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Long read: The beauty and drama of video games and their clouds

"It's a little bit hard to work out without knowing the altitude of that dragon..."

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PSP Roundup

Tomb Raider, SEGA Rally, Syphon Filter, and Dead Head Fred.

Tomb Raider Anniversary

There was once a time when many teens would have given anything to have Lara in the palms of their hands. If the PSP had been around 11 years ago it would have been hard to get most teenage boys (and some girls) out of the toilet, at least without having to book the porcelain into therapy.

Impressively little has been lost during Lara's transition from PS2 to PSP. Levels remain complete and there's still 12-15 hours of gameplay packed inside the tiny disc. Visually it's on a par with the PS2 version (although never pushing the PSP to its limits) and load times are very impressive. However, it's when you experience the camera that you'll realise just how important a second analogue stick is and wish you were playing it on the PS2 instead.

The camera often points in totally the wrong direction and, while the camera angle can be amended at any stage with the L and R buttons, it's so painfully slow to manoeuvre that you'll often get bored waiting and just take a blind jump instead. Controls are also affected by the camera, which can cause many frustrating deaths with the controls not corresponding to the onscreen action. And instead of sending you to the next ledge on your right, pressing right sends you plummeting backwards to your death. Which is the sort of memory of 11 years ago we didn't need.

Thankfully, when you die, which will be quite frequently, the loading times are kept mercifully short and don't add to the frustration like so many other PSP games. Did we mention the loading times are alright? They are. The PS2 Tomb Raider is still preferable due to improved camera control, but if you fancy exploring some tombs on the move it's unlikely to disappoint, as long as you're prepared to be patient and suffer the odd cheap death.


SEGA Rally

Following hot on the heels of the impressive next-gen offering is this handheld version of SEGA Rally, developed by BugBear (of FlatOut fame). Visually SEGA Rally is one of the most stunning PSP titles to date, complete with track deformation and impressive particle effects. Fifteen gorgeous tracks are available to tear up, ranging from Safari through to Arctic conditions, complete with a plethora of detailed cars to choose from and the option to race against the clock, in a championship or via multiplayer (although we never once encountered anybody playing it online). There's even a game-sharing option, although this is locked to two cars and three tracks. But all that matters not one bit when the cars handle like chimps on skates.

Despite the fact that I never once got the hang of the handling, I still managed to complete the game in around five hours, scraping my way along virtually every barrier in the process. The physics take the word 'arcade' to the extreme with the slightest of touches sending your opponents flying into the air, and the AI just doesn't put up enough of a fight resulting in most final laps being a desolate affair. Finally each race takes about 45 seconds to load which, when you consider most are over in around three minutes, is quite laborious.

That all said, SEGA Rally is still an enjoyable title, just not one that will last you very long or give you good value for money. And considering the PSP already has a number of racing games available, it's hard to recommend as anything other than a bargain bin purchase.