05
Oct
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I'm going to start this review out with a gigantic disclaimer: I used PlayStation Mobile on a rooted Nexus 7, per Artem's instructions, hardware that it wasn't technically designed for. The service should run on just about any (rooted) Android device, as well as natively on most recent Sony phones and tablets. At least some of the games in the store are also available on the PlayStation Vita. Other Android users are having trouble (even I had to flash to a stock, rooted backup), so stability and performance may certainly have been somewhat off while I used the service.

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Even so, PlayStation Mobile, or at least the Android version, is awful. It's limited, poorly implemented, and mired in Sony's proprietary software and account management. Even worse than that, it's profoundly limited when it comes to game selection - disappointingly, Sony hasn't leveraged their rich game library in the same way that they did for the PlayStation Store on the original Tablet S and Tablet P. There's not so much as a Crash Bandicoot title in the catalog. Not only should rooted gamers avoid PlayStation Mobile, I doubt that it's even worth investigating for Sony phone or tablet owners, or any future hardware that Sony plans to expand to.

Games, Or Lack Thereof

This review is about PlayStation Mobile as a service, not any single game available on the platform. Even so, I can't avoid talking about the games that are currently available... or rather, the ones that aren't. When browsing through the admittedly fetching store interface, you'll find just over a dozen games available, only one of which is free. And that one's a collection of card games, which only contains one extremely limited demo of Solitaire. None of the games on offer seem particularly amazing, but I did load up my wallet (see below) and bought a couple: a rhythm/action game called Samurai Beatdown and a top-down arcade game called Rebel.

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Samurai Beatdown is actually a decent bit of fun: run through an Edo-style castle, slashing various bad guys in time to electronic beats. It's obviously inspired by Samurai Champloo, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Controls are simple - just tap to either side of the screen to slash bad guys as you run along. And those controls will need to be simple, since the Dual Shock on-screen controls don't ever appear.

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The other game I tried, Rebel, was incredibly basic, but at least let my Nexus 7 stretch its legs with some polygonal graphics. You're an escaped prisoner of war getting shot at by the enemy. Run around like a chicken with your head cut off until they shoot each other, accumulating points until one of you is dead.

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The problem with these games is that there's nothing here that seems like it couldn't be done better on the Google Play Store. None of the games are pushing what modern hardware can do, which is presumably the target market. For that matter, it's nowhere near pushing what the PlayStation Vita can do, and Vita access is the only real reason for developers to choose PlayStation Mobile over a wider Play Store distribution. Without any classic PlayStation games available, at least at the moment, it all seems like so much wasted effort.

Controls: Whose Format Is It Anyway?

When I started up the "free" Everybody's Arcade game, it was a little jarring to see Sony's PlayStation-style controls overlaid on the screen. Surely they weren't trying to use a digital D-pad for control of a Solitaire game, when I had a handy touchscreen that would be infinitely better for the job? This turned out to be the case, much to my surprise: when the Dual Shock overlay is active, standard touch controls are completely disabled, and you'll have to go through menus as if you were playing a console game.

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I quickly found that the overlay could be disabled via the "down" button, turning Everybody's Arcade into a perfectly serviceable, touch-controlled Solitaire demo. But when I booted up the Rebel game, the overlay controls were still active... which was puzzling, since they didn't do anything. Once I disabled the overlay, I realized that Rebel could only be controlled via the touchscreen. So why are the overlay controls there? When I booted up Samurai Beatdown, it correctly disabled the overlay controls for the touch-only game.

The overlay controls themselves are actually pretty impressive, thanks to some very detailed customization. You can go into the settings for each game and adjust the color scheme, transparency, size and position of each element. Want a digital thumbstick on one side and D-pad on the other, with the XO PlayStation buttons in the middle? Go for it. Do you want your controls to mimic the actual Sony look, or prefer a barely-there outline? Either choice is available.

