I'm thinking about buying a portable gaming system for business trips.
January 22, 2011 5:42 PM   Subscribe

My job requires me to travel a few times a year, for weeks at a time. I'm debating the purchase of a PSP or DS, specifically for travel-entertainment purposes. We've been over this before, but not for a couple of years, so I'm wondering about the State of Portable Consoles.

Sure, I have my iPhone, but I frequently find myself wanting something that requires more twitchy controls than the iPhone can provide, and that isn't designed to be played for just a few minutes at a time. My work laptop, for various reasons, is not an option.

Some important points:

* I'm looking at this purchase entirely for the 60+ hours I'm going to be spending in airports and planes over the next few months, and the many hours I spend in hotel rooms trying to relax and/or kill time at the end of the day. Most of my trips are 2 weeks long and none are shorter than a full week, so this is very much a case of wanting a portable console to carry with me, not just something to complement my Xbox 360 at home or entertain me as I wait in line at the DMV. As long as the games themselves are different, I don't mind that game types might be similar to the ones I've got on my Xbox. I don't care if the thing sits totally untouched between trips.

* I don't own a PS3, so I won't benefit from the PS3/PSP interfacing; on the other hand, the "overlap" between exclusives is less (eg, I don't have access to PS3 LittleBigPlanet.)

* Nobody I know owns either system, so multiplayer's not terribly important.

* Yes, I know the 3DS is coming soon and the PSP2 may be too, but the earliest I'd be buying either of those systems is after at least a ton of travel, and if I buy something that "only" entertains me for a year's worth of business travel, I'll consider it money well-spent.

* I used to have a DS; sold it because I wasn't really using it at all. That said, this was back in '07, and not only have new games come out, but the whole travel thing puts a new perspective on my usage.

* Obviously I'd get a PSP-3000 and not a Go, because I don't hate myself.

I'm interested in a broad spectrum of genres, other than Japanese-style RPGs and sports games. I'm biased toward action gaming though, as the iPhone's not half bad for lightweight strategy games. I don't particularly care about the Nintendo first-party stuff per se - that is, I may enjoy them on a per-game basis, but I have zero interest in "oh good, it has the label Mario slapped on it" and overall they don't impress me.
posted by Tomorrowful to Technology (16 answers total)
If you don't have to change hotels during your trip, you might want to consider just bringing your XBox or buying another one to use when you travel. That way you'd be able to play games you already own, and play them on your home system as well.

This, of course, doesn't do anything to fill your time in the airport or on planes, but I thought I'd toss it out there in case you hadn't considered it. My brother travels multiple times a year for business and does this. With many hotels having front inputs on their tvs, it's really simple to set up and take down. He does stay at the same hotel each time, so he knows he'll always be able to plug his console in. If you're staying in different hotels every time and don't know what their standard tvs are like, this might not work as well.
posted by MsMolly at 5:55 PM on January 22, 2011

Response by poster: Sorry, should have said: Carrying the Xbox with me is not gonna work. Too big, and much too heavy (For the one-week trips, I usually live out of a carryon), and my hotels do vary and frequently have awful ancient TVs. Plus, my trips are frequently international and I do personal travel afterwards; keeping to a minimum the amount of weight I haul through the streets of a city to my next hostel is important.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:07 PM on January 22, 2011

You might want to look at an iPad. I've been on a week-long trip to India and the iPad was great for watching movies & shows as well as playing games. The battery life is pretty decent too. I find the PSP and DS screens kind of small for long playing sessions.
posted by elmay at 6:14 PM on January 22, 2011

Get the DSi. I have both the PSP 1000 and DS Lite and the DS has more games I enjoy and is a lot easier to pick up and go, and you don't have to worry about scratching the mini-discs.

That said, I wouldn't trade Loco Roco or Lumines or Me & My Katamari on the PSP for anything. You could always get them both, refurbished. I bought my PSP off a friend for half price.

But if I have to pick one, the DS. With the DSi you can get downloadable games just like the PSP. And as far as I know the DSi doesn't have the constant firmware updates of the PSP.
posted by IndigoRain at 6:30 PM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

DSi for game variety and the lack of update nonsense. I'm with IndigoRain though, keep your eyeballs peeled and you can get both of them refurbished for the price of one.

The DSi is super duper travel-friendly, I've found. The battery lasts forever, the flip-top keeps the screen safe, and the whole form factor of the object makes it much easier to slip into a pocket or knock around in a bag without worrying. The little cartridges (or whatever they're called) are hard/impossible to break, as well.

