The best reviewed PSP game on Metacritic is God of War at a 91, on the DS Chrono Trigger just edged out Mario Kart, the game’s scores are 94 and 91 respectively. The GBA’s highest rated game is Link to the Past at 95.
On the console side the top reviewed games are the Grand Theft Autos, Halos, Marios and Zeldas, spanning from 95 to 99. Console game scores for the top games seem to be significantly higher and the high ranking handheld games are either console franchises or direct ports of console games.
So what is going on here?
There are two possible explanations I can think of. Handheld games could actually be worse than console games. This may be true to someone subjectively, but it seems an absurd position for professional reviewers to adopt. It’s like saying strippers are better than clowns. Maybe it is true to some people in some situations, but as a universal truth it just doesn’t pan out.
The other possibility is that reviewers are directly comparing handheld games to console games. What happened to the idea of comparing games within the framework of the system they are on? When a new Virtual Console title comes out people don’t usually complain that Dig Dug has worse graphics than Metal Gear Solid 4.
Perhaps reviewers should consider other games in the same space, so a PS3 game can be compared to a 360 game comfortably, as handheld games can be compared to other portable titles. But handheld games should not be expected to look as good, sound as good, and provide the same depth and longevity as their immobile counterparts.
As long as reviewers are comparing apples to stripper clowns, why not consider all of the crappy electronic poker and blackjack handheld standalones? Surely they should bump review scores of DS and PSP games up a notch.