iPhone Games Vs PSP minis: Game-By-Game Match-Up, Round 1

With so many minis starting off life as iPhone apps it’s hard not to compare the two. Leaving aside all questions of pricing, as it’s highly likely that minis will come down in price in the same way that a lot of iPhone games have, we decided to put a few minis up against their iPhone counterparts and see which provides the best overall gaming experience, including controls, graphics and gameplay. Of course everyone will have their own opinions, so we welcome your comments and contributions!

Okay, so here we go then, Round 1!


Once the iPhone version of Fieldrunners gets a content update, the only difference between it and the PSP version will be the controls, the new theme music, and the enhanced graphics of the PSP version. Now who wouldn’t want new theme music and painstakingly reworked visual effects? While playing, it’s clear you feel yourself submerged a little deeper in the experience. These enhancements alone put the iPhone on the ropes in this fight.

So what about the controls?

Fieldrunners is a solid game and plays perfectly on the iPhone. When it first came out I thought it was exactly what the iPhone needs, a game whose controls are enhanced by the device, not hindered by it, like so many other games are. The touch screen was such a natural way to place, upgrade and sell towers; I didn’t think it could get any better. Well, unfortunately for Apple, I was proved wrong.

About an hour into playing the PSP version I realized that all that finger sliding, pinching and tapping was quite, well, laborious. Sure it’s novel and cool. But is it the really the best way to play a game?

After adapting to the PSP controls, I was soon placing, upgrading, selling, zooming, panning, pausing and fast-forwarding more efficiently than ever. All the while my hands stayed relatively still and snugly wrapped around the PSP. Sure my fingers were clocking a decent speed but not to the extent my whole hand, index finger and thumb would on the iPhone. To put it simply, I had more fine-tuned precision and speed, with less effort. It just made the whole experience more enjoyable.

The winner: PSP

hero-of-sparta-3Hero of Sparta:

The iPhone version of Hero of Sparta is actually a lot of fun to play, and if you didn’t have anything else to compare it to you’d probably be quite happy with the original controls. The onscreen virtual analog stick works reasonably well, and the special attacks using the shield are very easy to execute, as all you have to do is quickly flick your thumb or finger to use them.

However, I find that the onscreen attack button isn’t as responsive or satisfying to use as the real button on the PSP. I frequently have to press the onscreen icon at least twice to get it to perform an action, during which time my opponent has sliced a big chunk out of my health meter while I’m still stabbing away with my finger on the screen. That just doesn’t happen on the PSP.

Where the PSP version really comes into its own is in the quick-time events and special death moves. The first major boss battle, The Keeper, illustrates the point perfectly.

On the iPhone version, to execute the special move to stab The Keeper’s hand you have to quickly sweep your finger across the screen, whereas on the PSP version it’s so much easier and feels so much more immediate to just press the actual real buttons when their icons appear on screen.

In terms of graphics, there’s really very little between the two versions. Obviously you have a slightly restricted view of the screen on the iPhone due to the placement of the touch-screen controls, but the opening movie and cutscenes look just as stunning on both. In terms of gameplay, the PSP version seems a little simplified, as you can’t upgrade your weapons like you can on the iPhone. Still, that’s not really a big part of the gameplay, and doesn’t help the iPhone to overhaul the clear winner of this particular slugfest.

The winner: PSP


I really do find it hard to choose between these two versions. The minis version is obviously much closer to the original Game Boy Tetris, with the physical buttons, and although it’s in color and features a variant version, it’s much closer to the basic old-school experience with very few bells and whistles. If you’re after straight-up Tetris, then that’s what you get with the minis version.

The iPhone version is more arcade-like in style; it seems brighter, more glossy, and the tap screen controls seem to work just as well, if not better than the minis version’s controls. When you stroke your finger down to slam the blocks into place, it feels more immediate than the minis version.

The iPhone game also has a Magic  mode which the minis version doesn’t have, with lots of really fun power-ups such as bubble wrap to pop the blocks, crayons to draw your own shapes, and hammers to smash them away when you shake the screen. It’s such an enjoyable mode to play and seems perfectly adapted to the iPhone controls, so it’s this mode that clinches the final result for me.

The winner: iPhone

Overall conclusion: Obviously there will be those people who really prefer playing games with a touch screen, and that’s what the differences mainly come down to. If you’ve always been a console gamer in the past, there’s something so satisfying about actually pressing physical buttons that for me the iPhone can’t duplicate when there’s a choice, although there are still plenty of genius iPhone games around of course.

As far as the three games we’ve looked at here, the one that requires the most dexterity, Hero of Sparta, is so much better on the PSP because hacking and slashing just feels so much better with real live buttons and a real analog stick. Use of controls is much less of an issue with Tetris, so which version you prefer really depends on whether you like the more serious PSP version or the more arcade-style iPhone version with all the fun power ups. With Fieldrunners, it’s not that the iPhone controls are bad, more that the PSP controls are even better.

Overall Round 1 winner: PSP

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6 Responses to “iPhone Games Vs PSP minis: Game-By-Game Match-Up, Round 1”
  1. barkiemailman says:

    PSP GO! Er – GO PSP!

    Pretty cool idea for a new article…It’ll be interesting to see the next round.

  2. Raymond says:

    Great article. Very fine to read! :)

  3. Joe says:

    Great article! I will always wonder if I should have purchased an iPhone/iTouch instead of my PSP go.

    -first time PSP owner, virgin to anything “i” related-

  4. papped says:

    Nice article, Fieldrunners definitely is excellent on the PSP. Have had a lot of playing it and the controls work very well.

  5. rajoy peter says:

    psp rocks!! yay!!

  6. senaiboy says:


    If you want any serious gaming, you made the right choice with the PSP. Having both a PSP3000 and iPhone, I’d say the PSP is a more ‘natural’ gaming console with buttons. On-touchscreen buttons just take up too much of the screen and leaving you with 2/3 the view.

    Furthermore, PSP have more ‘proper’ games with long gameplay life, while iPhone games generally last only an hour or so.

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