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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.