A few days have passed since we first got our hands on the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY, the first PlayStation-certified phone, and now it's time to draw some conclusions. Is the Xperia PLAY really worth the hefty price tag? Does it really boost gaming? Or is the gamepad just a cheap trick? We took a dive in quite a few virtual worlds and here's what we found:
PlayStation phone exclusive
First, we bravely dissected all... six Xperia PLAY exclusive titles only to find what you might have already expected – the gamepad really makes a huge difference here. While your selection of games is very limited, the whole experience comes close to that on an original PlayStation (save for the screen size) and is certainly worth admiration. The unobstructed screen combined with the convenience of having the time-proven PS controls might lead to a serious addiction. If more games come out, that is.
Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja and Doodle Jump, all of which rely on touchscreen actions or the accelerometer. If this kind of gaming is all you really care about, the gamepad would seem like hefty and unnecessary bulk added to the phone as it's absolutely useless with those titles.
Some graphically taxing phone titles like Asphalt 6 (gaming demo here), though, make excellent use of the additional controls. You'll feel a noticeable improvement in your driving from the get-go, while the 4 inches of screen estate seem all the more spacious when you have your fingers out of the way. But motion sensing controls do pretty much the same job. It's titles like the Bruce Lee fighting game or Fifa 10 that truly prove the use of gamepad controls – pumping out combos on with the instant physical feedback giving you a precise idea of timing is just incomparable to anything else out there. The same goes for emulators – we gave Cadillacs and Dinosaurs a quick spin, which suddenly turned out in a full-fledged hourly gaming session. It's that addictive.
For the rest, we were left with mixed feelings as the gamepad does make a difference for hardcore gaming, but if you only plan on spending a couple of minutes here and there to fill in the time with some Angry Birds action, you'll find no good use for it.
Actually, it all comes down to the game genre – first person shooters, sports simulators and emulators are some that fit well the idea of having the slide-out controller; other genres, like racing games, are just as fun – if not more – with their motion-sensitive controls, while the rest of the classical Android gaming roster is not even optimized for the gamepad. Finally, the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY might not bring breath-taking silicon, nor the long list of exclusive premium titles we all expected, but what it does is put the focus on cell phone gaming and that's what really intrigues us. It's all that PlayStation stalwarts ever wanted in a phone, but for everyone else, the Xperia PLAY is mostly a promise. A rosy one, but still a promise rather than a full-baked platform.