Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY 4G Review



“Bringing mobile smartphone gaming out of the touch-screen ghetto has never been better!”

To start things off; here’s a fact that should be made known – smartphone gaming is booming; it’s not just Snake and Tetris anymore… and it’s gotten bigger than Angry Birds and the age of simple J2ME games too! Aside from the budding popularity though, smartphone gaming is also getting to look quite astounding – to the point in which it’s most certainly breaking the boundaries between console and handheld quality.

In case you’re wondering, no – that screencap was not hijacked from the fresh new Gears of War 3 on XBOX 360… this is actually Shadowgun, a game recently optimized for controlling with the Xperia PLAY. Nice, eh?

Now another fact necessary to reveal is that this boom in smartphone technology has been constantly and consistently marred by a phenomenonal flaw; touch screen controls suck. Hard. They don’t work for pure fighting game experiences, they make menu navigation and item selection harder in Role-Playing games, they’re a new level of mediocrity for shooters, and they are especially horrid on platformers. Don’t believe this? Go play Stardash (Android/Apple) on a regular touch screen phone and see how long it takes for you to end up in a strait jacket, rocking back and forth in a plushy square mental ward cell, repeating “I… I kept dying… the controls… so bad! WHY ARE THEY SO BAD?!”. Gamers know touch-controls are horrible, and developers do too. WayForward admitted to having to simplify the mechanics and *baby* certain aspects of platforming of Shantae on iPhone to accomodate the dreadful touch controls and developers like Capcom Mobile and Gameloft regularly do this (non-verbally) as well when they admit the input is inadequate by overloading the game with helpers, assists and shortcuts to get around things the control setup is too un-ideal to handle properly.

Now before we get to the meat of this review, physical controls are not particularly new to smartphones. As a matter of fact, there’s quite a few ambitious souls out there that have tried to bring smartphone gaming out of the touch-screen ghetto, so lets look at them (briefly), and, more importantly, the reasons they don’t hold a candle to Xperia PLAY.

Gametel Controller

Requires constant BT connection • BT connection decreases battery life
No Analogs  •  Bulky
Having to carrying around peripherals adds cumbersome factor
Inconvenience; must connect every time you want to play a game and disconnect afterwards
Very low game support outside of old, outdated emulator content

MSI BGP100

Requires constant BT connection • BT connection decreases battery life
Uncomfortable to use • No Analogs• Bulky
Having to carrying around peripherals adds cumbersome factor
Inconvenience; must connect every time you want to play a game and disconnect afterwards
Very low game support outside of old, outdated emulator content

iControlPad

Requires constant BT connection
BT connection decreases battery life • Awkward shoulder buttons • Bulky
Comes with too many parts; which, in turn, means you’ll have to do on-field assembly just to get from normal “phone mode” to actually getting to play a game, and vice versa.
Very low support on what phone form factors will be held properly.
Having to carrying around peripherals adds cumbersome factor
Inconvenience; must connect every time you want to play a game and disconnect when you’re done
Very low game support outside of old, outdated emulator content

Yikes! … needless to say, there’s been a lot of unsuccessful attempts to bring smartphone gaming further than it’s been; but that’s where we get to our device that’s quite an anomaly in the sense that it’s a “Jack of All Trades” that doesn’t just end up being mediocre at everything… the Xperia PLAY!

Classics are nice… one could debate that some nostalgics have blinded themselves from seeing how poor controls, game design, balance and collision detection used to be back then, but there’s lots of classics like Chrono Trigger that withstand the test of time, and still kick ass. If you actually bothered to read all the cons listed above though, you notice their immortal flaw is what makes Xperia PLAY so much better than any other smartphone gaming option; it actually goes beyond emulated content! From the get-go, the prime speculation was that the Xperia PLAY would be beastly for emulation – as it is… but the best part is that it’s got a beefy library of fresh, new content that also works with. To date, there is a whopping one-hundred and seventy-three Android games released that work with Xperia PLAY’s controls – quite astounding consider that it hasn’t even been out for a year.

List of Xperia PLAYable games (as of Saturday, November 19, 2011)

#1. Samurai II Vengeance (MADFINGER Games, a.s.)

#2. Crazy Snowboard Pro (Ezone.com)

#3. Diversion (Ezone.com)

#4. Guns ‘n’ Glory (HandyGames)

#5. Super Dynamite Fishing (HandyGames)

#6. SUPER KO BOXING! 2 (Glu Mobile)

#7. Pocket Legends (3D MMO) (Spacetime Studios)

#8. TowerBloxx MyCity (Digital Chocolate, Inc.)

#9. Cordy (SilverTree Media)

#10. Radiant HD (Hexage Ltd)

#11. Roll Rev 99 Tracks (Digital Chocolate, Inc.)

