PSP Roundup

Vegas, Puzzle World, Hot Brain, SBK-07 and Xiaolin Showdown.

Rainbow Six Vegas

Time was, people used to scoff that you couldn't do first-person shooters on a console. TimeSplitters and Halo disproved that notion, no matter what some musty old PC obsessives would have you believe, and so now we move to a new battlefield: you can't do first-person shooters on a handheld.

I'd love to say that the PSP version of Ubisoft's latest Tom Clancy terrorist slayathon is the one to help tip the balance of popular opinion but, sadly, it's more than a little poopy. Even though the game is set in Vegas, the paltry spread of levels all take place in anonymous villas and caves, so the opening animation of heavily armed mayhem reflected in a roulette wheel proves cheekily misleading. Good start.

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Good thing those terrorists can't see me standing in the middle of an empty room, eh?

Movement is on the analogue nub, camera controls on the face buttons. It's a system that has worked okay for other PSP shooters, but there's a stiffness here that makes it feel more like Super Treacle Squad than a simulation of impeccably-trained Special Ops. You can switch to third-person when pressed up against a wall, to peer around corners, but just getting into this position is a hit-or-miss affair and the enemies aren't smart enough to make such stealth necessary. More shockingly, the whole game stops with a juddering pause when you shoot a bad guy, while the game loads his death animation from the UMD.

There's not even any tactical element - you only have two characters, and swap between them when the game says so, shooting terrorists up close with a sniper rifle rather than using the ineffectual pistols. That's the sort of lack of attention to detail that should make Tom Clancy fans burst with anger. You do get a laggy multiplayer mode to stretch things out a bit more, and the laughably titled "Terro Hunt" mode, but with its slender features and half-arsed presentation you're better off sticking with SOCOM, Metal Gear or Syphon Filter for your vicarious "echo tango bravo GO GO GO TARGET DOWN!" thrills. You big butch thing, you.

3/10

Capcom Puzzle World

Just as its Classics Collections scoured the Capcom archives for gamey nuggets from yesteryear, so this rather more slender compilation rounds up nuggets of a more puzzley flavour.

The important thing - possibly the most important thing in the whole world ever - is that we finally have Super Puzzle Fighter Turbo II in a glorious handheld format, and for that alone I sink to my knees and sob in gratitude. It is, quite simply, one of the greatest games ever made and a permanent fixture in my all-time top 10. At first glance it may look like a cheesy Tetris clone wearing Street Fighter clothes, but it's - oh! - so much more.

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Puzzle Fighter! On the PSP! Rejoice, you lowly dogs! Rejoice!

The idea is to build huge blocks of coloured gems from the pairs that fall from the top of the screen. When shattered these blocks dump an equivalent number of Counter Gems on your opponent, in different patterns for each character, and if your side of the screen gets filled to the brim, it's Game Over. Counter Gems don't turn into solid smashable colours for five turns, so it's easy to get swamped if you don't fight back.

Like all the best games, there's a whole world of subtle strategy beneath this simple concept and the Street Fighter branding is cleverly used. See, this really is more like a fighting game than a puzzle game. By learning the Counter Gem patterns it's possible to build your gem patterns in such a way that you turn your opponents attacks against them, you can define your own Counter Gem patterns and - if you're bold enough - even use the countdown to set up enormous blocks to shatter five turns later. Block, countermove, finishing flourish. You're just using gems instead of fists. And... ooh, I love it. You should too.

The collection also features three Buster Bros games (or Pang as it's better known) and Block Block, a bat-and-ball game that's already graced the Classics Collections. None of these are puzzle games by any yardstick I know of, but why argue? They're mere appetisers for the main dish. Super Puzzle Fighter Turbo II. On the PSP. Sweet mercy.

(Editor's note: Unfortunately, much as we love Capcom Puzzle World, it does suffer from quite a serious problem relating to firmware version 3.5/3.51, which you should be aware of if you're inclined to throw down some cash.)

9/10

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