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Hands-on video: Sony Xperia PLAY

by Andrew Koziara

Hey everyone. As a special treat we are going to spend the next week looking at the Sony Xperia PLAY and some of its games. Welcome to PLAY week. Let’s start out by taking a gander at the device itself.

Basic features include the four standard Android buttons of back, home, options, and search. They are actual traditional buttons instead of touch sensor buttons, and I prefer it that way. The four-inch screen is crisp and clear, and one of the better touchscreens I’ve ever played on. Everything I played looked great in the 854x480 resolution. You can see the front facing camera right above the Sony logo there. On the back side you can see the back facing camera along with a photo and video light to make it more versatile. The phone sports a 5.1-megapixel camera which looks great. As you can see in these pics of my current entertainment set up, the photos are high res and sharp. The speakers are also loud and clear, and great for both gaming and music. All the other standard stuff is here and I’d rather not just list off all the specs and basic functions. This is the first official PlayStation phone, so let’s get to the good stuff.

The slide out controller is awesome, featuring a D-pad, options button, start and select buttons, dual touch-sticks, and of course, the iconic PlayStation face buttons. On the side of the phone next to the volume are the left and right shoulder buttons. All the buttons feel great, and it’s a blast to play games with them. The device has a nice heft to it and is comfortable to hold. This basically just feels like my Nexus One mashed together with a PlayStation controller, but I’m perfectly OK with that. The phone comes pre-loaded with seven Xperia PLAY optimized games. These games are Madden NFL 11, Bruce Lee: Dragon Warrior, Asphalt 6: Adrenaline, The Sims 3, Star Battalion, Crash Bandicoot, and good old Tetris. All these games feel like legitimate console games outside of the graphics.

When you slide the gamepad out, the phone is kind enough to bring you directly to the Xperia PLAY app to look at your game library, as well as other games. The selection isn’t too grand right now, but it’s building quickly. Some games set to hit the device soon include mobile versions of Battlefield Bad Company 2 and the always addicting toy box that is Minecraft. Mobile Minecraft might be worth the price of admission alone. It’s also great to play older apps that have been optimized for the PLAY. I hate virtual buttons for games. Not having something physical to touch and track with your hand is endlessly frustrating to me, and makes games clunky and difficult. I always felt that mobile devices were meant for touch and swipe games like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja, and not for arcade action games or shooters. But games like Age of Zombies feel great on the device, and the game Stellar Escape, which was exceedingly difficult due to the controls, now feels smooth and easily beatable thanks to the addition of physical controls. The phone comes with an 8GB SD card and is upgradable up to 32GB, which to me just means lots and lots of games.

The only thing that could make this phone better would be some real PSN connectivity and support. I have tons of PlayStation Classics and Minis on my PS3 which could work perfectly well on this phone, but you are required to re-buy any games that are released on both formats, which is a shame. I would love the ability to just jack into my PS3 and throw my digital copy of Final Fantasy VII on my phone, but I would need a PSP for that kind of feature.

I’m just a hardcore gamer that’s nitpicking though, this is really a great phone for people like me who want their mobile gaming to feel more like their living room gaming. It looks and sounds great and has all the functionality of the Android OS. If you want to up the ante on your mobile gaming but you don’t want to buy a separate device like a PSP or a Nintendo DS, this is definitely a phone to check out.

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