#12. Winter Games (GameHouse)

#13. Zenonia (GAMEVIL Inc.)

#14. PewPew 2 (Jean-François Geyelin)

#15. Zenonia 2 (GAMEVIL Inc.)

#16. Baseball Superstars 2011 (GAMEVIL Inc.)

#17. AirAttack HD (Art In Games)

#18. Aporkalypse – Pigs of Doom (HandyGames)

#19. Spectral Souls (HyperDevbox Studio)

#20. Death Worm (PlayCreek LLC)

#21. Cyberlords – Arcology (HandyGames)

#22. Meganoid (OrangePixel)

#23. Soccer Superstars (GAMEVIL Inc.)

#24. Age of Zombies (Halfbrick Studios)

#25. EVAC HD (Hexage Ltd)

#26. Toki Tori (polarbit)

#27. Governor of Poker (Connect2Media)

#28. Armageddon Squadron (polarbit)

#29. Millionaire City (Digital Chocolate, Inc.)

#30. Reckless Racing (polarbit)

#31. Wave Blazer (polarbit)

#32. Star Legends – The Blackstar Chronicles (Spacetime Studios)

#33. Roboto (Fenix Fire Entertainment)

#34. Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock (Glu Mobile)

#35. Crusade of Destiny (DVide Arts Incorporated)

#36. Zeus Arena (Big Bison)

#37. Dungeon Defenders Xperia PLAY (Trendy Entertainment)

#38. Guerrilla Bob (ANGRY MOB GAMES)

#39. Aftermath (TwoHeads Games)

#40. South Park Mega Millionaire (GameHouse)

#41. Lumines (Connect2Media)

#42. Raging Thunder 2 (polarbit)

#43. Hockey Nations 2011 (Distinctive Wireless Inc.)

#44. ToonWarz (polarbit)

#45. No Gravity (realtech VR)

#46. Tibia Micro Edition MMO (CipSoft)

#47. COLLAPSE! (GameHouse)

#48. Snake (Optic Games and Apps)

#49. Pixeline & The Jungle Treasure (osao)

#50. Casino Crime (HandyGames)

#51. Tattoo Tycoon (HandyGames)

#52. Happy Vikings (HandyGames)

#53. Ground Effect Pro (Jakyl)

#54. Icebreaker Hockey (NaturalMotionGames Ltd)

#55. TileStorm (Jakyl)

#56. Grave Digger (FightingFish Games)

#57. Iron Sight HD (polarbit)

#58. infeCCt (HandyGames)

#59. Shark or Die (HandyGames)

#60. Eternal Legacy (Gameloft)

#61. I Must Run! (Gamelion Studios)

#62. Lame Castle (Be-Rad Entertainment)

#63. Legends of Yore (Coke and Code)

#64. Hyperlight (CatfishBlues Games)

#65. Denki Blocks! Deluxe (Jakyl)

#66. Stellar Escape (Orange Agenda)

#67. Juggle! (Jakyl)

#68. Freeesh (realtech VR)

#69. MIXT (Jakyl)

#70. Raving Babies (Advanced Mobile Applications Ltd)

#71. Escape! (Advanced Mobile Applications Ltd)

#72. Terra Incognita International (kami88888888)

#73. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (EA Mobile)

#74. Asphalt 6: Adrenaline HD (Gameloft)

#75. NEED FOR SPEED Shift HD (EA Mobile)

#76. D.A.R.K. (EA Mobile)

#77. DJ Hero (Glu Mobile)

#78. Build-A-Lot

#79. Symphony of Eternity (KEMCO)

#80. Gailardia

#81. Starfront: Collision HD (Gameloft)

#82. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Glu Mobile)

#83. Family Guy: Uncensored (Glu Mobile)

#84. Guitar Hero 5 (Glu Mobile)

#85. Tony Hawk VERT (Glu Mobile)

#86. Doodle Jump (Glu Mobile)

#87. Diner Dash 2 (Glu Mobile)

#88. Mini Golf: Wacky Worlds

#89. Shift Lite

#90. Bonsai Blast

#91. Stranded 2 (Glu Mobile)

#92. Bruce Lee: Dragon Warrior (Digital Chocolate Inc.)