Do you play on portable consoles much? I find that my taste in genres varies on console format. For the big box consoles I like certain sorts of games, but for portables I like a lot of different ones I normally wouldn't enjoy. So, don't limit yourself in terms of genre.
posted by Mizu at 6:52 PM on January 22, 2011

I have both and don't really use either. They're both too big and feature ugly 3D graphics (in my opinion). I love love love my Gameboy Micro, which is wonderful for its cheap collection of 2D RPGs (Final Fantasy), Action-Adventure games (Zeldas), Platformers (Mario), and Metroidvanias (Metroid/Castlevania). Also, it's not embarrassing for me to use in public. It features vastly different games from the new home consoles, which is great for me as well.
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:59 PM on January 22, 2011

I bought a psp3000 series a few years back and modded it straight away. I find that I can't stand to play it for ANY length of time before it seriously hurts my fingers. I played God of War something something Wrath to completion, and I played a couple others like Ace Combat, and whatever I'd downloaded, but nothing else to completion.

I've considered picking up a DS for the lady, she prefers Nintendo style games, and then modding that---but haven't so far because nothing absolutely jumps out at me.

Really, I chimed in to say that the PSP form factor SUCKS, and it will hurt you. OTOH, you get skype and really very rich colors and graphics. It really looks very nice.
posted by TomMelee at 7:25 PM on January 22, 2011

I have a DS, but the only time I've taken it out since I got my iPhone is to play the Professor Layton games. (Which I love and definitely recommend if you choose a DS.) So I guess I'm here to say, "Maybe take a second look at your iPhone?" New games are coming out every day, and game manufacturers are getting better and better at making the most of the touch-screen controls.

Since you're specifically looking for long games, some recs:

The iPhone is awesome for adventure games, and a lot of classics have been ported, like The Curse of Monkey Island, Broken Sword, and the sequels to each. You could probably spend your 60 hours of downtime just on those four games. You could also try a more modern twist on the adventure game like Phoenix Wright.

For RPGs, Aralon. It's not perfect but it's good fun, especially if you've played games like Wow. I've also heard good things about Dungeon Defenders, which is an RPG/Tower Defence hybrid.

Lego Harry Potter has at least twenty hours of core gameplay, and then much more if you go back with your unlocked characters to find every hat and token.

Finally, some puzzle games I've spent hours playing: Aqueduct, Helsing's Fire, Trainyard.

Several of these games are also available on DS. (Broken Sword, Lego HP, Phoenix.) It's my understanding that the iPhone versions are exactly the same, and as a bonus, they tend to cost around 10-20% of the price of the DS versions.
posted by Georgina at 7:37 PM on January 22, 2011

we have two DSes in this house. we'll be upgrading them to DSiXLs. that, plus an R4 card, and it's all the entertainment you'll need. carrying all your games with you on a single cartridge is awesome. also, there are txt viewers so you can even use it to read short stories and such.
posted by nadawi at 7:48 PM on January 22, 2011

if you can wait a few months, and like classic (emulated) games, take a look at OpenPandora... slightly larger than a DS, full gaming controls (a/b/x/y, d-pad, 2 analogue sticks, shoulder buttons) plus a qwerty keyboard, emulates old arcade games up to PS1, and runs a Linux desktop for web/email/etc...

it's been quite a wait for bulk shipping to get started, but production finally seems to be on track...
posted by russm at 8:30 PM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

The DS was my answer hands-down, until you mentioned you already had one and got rid of it. And the bias towards action games, which I don't think the DS is all that strong on. That's probably the one category that the PSP wins. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, God of War: Ghost of Sparta, several GTA iterations (though to be fair Chinatown Wars is on the DS).

They're both solid systems. Head over to metacritic or find a few "top __ games" lists and just make a tally of stuff you want to play.

*goes back to Picross 3D which is the best game ever and everyone should play it*
posted by graventy at 8:59 PM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

We've got both, and I got a lot more usage out of the PSP before I ended up getting an iPod touch. I mostly used the PSP for watching video files on the go (hence the quick move to the iPod when it came out), but for me, the games available for the PSP just seemed more fun. There's a lot less of the traditional Nintendo style sidescrolling/arcadey games, and a lot more modern feeling games for the PSP, at least in my experience. Games I really got a lot of (going back several years) were Katamari, Star Wars Battlefront, Heavy Metal, Vice City Stories, and there was also a Warhammer 40k squad combat game as well which was pretty great.