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But the simple fact is that none of the games I tried - indeed, none of the games in the entire store, by the look of them - would benefit from the Dual Shock overlay. Of the handful of titles available, most are rhythm or puzzle games, all of which benefit from full touchscreen control. I could see the point if Sony was offering emulated or remade PlayStation or PSP games, but that's not the case. The overlay controls add a level of complexity that's not just confusing, it's almost entirely unnecessary, and it's clear that developers haven't got a handle on how to properly implement the system.

Clunky Store Integration

All this might be forgivable if it weren't for Sony's absolutely horrible store integration. In order to browse the PlayStation Mobile store, you'll need to sign up for a Sony PlayStation Network account. No big deal if you're using the PlayStation Vita, and if you're using an Xperia device, maybe you've already got a Sony account for their proprietary movie and music stores. But for any other Android user (like, say, the HTC owners that Sony eventually hopes to expand to) it's one more account that you don't want, and shouldn't need.

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So now that you've agreed to join Sony's hegemony, you can download the one free game available in the store. After you've had your fill of Solitaire, you'll want to try out some of the other games, costing between 50 cents and five dollars. No problem - you've already got cards associated with Google Wallet. But that won't work. Well at least there's PayPal... but no, no integration with PayPal's API either. So you buckle down and prepare to enter your credit card information into Sony's proprietary system to pay for a $1 game... only to find that you can't actually buy one directly.

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In order to buy anything from PlayStation Mobile, you'll have to fill up a digital wallet and buy from that. Users of console gaming systems like the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live will be familiar with this approach, and exactly how much of a pain it is on your real wallet. The minimum amount you can add is $5, so prepare to buy more digital currency than you may want.

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Speaking of currency, the developers making games for PlayStation Mobile sure seem to want a lot of it. The free Everybody's Arcade game is really just a demo of Solitaire - if you want to play it more than ten times, or try any of the other card games on offer, you'll have to buy them via an in-app purchase deducted from your Sony wallet. Rebel is a paid game that uses the oh-so-common model of progression though upgrades bought with in-app currency, which drops so infrequently that you're forced to either grind through hours of low-level gameplay or shell out real money to advance.

Conclusion

I'm not usually so blunt, but PlayStation Mobile is bad. It's a lackluster service promoting overpriced, average games to an audience that has better alternatives almost everywhere. The controls are clunky and overly complex, the store itself is mired in Sony's proprietary accounts and payment systems, and worst of all, the service doesn't use any of Sony's decades of gaming heritage to its advantage.

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Rooted users thinking of trying out PlayStation Mobile: don't bother. Future owners of Sony and partner hardware: look to the Play Store for better, cheaper games. The only ones who might possibly get some use out of the service are PlayStation Vita owners who want to continue playing a game on their mobile device... but with such lackluster content on display, it's hard to believe that there will be anyone who fits into even this small category.

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • RedPandaAlex

    ok, but if they release a LittleBigPlanet game for Android through this, I will buy it.

  • BrianLipp

    i dont understand the "no legacy games" complaint. Sony never alluded to or said that this service was to re-release PSOne/PSP games. They always positioned it as a new platform/SDK to give devs an easy way to create smaller games for Vita and Android. And name one platform/service that launched with a mind blowing amount of games, all of which were quality. Im not trying to be an apologist, but it seems like a lot of people had expectations for the service that Sony never said would be part of it

    • btod

      actually, the PS vita launched with 25 titles and over 100 more in development. Being new to the game is not an excuse, especially since sony has experience with this sort of thing. They are moving away from physically copies of their games towards digital downloads for crying out loud

      • Carl Jennings

        And this launched with 20 games, which is only 5 less than Vita. And there are more in development, and more releasing regularly, before the SDK goes public in November.

