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“Handheld games suck” say reviewers

posted on December 3rd, 2008 by jay
Now Playing: Yoshi's Island DS

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.


  1. pat said on December 3, 2008:

    “reviewers (mostly) suck!” says pat.

    many of the games that receive scores in the high nineties are huge and awe-inspiring; they have a psychological impact that can not be easily achieved on a handheld. this isnt to say handheld games cant be great, as they definitely can be (i dont think it would take much to make a great console game out of the world ends with you, for example). its more that reviewers are probably subconsciously comparing them alongside their console counterparts even if they are not doing so directly.

  2. christian said on December 3, 2008:

    Allow me to put on the rubber gloves and delve into the brain of reviewer’s.

    The scores reflect that they are indeed comparing them to console games. You can and cannot blame them for this. When a PSP game is a downport of a PS2 game, the comparison is almost natural. On the DS side, you’ve got games that are mostly 2d or basic 3d. The industry still hasn’t recognized that 2d gameplay and 2d graphics are not one and the same, thus those games are considered at least somewhat obsolete. They also look at the fact that Chrono Trigger is a port of an old game, so many reviews will be of the “is it a good port” perspective. This doesn’t work too well when dealing with a game that very few people in the US have played legally. Actually looking at how fun Chrono Trigger is might actually be of some benefit.

    This doesn’t happen with Virtual Console games because they are cheap, throwaway downloads that no company is relying on for solvency and required very little work to get working. A DS/PSP game ships as a retail product and is looked at like a consumer product instead of something you downloaded with Magic Bucks and may play a handful of times.

    These mentalities are absolutely retarded by the way.

    Also, how many publishers are going to do payoffs and Metacritic hunting for their portable game? The smaller devs that rely on the DS for their livelihood aren’t that shady.

  3. bruce said on December 3, 2008:

    “Also, how many publishers are going to do payoffs and Metacritic hunting for their portable game? The smaller devs that rely on the DS for their livelihood aren’t that shady.”

    That’s exactly what I was thinking.

    Stripper clowns ftw.

  4. AK said on December 3, 2008:

    This article has expressed things I have thought about for years, but never had fully reached conclusions about. Thanks.

    My first recollection of this was a comparison between the Game Gear and Genesis versions of Sonic, so it isn’t a new problem. Instead of comparing the Game Gear to the Game Boy, the reviews compared the Game Gear to the Genesis.

    Even the best handhelds over the years were always a generation behind the performance of the current consoles. Rather than reviewers rejoicing in the pocket power, they have always compared the handheld titles to the latest and greatest console offerings. Reviewers traditionally haven’t expected a Newton. PDA, Pocket PC, cell, iPhone, or other compact device to be equal to desktops… so why do they expect handhelds to be as powerful as consoles?

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