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Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review

Barry de la Rosa
8 Apr 2011
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
460
inc VAT

A good idea, but we're not sure the execution is great enough to bear the weight of a whole new gaming format.

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Specifications

Android 2.3, 4.0in 480x854 display

For ages the Xperia Play was referred to by everyone as the PlayStation Phone. And with all the hype surrounding Sony Ericsson's latest Android handset it's hard to imagine it living up to expectations. The lack of PlayStation branding in the name is telling, this phone is a collaboration between Sony Ericsson and Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE), and so isn't a thoroughbred PlayStation product, but instead is 'PlayStation Certified'.

There's no direct connection to the PlayStation Portable (PSP) then, and it won't run games compatible with Sony's handheld gaming device - which is probably all most people wanted or expected from a PlayStation phone. It will run games from the, frankly retro, original PlayStation (PS1) - but only those that have been specially converted for use on the Play. The other games in the current line-up are essentially Android games, such as an update of long-running driving series Asphalt, which has been modified to add support for its controls.

Sony Xperia Play

It's those dedicated controls that really make the Xperia Play stand out. They are positioned on a slide out portion, much like a keyboard on many phones. The touchscreens on modern smartphones have no doubt inspired some novel new control mechanisms in mobile games; but more traditional console games will really benefit from the Play's directional pad, four face buttons, two circular analogue touchpads and shoulder buttons.

The Play's design is identical to previous Xperia phones, with its rounded and tapered ends and glossy plastic highlighted by chrome details. The top half of the Xperia consists of the screen and four buttons for Android's common functions: Back, Home, Menu and Search. The bottom half is about 50% thicker, and houses the Playstation controls as well as the phone's ports - microUSB and headphone. This adds up to quite a thick phone, and it feels heavy too, but not uncomfortably so - its rounded shape helps it slip easily into a pocket.

There's one PS1 game installed, platformer Crash Bandicoot, along with five updated mobile games covering the usual console genres - racing, fighting, football etc. Further games are available for download, with Sony claiming that 60 will be available soon after launch. No doubt developers will be adding support for the Play's controls over the coming months.

We found the controls helped a lot in games we'd previously found frustrating or unintuitive to play on a touchscreen - driving games that ask you to tilt the screen to steer your car, for example. The controls feel well-placed and comfortable in use, although the small touchpads feel over-sensitive. Even after practice they didn't feel like a patch on a proper analogue stick or slider (as found on Nintendo's 3DS).

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