Aside from everything else, the controls for the PSP just seem to offer more options for more modern gaming. The stylus and the game play it provides isn't all that amazing, and then past that, you're stuck with the single d-pad and a couple buttons.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:22 AM on January 23, 2011

I had a DS for travel, and other than Professor Layton I didn't really use it. I ended up finding it a bit annoying on flights. I've sold it in favour of an iPod touch (which I can use for podcasts, games, and reading).
posted by wingless_angel at 12:53 AM on January 23, 2011

Ghidorah: "The stylus and the game play it provides isn't all that amazing"

I hear you and I agree on the point to a certain extent, but there are some amazingly innovative games on the DS, which brings me to a few recs for the OP:

*Scribblenauts (don't bother with the sequel, Super Scribblenauts... in my and many others' opinions, it sucks all the fun out of the game). This is a really neat game - you think of a word, write it, and that object appears. Example: You're presented with a fireman and a fire and the hint "What does he need?" You could write "hose," "water," or "fire extinguisher." Features short levels that are easy to pick up and put down. However, if you play a lot, you'll finish it in 2-3 days.

*Animal Crossing: Wild World - if you like games such as Farmville (repetitious, collecting themes, etc, but with NPCs and a little storyline). Also, this one's played in real time - if your DS's clock is set to your time zone, when it's day/night for you, it will be in the game too. That goes for seasons as well. In other words, you'll be seeing new stuff for at least a year. Really benefits from Wifi connections with other people, but you can find in-game friends online.

*Kirby Canvas Curse - brings a new way of travelling to the platformer - you must draw what are essentially conveyor belts for Kirby to roll along.

*Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime - You don't need to have ever played any of the Dragon Quest games. A really fun adventure game.

*New Super Mario Bros - just what it says. It really is a fabulous new version of the classic game.

*Wario Ware: Touched - well, if you're not worried about frantic stylus scribbling, anyways... it's all minigames.

*Me & My Katamari - from the Katamari Damacy series

*Lumines - kind of like Tetris only matching colors instead of shapes

*Loco Roco series - really cute platformer with little blobs rolling around that can combine to form 1 big ball or separate to fit into tight spaces

*Patapon series - a rhythm-based game in which you are the god of tiny warriors and your drum beats instruct them how to fight, move, or retreat.

*Exit - a brainteasing platformer

*Echochrome - ditto but with a minimalist style
posted by IndigoRain at 2:19 AM on January 23, 2011

Just from a budgeting perspective, I'd also consider taking a second look at your iPhone. If its an iPhone 4 the performance and portability are comparable to a PSP on key points. Some things you'll be missing out on (which are admittently pretty big deal-breakers for many gamers) are the physical buttons and PSP titles. There's a good amount of really good action titles for the iPhone/iTouch, but you'll want the latest gen model with the retina display. For me, what makes the iPhone worthwhile for gaming is that it is also integral to everyday use. I find myself compulsively carrying it around with me compared to a handheld. The downsides are I occasionally have to deal with iTunes, and I'm not a fan of having my fingers get in the way of the display for some games.

But from within a budgeting context, you're looking at $5-10 games instead of $30-50. For many titles the price scales to the amount of content. Although, there are some iphone games that seem to break that mold a little where you'd think they'd cost more but remain relatively cheap. I thinks that's mainly because the precedent is set that consumers expect apps to generally not cost more than $10.

That being said, most of the games available for the PSP-3000 are top notch and professional polished, thus the expectations are higher. UMDs are a bit of a hassle, and you have to take extra precautions to make sure you keep them dirt and scratch free. They can also lead to mechanical failures as the PSP is a handheld with moving parts. Overall the PSP 3000 looks and feels more like a real console...something the iphone/itouch cannot really compete with at the moment. For console-like games, the PSP has the advantage. For a portable entertainment/media center with casual games, I'd stick with the iPhone.

Now as for the DSi...Nintendo has always held a special spot with me, especially since I'm more of a legacy gamer at heart. For action based games however it will probably not be the right fit for you. The DS excels at fun, innovative, yet casual games...just like the Wii. Nintendo's target audience is the casual gamer, and they've done a great job at gathering foothold there. Pick one up for a more interactive gaming experience. Just don't expect COD4 style games to look and feel as impressive on the DS as they do on the PSP or iPhone.
posted by samsara at 11:33 AM on January 23, 2011

Small note re. nadawi's comment; last time I checked, the R4 card won't fly with the DSiXL; you need an EDGE card.

Get a DSiXL, EDGE card and a 16GB SD card and you have almost the perfect answer to your question; Anywhere up to a hundred DS games at your instant beck and call.

This + iPhone / iPad is all you would need to while away the downtime, imo.
posted by DrtyBlvd at 6:25 AM on January 25, 2011

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