      • BrianLipp

        and how many were ports of older games from consoles? half of them, at least. THe Wii U has 20+ games at launch, 99% of which are ports, either of games from earlier this year or from a year+ ago. And ~20 games isnt a lot, most consoles launch with that many, with only at most 5 being quality

    • Christopher Wilmeth

      No, but they did use the Playstation brand name, which does allude to being able to play Playstation games.

  • Carl Jennings

    Uhh yeah i think you missed the point of this with the "where is the back catalogue of games?" complaints. That isn't what PSM is for and it was never what PSM was for.

    Also, of course you have to use PSN to buy them. That's sort of the point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1510272284 facebook-1510272284

    Only good thing about it is that super crate box is an excellent gsme

  • http://twitter.com/snalty bad wolf

    Menu button of shame

  • defred34

    Nah, I don' understand your complaint over creating another account. Yeah, this will turn off a lot of people, but you don't expect Sony to allow you to just download games w/o an account, do you?

    I find it so very weird they've got a physical controls layout for what are decidedly phone games. I understand if they had some classic PS1/2 games, but not the case here.

    I will surely not get any games from them. Sony should instead just be a publisher of these games on the Play store. If they're thinking of exclusive content/games like nVidia, they're so very far off. At least nVidia is doing a good job.

    • duplissi

      beyond that, its not like this is an account that no one has either, if you are one of the 50+ million with a ps3 and one of the 70+ million with a psp then you already have a psn account.

  • Caio Moreno

    I installed on my rooted Galaxy Nexus, it enters on the store, but after 1-2 secs it says it forces close. I don't know what I did wrong, but I followed the instructions by risk.

  • btod

    Samurai Champloo was the shit!!!

  • Nath Algren

    lol at this article. smh

  • CJ Vanilla

    Random question: Are you sure its not being limited to a specific device?
    Some games even in the Play Store can only be played on certain devices like Horn. I couldn't download Horn via Galaxy Nexus. Maybe since you were on the Nexus 7 then it was only displaying the games that are available on all devices. Maybe the build.prop or whatever its called; it could be edited for Sony's current flagship tab and yield more games.

  • Chris Bringhurst

    Is this article serious? I can barely tell.
    Who cares if you thought some of its games were overpriced? All this means is more games for those who are interested. I've never seen such a long article complaining about something as simple and easy to ignore as a take-it-or-leave-it game store.

  • Jeremiah Rice

    True, Sony Sony never promised legacy content content for PSM (not that I ever said they did). But when they've already got plenty of Android compatible games from the PlayStation Store, which isn't even a year old in some markets, why wouldn't they use these games to bolster a new initiative? Never mind that the control infrastructure seems intended for that purpose already.

    • BrianLipp

      is there really a worthwhile number of those PSOne Android compatible games? i know the released Crash and Cool Boarders or something and a few others, but i thought they stopped releasing those after a while, partly because they were mainly for the Xperia Play which no one bought and didnt sell since, even if you bought them on PS3/PSP/Vita, they were on a different account and you had to rebuy them.

  • krusty

    What a shit review don't believe this guy. Check out ign edge eurogamer pocket gamer. proper reviews. Pfft

  • alexxx

    I agree with everything you said Jeremiah, having had ps mobile on my HTC OneX for a while. It is an emberassment to the entire playstation legacy. This should not have been released yet. For all of you excusing a multi billion dollar mammoth like sony, stfu! This is beyond PATHETIC! It should have ONLY started with ps1 and 2 legends, not A fking sickening siht like that game where you touch virtual girls legs as she twitches around for $5 I think it is. Paaaaaatheticc, fu sony, ps3 is shit, never buying another console...smarphones will replace them within next generation (tegra4)

  • Anonymous

    I think you didn't really get the essence of the platform, PSM is aimed mainly at indie devs, it doesn't tap into the full power of the Vita but instead goes for a common factor among all the supported devices, also you CAN use paypal on PSN, you just need to transfer funds using the account management on the SCE website.
    Seriously bro atleast do some research before ranting :/