Every holiday season, there are a few video game-related clunkers you’ll want to steer clear of. Often, these games and hardware look like great fun. But when exposed to the rigors of regular use, they reveal themselves as flawed or impractical. Here are a few items gift-givers might want to avoid.
PSPgo ($250): In theory, the latest iteration of Sony’s PlayStation Portable should be a hit with gamers. It’s sleek looking and gorgeous. It’s slightly smaller than its predecessor, but in a way that says “improved portability” rather than “tiny screen.” So what’s the problem, then? Well, the main hitch is the PSPgo’s emphasis on downloads, to the exclusion of disc-based games. Unlike past models of the PSP, the Go lacks a disc drive. This might be well and good if the gamer on your gift list has never owned a PSP, but anyone who owns disc-based games will find that Sony wants you to buy them all again (via download) to play on your Go. And in the months since the Go launched, at least a couple titles have been unavailable for download on the same day they hit retail stores.
What’s more, the Go’s pricing model needs considerable work. For the most part, it costs roughly the same amount of money to download a game as it does to buy a physical copy in a store. While that pricing model works well with music, which can be listened to again and again, many gamers will finish a game, then never return to it. With disc-based games, you can at least pass them along to friends, trade or resell them. Not so, with downloads. Plus, the PSPgo costs $80 more than the disc-playing, PSP-3000.
It’s still early in the PSPgo’s life cycle, and it’s entirely possible that in a year from now, I’ll be including it in the other parts of my gift guide. But for now, the handheld is worthy of being passed over by gamers who don’t have money to burn.
“Tony Hawk: Ride” ($120): Parents might see this spendy game (rated E10+), which comes with a wheel-free, skateboard-shaped controller, and think, “Here’s a way to get my kid up off the couch.” That might be true, but if the reviews are any indication, your kid will spend about an hour on his feet before unleashing a string of expletives you didn’t even know he knew and hurling the skateboard out the window.
“Ride” was supposed to be a reboot for the “Tony Hawk” series, which took a year off while Electronic Arts released its “Skate” games to a wave of acclaim. But this game has been savaged by reviewers like no high-profile game I can think of. Hawk made some comments this week defending the game, and it’s possible that if you’re patient with it, it’ll be rewarding. But at $120, is it a risk worth taking? Not when it’ll likely be in clearance bins in a couple of months. For $120, you could give your gamer a copy of “Skate 2” (rated T, $40 on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) and an actual skateboard. (Don’t forget the helmet.)
Various plastic accessories that turn the Wii remote into a variety of implements: These little molded plastic doo-dads have been around since the earliest days of Nintendo’s console. In short, they snap onto the Wii remote and are designed to complete the illusion that you’re swinging an actual tennis racket, or golf club. And while they might accomplish that goal, they also greatly increase the likelihood that a gamer will inadvertently clock someone upside the head while engaged in a furious session of “Wii Sports.” Plus, there’ve been more than a few tales of poorly molded accessories taking wing. Do you really need anymore plastic junk in your house? Spend that money on another game.