The PlayStation minis concept is simple - small games that you can download quickly for a low price, to allow the PSP to compete head-to-head with the iPhone. Originally, it was optional whether the games also worked on PS3 but that very quickly became a requirement - whether you want to play games intended for a 3.5" screen on your 46" TV is, of course, up to you...

With the very different control systems on offer, the concept of quick & dirty ports of iPhone games to the minis platform was not something we saw coming immediately but, ultimately, that's what seems to be happening more and more often - like today's game, MiniSquadron.

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The concept is simple enough, playing most like a cross between an old PC game, Sopwith 2, and the arcade classic Time Pilot. If you're not familiar with those games, it's like a side-scrolling shooter but you can turn around and fly the other way - rather than just continually scrolling in a single direction.

Taking control of any of an impressive array of fighter planes (there's literally dozens of the things, which you liberally unlock by playing the game), your goal is simple - defeat waves of similarly equipped aircraft which spawn as each is defeated in the familiar "ever increasingly difficult" manner.

The impressive plane selection screen

The gameplay is super basic and, unfortunately, fairly clumsily executed. The aircraft all move fairly fast and off-screen enemies can fire at you, resulting in you hurtling head-long into unavoidable enemy fire. Death is random and almost unavoidable - even though you can survive several shots before heading for a dirt nap deep beneath the ground below. Powerups are random, tricky to collect and their usefulness varies massively depending on where they spawn.

The presentation of the game is decidedly unimpressive, lacking in detail and passion from boot right through 'til you quit. The menus, for example, require you to press their associated button rather than selecting the item and pressing X. Your plane has next to no animation, feeling like a soulless piece of cardboard as you slide it around an unimaginative background.

The iPhone version - indistinguishable (aside from control overlays) from the PSN version

It is, however, seriously cheap - at $2.59, even when described as "a cavalcade of average", if this kind of thing floats your boat then it's probably still worth picking up - much like most of the $1.29 iPhone games out there. Just don't expect to be anything other than underwhelmed. It's far from terrible but it's far further from excellent, if that makes any sense.

- MiniSquadron
Follow Own it? Rating: PG   Difficulty: Hard   Learning Curve: 5 Min


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