smooth as it could be, but the gameplay itself offers ample reason to accommodate the flaws.

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The key difference is that the playfield has more wide-ranging and consistent physics than the usual bat-and-ball title. Power-ups that are struck while falling will be knocked off-course, while dangling obstacles will spin and swing, forcing you to reappraise trajectories on the fly. You can also exert a little extra gravity on the ball, tugging it towards the bottom of the screen. While this leads to a lot of accidents to begin with, it proves to be a useful ability once mastered.

With 100 levels, and some cunning design that tests your brain as much as your reflexes, the only persistent issue with Breakquest is the initially annoyance of the sluggish stick control. Get past that, and you've got a solid pick-up-and-play game.

7/10

Fieldrunners

  • 3.99/4.99

One of the best tower defence games on the iPhone, Fieldrunners makes the move to PSP without losing any of its appeal. In Classic mode, you must fend off 100 waves of enemies using four tower types. Extended mode adds another two towers to play with, while Endless mode speaks for itself.

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All towers are available from the start, provided you have the cash to pay for them. Enemies pour into the playing field, and using gun turrets to herd them into long winding gauntlets is - as always - the secret to success. Should 20 enemy units make it through your field and out the other side, it's Game Over.

What Fieldrunners lacks in variety and depth it makes up for in sheer rabid pace. Enemies come thick and fast, and as you creep towards the hundredth level you'll be upgrading and rearranging your towers to cope with veritable floods of soldiers, tanks and helicopters, often from several directions at once.

With a clean, pleasing visual style and gameplay that reveals its nuances through natural play, Fieldrunners is a wonderfully crafted casual nugget. It's a shame that more hasn't been added for this version, but that's no reason not to surrender to its charm.

8/10

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