#93. Dungeon Hunter 2 (Gameloft)

#94. FIFA 10 (Glu Mobile)

#95. Gun Bros (Glu Mobile)

#96. Madden NFL 11 (EA Mobile)

#97. Star Battalion HD (Gameloft)

#98. Star Blitz (Glu Mobile)

#99. Zenonia 3 (GAMEVIL)

#100. Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus HD (Gameloft)

#101. Assassin’s Creed (Gameloft)

#102. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Shadow Vanguard HD (Gameloft)

#103. N.O.V.A. 2 HD (Gameloft)

#104. Real Football 2011 HD (Gameloft)

#105. BackStab HD (Gameloft)

#106. Worms HD (EA Games)

#107. Backbreaker 2: Vengeance

#108. UNO HD (Gameloft)

#109. ETERNITY WARRIORS (Glu Mobile)

#110. Brothers in Arms 2: Global Front HD (Gameloft)

#111. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Conviction HD (Gameloft)

#112. James Cameron’s Avatar HD (Gameloft)

#113. Spider-Man: Total Mayhem HD (Gameloft)

#114. Jumpy (OrangePixel)

#114. Let’s Golf! 2 HD (Gameloft)

#115. Sacred Odyssey: Rise of Ayden HD (Gameloft)

#116. PAC-MAN (Namco Networks)

#117. Ms. PAC-MAN (Namco Networks)

#118. PAC-MAN Collector’s Edition (Namco Networks)

#119. Minecraft – Pocket Edition (Mojang)

#120. Dead Space (EA Games)

#121. Micronytes (Gibs & Gore)

#122. Reckless Getaway (polarbit)

#123. Muffin Knight (Angry Mob Games)

#124. Overkill (Creative Mobile)

#125. Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit (EA Games)

#126. Townsmen 6 (HandyGames)

#127. Contract Killer (Glu Mobile)

#128. Vendetta Online (Guild Software, Inc.)

#129. R-Type (DotEmu)

#130. ILLUSIA (GAMEVIL INC.)

#131. The Sims 3 (EA Mobile)

#132. Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 (Konami Digital Entertainment)

#133. Earth & Legend (DVide Arts Incorporated)

#134. They Need to Be Fed (YoYo Games Ltd)

#135. Family Guy: Time Warped (Glu Mobile)

#136. Spirit XHD (Jakyl)

#137. Galaxy on Fire 2 (FISHLABS Entertainment GmbH)

#138. Tap n Crash (t4ils)

#139. Stardash (OrangePixel)

#140. Block Breaker 3 Unlimited HD (Gameloft)

#141. Trial Xtreme (Galapagos)

#142. Pinball Ride (Massive Finger)

#143. Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack! (DevolverDigital)

#144. Sleepy Jack (SilverTree Media)

#145. PewPew (Jean-François Geyelin)

#146. INC (OrangePixel)

#147. Avoid Elite (NerfGames)

#148. BaseBall 2011 9 innings (Ozitech – Addictive Games Cool Games)

#149. Guns’n’Glory: World War 2 (HandyGames)

#150. Eve of the Genesis (KEMCO_GAMES [Kotobuki Solution Co., Ltd.])

#151. 9mm (Gameloft)

#152. Further Beyond Fighting (PJS-Coding, S.L.)

#153. Castle of Shadows (PlayPhone, Inc.)

#154. The Adventures of Tin Tin

#155. Riptide GP

#156. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12

#157. Seven Stars 3D Lite

#158. Marv the Miner 2

#159. Drag Racing

#160. PBA Bowling Spare Challenge

#161. Shadow Guardian

#162. Gailardia 2

#163. Giana Sisters

#164. A Game With Balls

#165. PES 2012 Pro Evolution Soccer

#166. Assaulter

#167. King of Pirates English Version

#168. Trial Xtreme 2 SE Xperia Play

#169. Order & Chaos Online

#170. EnbornX

#171. Dead on Arrival

#172. SHADOWGUN

#173. THE DEAD: Chapter One

*View the Complete, Up-to-date List HERE

          The question arises though… exactly how good are the controls? On a measure of comfortability, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a device that’s high-caliber enough to earn that “PlayStation Certified” stamp. The d-pad and face buttons all respond very naturally with that sense of tactility so that keypresses feel secure and surefire (as opposed to clicky and cheap), shoulder buttons have adequate functionality… but the real game changer here are those touch-pads! The concept of dual-analog mobile gaming that integrates into something more than emulators was something that would’ve passed over the entire field of mobile gaming until the PlayStation Vita if not for the Xperia PLAY breaking through with the innovation early. Glad to report that they do feel awesome. Sacred Odyssey, to use as an example, benefits greatly from having natural dual-analog control. As an added bonus, this also means you’re no longer smudging the screen up with skin oils or having to deal with your fingers consuming 30% or more of your screen’s real estate.

A noteworthy mention here is that there’s a fragmented market. Many Android phone owners miss out on some of the highest-ambition titles for the simple fact that Gameloft and EA Mobile decided that they’re too good for the Android Market, and instead have the Gameloft Wapshop and the EA Flexion Store. A bit of a pain that these exist when everything could (and should) simply fall under the official Market’s umbrella, but Xperia PLAY provides an interesting service called the Game Launcher; which cuts out those steps necessary to get to the games by offering direct access to the individual Gameloft/EA stores. On a lesser note, there’s also the fabled “PlayStation” aspect of the PlayStation Certified device – the PlayStation Suite that integrates PlayStation Network functionality and all the classic PlayStation games within. A big surprise about this is that… it’s still not here yet, despite the release of so much hardware that was boasted to use it. Kinda lucky that the Xperia PLAY has over 170 games, eh?

