PSP Mini Game Review: Mystery of the Crystal Portal

As I mentioned in my iPad review, I had bought that version of Mystery of the Crystal Portal for my iPad when I was heading out on vacation. When I got a message from G5 offering a review code for the PSP Minis version, I quickly accepted but also immediately knew there might be significant enough control and graphics differences that I would need a separate review. Unfortunately … I was correct.

The Hype:
Embark on a brain-bending adventure that’s full of unique hidden object fun. Journalist Nicole Rankwist has always been close to her archaeologist father. So when her father goes missing, Nicole knows she has to find him. After all, he had apparently just made a discovery that could “change the course of humanity”. Join Nicole as she searches the globe on an eye-popping quest to find her father and discover the truth behind the Crystal Portal. Featuring innovative hidden object gameplay, an intriguing storyline, stunning full-screen graphics, and more, The Mystery of the Crystal Portal is a thrilling escape for the whole family.
– Unique Hidden Object Gameplay
– Original Storyline
– Stunning Scenes to Search
– Loads of Brain-Bending Fun

You can get a new hint every few minutes – so you always have a free hint when you are stuck. You can buy more hints to speed up your adventure, but it is optional and not required to complete the game.

The Reality:
Since the iPad and PSP Minis version of the game are identical outside of the visuals and controls, this review is very similar to the earlier iPad review. If you already read that one you can skim ahead to the section on visuals and controls.

The ‘hidden object’ game is one of the newer genres in PC gaming, with the origins going back to only ~2005 – but earlier similar games for kids such as the I Spy series available since around 2000 or so.

The basics are simple – you need to find objects to solve puzzles. In the I Spy games you were replicating the books – there would be a rhyme with numbers of items, and you would work to find them scattered around the picture. In the more formalized hidden object games, there is a story that puts you into a specific situation, and you need to locate objects to solve a specific need or decipher a puzzle.

There story here is pretty simple – or so it seems! Nicole Rankwist is a journalist for a small paper in New York in the late 1920’s. Her father is an archeologist who recently made a discovery he says will ‘change the course of history’ … and has now gone missing! Nicole starts at his apartment searching for him, and then realizes that whatever he discovered is critical to his disappearance, and that he has left her a series of hidden clues to help trace his footsteps.

To solve the mystery you will need to find the various ‘container’ objects on each screen and then find the many objects needed to complete that section of the puzzle. Some items are fairly obvious, whereas others are hidden and won’t be revealed until you complete certain others tasks. For example, a key item might be in a box that isn’t active until you finish three of the five hidden areas.

Each puzzle also has a certain number of ‘special objects’. These are specific to the area, and you need to find all of them to proceed. They might be a block or a gear or another object. Sometimes they are also hidden until you complete certain tasks. These objects are also spread across however many areas you need to solve as part of the main puzzle for the location.

Once you have uncovered all of the hidden objects and located all of the special objects, you will be able to access the ‘secret area’, which has a different type of puzzle to solve to unlock a part of the crystal portal object.

The game features a tutorial section consisting of Nicole’s father’s front door and study – which is eventually quite helpful but put me off a bit since I needed to use a hint in order to figure out part of the very fist puzzle! When my older son also needed a hint at the same point I didn’t feel so bad – and fortunately the remainder of the game was better balanced.

The only criticism I have for the main game is that in every location you are handed one or two ‘busy work’ tasks to find some special object someone has misplaced. Generally this same person has extolled your critical importance and the grand nature of your father’s work – it is cute once or twice, but gets rather old after a while and feels like a missed opportunity to add more story details or other characters.

There are major differences between the PSP and iPad hardware, and these naturally translate into differences in how the game plays. Naturally the same image on a 3.5″ screen is very compressed compared to a 10″ screen. To deal with this you can zoom in and out anywhere on the screen using the L and R buttons.

Having to constantly zoom and scroll around the screen is every bit as fun as it sounds. It is actually very similar to how the game plays on the iPhone … you need to do loads of zooming to find items. It is an issue inherent to the screen size, but coming from the iPad it was something I didn’t enjoy.

Whereas selecting items on the iPad is as simple as touching them on screen, for the PSP you need to use the analog stick to move the pointer to highlight them and press the X button. This isn’t a big deal except for the fact that the ‘capture zone’ feels smaller on the PSP, meaning it is more tricky actually finding items due to the controls. Even though I had already completed the game and knew where things were located I still had some difficulty getting all of the items on the PSP version.

But how important are those things? For me it is the difference between a great game and a merely good one. On the iPad I recommended the game heartily, but on the PSP I have some reservations.

First off, if you can get it for the iPad, skip the PSP version. If you are not a big fan of hidden object games, skip the PSP version. It is the same solid game as the iPad version, but the small screen and finicky controls hamper the experience.

But if you are a fan of hidden object games on the PC and are looking for some inexpensive fun on the go, and don’t have an iPad – then Mystery of the Crystal Portal is worth grabbing for the PSP.

Where to Buy: Playstation Store

Price: $4.99

What I Like:
+ Challenging puzzles
+ Interesting Story

What Needs Improvement:
– Too much busywork
– Zooming is required and can become tedious
– Pointer controls are imprecise

Categories: Gaming, Reviews

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