August 02, 2006
How To Buy Handheld PSP Games for Less
It's crazy how much video games cost. But there is a reason for $40 price tags on new games for Sony's handheld PSP. Game companies spend a lot of money to pay hundreds of employees to develop just one game.
Even so, I'm not rich, and I'm guessing you aren't either, so I went trolling for PSP games in used-game stores, and found bargains for you. I went looking for popular athletic titles just to show you what you can get in sports games alone.
These are all "E"-rated games, except for the "Teen"-rated "Fight Night 3." These games look great. And none is too difficult for regular gamers to handle. These prices are what you should be able to pay at used-game stores like EB Games, GameStop and Game Crazy.
"MVP Baseball" ($20) is one of the best Major League games ever. It's a blast to pitch, hit and slide around the bases. Green fields look splendid. Players move pretty realistically. And it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out how to throw a good curve ball. Four stars.
"MLB '06: The Show" ($35) is another great baseballer. It plays intensely fun, and it's easy to learn. It's extremely realistic. Four stars.
"Tiger Woods PGA Tour '06" ($25) is so spectacular, no other golf game comes close to being as addictive. On PSP, it takes too much time to load the images for each hole. But if you're patient, the pay-off is intense. Four stars.
"Fight Night Round 3" ($35) is a good PSP version of the best Xbox 360 sports title of the year. It's not quite as fun, and it's a little slower to load, but it's the real deal. Three and one-half stars.
"NBA Street Showdown" ($20) puts NBA stars on street-ball courts. You can even play as legends, like Elgin Baylor and Pete Maravich. If you've played a street basketball game before, this is just like the others. It's fun if you don't mind hurting your hands while pressing all the buttons constantly, which is necessary to win. Four stars.
"FIFA Soccer" ($20) is a winning "football" title. It's a breeze to pass, shoot and defend, and it looks as close to real soccer as it could on a handheld game system. Two and one-half stars.
"Street 2 Unleashed" ($18) puts NFL stars in street games. This football "Street" is also like its predecessors. You catch balls and do spectacularly silly plays, bouncing into walls and such, as pro ballers on urban fields. Two and one-half stars.
"Gretzky NHL '06" ($25) is better than previous "Gretzky" games, which looked cheap and played dull. This one is sleeker and more lifelike, but it's a bit too frenetic. Skaters zip around so fast, and smash into you so often, it's impossible to take the breather necessary to set up and carry out plays. Two and one-half stars.
"NBA '06" ($25) is a harder version of "NBA 2005" ($15). Skip the 2006 version. It's too cumbersome to drive and score. It's a two-star game. The 2005 "NBA" is four stars.
"Winning Eleven 9" ($35) is the most recent installment of the soccer title beloved by critics. But to me — especially after watching the World Cup — it seems to lag in two ways. It's hard to control the ball, and it's hard to control your players. It's frustrating. Two stars.
Used Game Of The Week
"Arena Football" looks like a bargain in the used bins for $15 or so, but it's got some serious drawbacks. It doesn't look as good as "Madden" football games, and it's been known to crash online.
That said, it's not a terrible choice for a used game. You might just want to wait a month or two until it drops to less than $10. It's available for Xbox and PS 2. It's rated "E 10+" for language, mild violence and suggestive themes.
(Ratings: "E" for "Everyone;" "T" for "Teen;" "M" for "Mature 17+")
Doug Elfman is an award-winning columnist who is also the TV critic at the Chicago Sun-Times.