— It's no secret; Sony's aging PlayStation Portable game machine has suffered from a lack of games this year.
But while game releases and PSP sales may be flagging, what hasn't changed is the fact that this handheld gadget remains a powerful device capable of delivering a big console-style gaming experience in a portable package.
The following games would make great presents for players looking for the deep gameplay, amazing graphics and all-around fun the PSP can deliver.
God of War: Ghost of Sparta
This is the sixth installment in Sony's arse-kicking "God of War" franchise and this time around the saga is as intense as ever. This action-adventure game set in a world of mythical gods finds brooding demigod Kratos on a quest to explore his human past. It's an enormous game with an improved combat system as well as new weapons and abilities for players to conquer as they hack and slash their way through a colorful array of deities and monsters. Meanwhile, the story here is utterly compelling and the graphics are absolutely stunning. This M-Rated title is a must-own for grown-up PSP players who don't mind things getting more than a little bloody.
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Though this may be the fifth "Metal Gear" game for the PSP, it is also a first. That is, it's the first portable "Metal Gear" game to be directed by "Metal Gear" creator and famed game innovator Hideo Kojima. A stealth action game with role-playing and strategy elements mixed in, "Peace Walker" is set in 1970s Costa Rica. It follows Naked Snake as he takes on a massive variety of missions and tries to solve a mystery from his past. This game is absolutely epic to play not to mention fantastic to look at. There are many extras to conquer beyond the main story, and excellent co-op play options as well.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep
Rated: E 10+
While Mickey Mouse has made his biggest splash ever in the Wii game "Disney's Epic Mickey," PSP gamers can see the famed mouse and many other beloved Disney characters brought to life in "Birth by Sleep." Here Disney and "Final Fantasy" lore get mixed into one colorful action role-playing package. "Birth by Sleep" marks the sixth installment in the "Kingdom Hearts" series but is also a prequel to the very first game in the series. It follows the adventures of three young warriors — Ventus, Terra and Aqua — as they travel through worlds plucked from Disney films such as "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "Sleeping Beauty" and "Fantasia." The game is gorgeous and offers many hours of imaginative play.
Rated: E 10+
This delightful game of monster capturing and monster battling makes everything more exciting by making it appear as though the creatures and the battles take place right in your own living room. The game, which comes packaged with a special PSP camera attachment, puts augmented reality to work. If you're not familiar, that means it uses a camera to overlay digital information onto your view of the real world. In this game, the camera makes it so players can look through their PSP as they walk around their house, trying to find hidden monsters to capture, raise and later battle. Think of it like "Pokemon" come to life in your own home. Check out this "Invizimals" trailer to see the game in action. Meanwhile, for more augmented reality gaming, check out "EyePet" for the PSP and PS3, which I reviewed here.
Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake
Despite the controversy over the "fat" in "Fat Princess," when the game first arrived on the PlayStation 3 last year, I found it a gleefully wicked fairy tale romp. And the same goes for the new installment — "Fistful of Cake" — on the PSP. In this game, after joining either the Red Kingdom or the Blue Kingdom, it's your job to sprint about a chaotic cartoonish battlefield trying to keep the enemy's princess locked up in your castle while also saving your own princess from the opposing team’s castle. To keep the enemy princess on your team's turf, you'll not only have to cut down marauding enemies, you'll have to feed the fair lady gobs of cake (which, of course, makes her heavier and thus harder to carry home). "Fistful of Cake" for the PSP includes an expanded single-player story, new levels and new multiplayer modes. Granted, "Fat Princess" is at its best when it's played on the PS3, but for those who need their gaming on the go, the PSP version lets you have your cake and eat it too.