Gaming On The Go And The Sony Xperia Play Review

January 6, 2014 3:26 PM
Padded lamp posts for people gaming on the go?

Padded lamp posts for people gaming on the go?

With social sites and internet interaction via the medium of mobile phones now becoming the default excuse my girlfriend uses when turning up in A+E with a black eye and fat lip (‘…I…was replying to a twit and I walked into a foot…’) it seems the more I fight the less I can avoid the nurses glares.

I refuse to fall foul of becoming a slave to the bing that sends me clamouring for my mobile to find out what Facebook trend will be consuming my data allowance and thumb skin being lost to the accompaniment of what sounds like Flight Of The Valkyries in Morse Code as it deals out a drubbing against the delete button.

Nor do I wish to entrench my face into a blinkered state of staring down the barrel towards my palm as if examining some strange new growth that wasn’t there before, gamely volunteering myself as the ambling ‘X’ in a game of ‘Do Your Brakes Work?’ with traffic as I cross the roads.

It used to be Nintendo that took the role of traction through distraction, and there’s many a mark on my misshapen skull to attest to this. Nowadays, the recourse required to remonstrate a random man halfway across the room whilst smashing into walls falls to mobile social media such as Twitter or Facebook, the unexpected evolutionary duo of usurpers to take the throne from  Microsoft’s MSN network of nosey buggers.

And since my current mobile communicator has been making some odd noises and weird smells lately, I fell to the inevitable and trumped my way through the miasma of mobiles clogging up the shelves of my local CEX.

So now I am the proudest of owners to a Sony Xperia Play (stop laughing at the back, there!), it being the only phone I considered capable enough to fulfil my so many wanton desires and to deserve a place in my top trouser pocket, whilst looking so new and clean and in-box fresh that it would call into question concerns over legitimacy of sale.

So as I nervously await the knock on the door that informs me I have been chosen to help the local constabulary with their enquiries, let’s see what’s what and why’s that, shall we?

I’m not overly interested in the actual ‘phone’ side of this deal, seeing as I know what a phone does nowadays and as long as it texts and calls and maybe doesn’t explode when submerged in regurgitated Guinness too often then it’s all good. And ten minutes with the USB connecting it to SergeantChuggington – my ‘past It’ PC-  later, and I’m off to fulfil me the legend writ big all over the box and play me some games!

The Sony Xperia Play

The Sony Xperia Play

My pocket stitches are no strangers to the strain of an overly large handheld resolutely donning its best chip buttie smelling guilt ridden housewife at a Weight Watchers weigh-in impression, the original aforementioned ‘Brick’ being the burden of many a trouser past.

More recently the task of seam stretching fell upon the shoulder buttons of an original PSP handheld, bringing with it a whole new sack of snakes to shake in the form of an over friendly investigative analogue nub in the nuts.

But the Xperia Play does away with all such contortions and concerns; it slides quietly open to reveal a full complement of console-pad controls, and then closed again to a gentle inhaling of hinge, its rounded edges gliding smoothly from any pocket or place of safety I pick. So a big green ‘One-Up’ already as far as form and function goes.

But facts are faced by manly men, and I didn’t come to this party bringing a worn out copy of Culture Clubs Greatest Hits on twelve inch and ten B+H;  I came to PLAY…and maybe text or something.

Having dispensed with as much of the pre-installed bloat as I could, I started filling the mighty chunky 16 giggly bittage micro SD card I’d bought for such an occasion with emulator gaming joys of traditional pastime fun.

To kick off it has the Xperia Play store…and yeah, that’s nice. And a pre-loaded copy of Crash Bandicoot which, if I’d never played before, would probably be one of the better million year old PlayStation titles they could have but didn’t choose to shoe-horn into the thing to get me used to the controls and that. Like Tetris, for instance, which was also included gratis and with touchable turny-blocky action to boot, it is all as you’d expect and as familiar as it ever was.

Being able to hold the phone as if an actual controller adds much to the experience of enjoyment – previous attempts in an N-Gage shape have never managed to quite capture that feeling one gets when thoroughly immersed and in complete control of a game, such as when palms cradle pad. So a secondary green mushroom gets thrown to whomever decided to make the PLAY a slide open, d-pad and twin nub equipped, four button beast of a thing.

And even though I could moan somewhat about how man-hands tend to dwarf it with unexpected surprise until a case cover of some kind is employed and the whole thing thickened up a bit, I won’t. Because I am a man.

And as the screen-shots show, I have me some gaming to do. With a few minutes online and an imaginative flair, one can succumb to any possible gaming utopian-past of better times and blocky games, the internet community helpful as ever in its quest to hack anything with a circuit board and chips and get Super Mario Bros running on it.

But the possibilities of pure PlayStation paradise at the thought of seeing Aerith get merc’d to the gentle strains of a platform announcer decreeing yo ass ain’t going nowhere ‘til someone moves that dead cow are quickly shot down by the modern-day curse of expendable consumables – battery life.

The second you think about using this thing you’d better start counting down the minutes, because like all phones of this age it’s an Android based platform phone. Which is tech-code for ‘runs down the battery like a bastard’.  Anything you do outside of just leaving it the hell alone costs a seemingly disproportionate amount of battery juice. They may brag on adverts and flyers about Stand-By time and such, but who cares; tell me how many levels I can get through before I gotta plug this sucka in.

gaming on the goI know a few people and they all have some touch-screen ‘droid thing they won’t own until the final payment and it seems it really is a problem across the board – the ‘board’ in this case being two Samsungs and an iPhone-Something-Or-Other (paid for by the time their kids graduate). There’s just so much processing and pixels to push, and with people’s expectations preferring powerful applications o’er an Ever Ready-like endurance, nothing they could fit inside the teeny tiny case could possibly last longer than the start-up screen.

But having shoulders you could comb and a life full of adventure I don’t seem to be able to find the time required to actually worry over such matters, as constantly jumping snake pits and snatching relics in the aisle of Asda would be seriously impeding on my manly mission to salvage as much of the burnt mess off the pan that had aspirations of being tea as possible and covering it with sauce and chips.

So to the toilet we go, and lo do we find it to be the perfect companion to that daily going-over of the minutes from meals past. Twenty minutes here or a half hour there is sufficient to bring into question your intake of required fibre, but also allow you indulgence into the world of retro wonder, wherein Mario is once more charged with the mission of rescuing the Princess; where Lara shows off her complicated yoga-like death pose animation for the umpteenth time as you fail to spot that damn pit of spikes in all that pixelated sand; and yes; even of that moment in Final Fantasy 7, where the carpet was burnt beneath your fallen-to knees at the sight of a dead hippy on a plinth.

Whack on the FPse emulator I recently reviewed and a quick dalliance with the shady side of rom ownership later, leaves me hitting the porcelain pony  handle for a courtesy flush whilst a quick spritz of Febreze takes care of the smell and eBay becomes the next battlefield in my personal war of pixel-precise-pocket-playability, the targets a her-uge 32GB SD card and an extended life replacement battery thicker than a slab of Cadbury Whole Nut.

And as the floor rushes up to greet me after attempting to rise from my throne on legs number than a penguins snub, I take a brief moment to reflect how impressed I am with the world of gaming on the go and mobile communication in general – I mean, my Gameboy may have allowed me to send Link travelling through dungeons perilous and bold or stick a  McLaren on pole at an 8-bit Monaco, but it would have been hard pressed to have connected me to the local ambulance service mid-way through a leap-of-faith to request a little assistance in getting me up off the bog floor and helping stem all the bleeding…