It may surprise you to find that the best part of Xperia PLAY is not that it is the best option for smartphone gaming, but rather that it’s also no slacker in any other field of casual smartphone uses. The connection speeds are fast enough such that playing Order & Chaos Online over cellular data networks was seamless, streaming video with Youtube/Netflix/SPB TV was smooth even at their highest qualities, it’s a great GPS to use with Google Maps/Navigator, PlayerPro turns this into a simply superb music player, it handily works near every video file known to man with MoboPlayer, the front-facing camera does well for Google Talk’s Video Chat and Skype, the touch-screen is low-consumption and responsive for texting, web browsing, book reading, and the main camera quality is great regardless of light situations.

Semi Decent Lighting Shot on Campus

No lights whatsoever. My bullet strat in total darkness, illuminated only by the Xperia PLAY's camera flash.

From a hardware standpoint, it’s above and beyond anything else of the single-core tier (and even a few dual-cores!). Form factor is a bit bulkier than some other phones, but still relatively light and thin compared to the bulk they have to add on to get phyiscal controls. The screen’s no awe-inspiring Samsung Galaxy S2 SUPER AMOLED Plus screen, but thanks to the fresh new 2.3.4 update, all those complaints of auto-dimming screen are made a thing of the past – so that the screen’s bright, vivid and crisp colorization can shine without hindrance.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY (right) outshining it's Apple iPhone (center), Unbranded Herotab C8 (top) and Samsung Galaxy S2 (left) bretheren. All devices are at MAX brightness.

Firmware 2.3.4’s xLoud also brings speaker performance that easily tops every other Android device on the market. Hardware buttons all do their necessary functions fine. A bit of an abnormal move per Sony Ericsson’s history is a search button, but that really does come in handy when you want to quick search access of any given app, or want a long-press option to map to your Siri-esque voice control options like Jeannie and Vlingo. The power button is very comfortably located on the top-back side, but that brings us to our first flaw; the notification light is quite senseless placed back there. Luckily though, that is the biggest and the baddest of this phone’s flaws.

Another flaw is the tiny 400MB internal phone storage, a huge restriction when calulating how many installs fit into the 181MB you initially started with on 2.3.2 and 2.3.3. Things are much better now on 2.3.4 now that ~250MB is usable, but that’s still quite a bit restrictive with developers like Gameloft who think their games should consume 10-30MB off your device. Luckily there’s a way around that which takes 2-10 minutes max to do, and it doesn’t even require you to know anything about rooting. Sucks that it must be done, but a few minutes of effort creates an environment where installs that formerly took 10-30MB consume a modest couple hundred kilobytes. So any onlooker would be glad to know that having a awkwardly-placed notification light is still this phone’s biggest issue.

Getting to the more technical aspects, you’ll see that the 400MB alloted to phone storage is accompanied by the SD expansion. While 1GHz snapdragon processors date back as early as 2009, the one featured here is a whole new generation of Snapdragon SoC that – paired with the astounding-performance Adreno 205 chip, has this phone kicking butt on a level that even makes the dual cores raise an eyebrow. As far as memory goes, it’s 512MB of RAM seems quite standard this generation until you consider that the quality of the RAM is a blazing fast Elpida B4064B2PD-6D 2Gb Low-power (LP) DDR2 DRAM chip that’s both high-performance and optimal for battery life.

A key mention from earlier is that the Xperia PLAY is something we don’t see a lot on the market. Usually when something is a jack of all trades, it ends up attempting too much and being mediocre at everything (hence the everlasting phrase everyone has heard at some point: “Jack of all trades, master of none”). Xperia PLAY assumes a stance of high-caliber quality and high performance that stays consistent whether it’s gaming or other smartphone uses. This gives it a merit that nothing else on the market has, because there is absolutely no other smartphone that has game controls as good as the Xperia PLAY, and absolutely no game device that has all the smartphone functionality of the Xperia PLAY.

So there we have it… the Xperia PLAY is an anomaly in technology:
The Jack of All Trades that’s a Master of all Trades.


The Final Verdict: 9.2/10

Advertisements

6 responses to “Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY 4G Review

  1. Pingback: Trial Extreme 2SE Experia Play |·

  2. really gud post … the camera really does amaze too.. i read the review wayback and they down alot about this phone im glad i jumped in and got it.. The sound of my phone is amazing and bravia makes video and my pictures crisp.. Love this phone … …………. Emulators!!!!!!!!!! All Day!!!! 🙂

  3. Pingback: OUYA Gaming Console: Hands-On Evaluation. | Very Technical·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s