PSP Minis Roundup • Page 4

Size doesn't matter.

Kahoots

  • Price: 2.49/2.99

Lemmings in the style of LittleBigPlanet is your soundbite for this one, as you guide creatures apparently made of Blu-tac through perilous platforming environments. You do this by switching the blocks beneath their feet, so that bouncy jump blocks propel them safely over spikes, or trap doors drop them to levels below. Hampering your plans are bolted blocks which can't move, forcing you to think around problems - often using the wraparound screen to find new routes.

Each of the 50 stages has a slice of cake that makes for a tempting secondary objective, and the whimsical presentation does a lot to enhance the already solid puzzling. Quite apart from the bits-and-bobs handmade design style, the game even has a potential star in Pegbeast, a bizarre creature made from household items who explains new gameplay elements in song before each level.

Cute without being twee, packing in a lot of fun ideas without smothering the accessibility, Kahoots is a lovely little gem and one that deserves extra praise for resisting the temptation to grab the greedy 3.99 price point.

8/10

Pinball Fantasies

  • 3.99/4.99

While a lot of the PSP Minis have arrived on the platform via the iPhone or the PC shareware scene, Pinball Fantasies has a more impressive vintage, with its roots in the fertile soil of the Amiga.

10

Originally developed by Battlefield outfit DICE, it is quite simply one of the best pinball games ever. This near-perfect port offers all four themed tables - funfair, road race, gameshow and graveyard - and backs them up with a physics model that still impresses. There's the chance to pass the PSP from player to player, and a tap on the Select button flips the play area to make full use of the screen. You lose some of the info pane at the top, but it's a worthwhile trade off.

It's just a great pinball game, with intelligent table design that manages to pack in features without losing focus. I cherished the version I had for the homebrew GP32 handheld, so the sight of it resurrected once more for the PSP is a genuine joy.

9/10

Tetris

  • 3.99/4.99

It seems a bit redundant to review Tetris, what with it being the most popular game ever, but sometimes all it takes is a polished Greatest Hits package to remind you just why it has endured for so long.

11

Too many Tetris variants make the mistake of drenching the finely tuned simplicity of the original game under pointless gimmicks, but this is a restrained and worthy modern update that keeps the essentials clutter-free. At the same time, the periphery is tweaked with a raft of alternate modes and a compelling Trophy-style reward system.

It's easy to take such a game for granted, but it's impossible to resent the addition the addition of such a stalwart of casual handheld gaming - especially in such a handsome edition.

9/10

Vempire

  • 3.99/4.99

Yet more fun with coloured blocks, this time in a shell that mashes up Puzzle Quest with Hexic. The aim is to battle your way through various fantasy landscapes by rotating squares of blocks to form horizontal or vertical lines. Filling up a potion bottle before the timer runs out is the ultimate goal, but there's another meter slowly filling at the same time. When this reaches the top, the stage's resident monster appears to muck things up.

12

You can match gold bars to earn enough cash to unlock your own monstrous assistants - basically special attacks that impact the playfield - and each trio of stages is followed by an optional bonus level where you can obtain items to enhance your skills further.

The art style is very appealing, with lots of crisp cartoon sprites, but the core gameplay feels truncated and shallow. There's limited strategy, and the rudimentary play mechanics never offer the sort of nuanced long-term challenges that sustain games of this ilk. Vempire certainly isn't a bad game, but it probably would have benefited from a few more months of work on the basics.

6/10

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