PSP Minis are undoubtedly a good thing and can only help give the PSP a broader range of games, but we're definitely going to have to wade through a fair number of poor releases to get to the good stuff. Gameloft's one-time iPhone exclusive Hero of Sparta - the 300/God of War aping action game that puts you in control of King Argos, hacking and slashing through Greek mythology inspired levels - is sadly one of the poor releases. It's only £3.99, less than a third of the price of God of War: Chains of Olympus, but we still can't recommend you hand over the cash.
Hero of Sparta isn't shy about mimicking the best hack 'n' slash games in the genre, although somehow it still comes across as a crudely put together experience. You've got a basic attack and a combo attack mapped to square and triangle respectively, a context sensitive jump button on X and block on R; move while holding block and you'll also perform an evasive roll. The problem is that the combat doesn’t feel exciting. You'll hack away at the waves of mythical creatures, mop up the orbs that they release (it seems all hack 'n' slash games need orbs these days), repeat in the next closed-off area, and the next, and the next… Hero of Sparta gets old very quickly.
As you might expect, Argos can upgrade his weapons by exchanging the red orbs he collects while on his murderous rampage, with new moves and items will be unlocked as you progress. On the whole Hero of Sparta is a fairly simple game, with plenty of green orbs available to replenish your health, ample recharge fountains to help you out if you're close to death and checkpoints before most tricky sections. The Quick Time Events that pop up when finishing off bigger enemies rarely challenge either, with the window of opportunity being so large you'd have to have no idea where each face button is located in order to fail.
Directly compared to the iPhone original, Hero of Sparta on the PSP is clearly the better game, sporting superior visuals (although the models remain incredibly blocky) and tighter controls. A real analogue stick is far better than one placed on a touch screen, but then the iPhone had little else to offer in this genre. The PSP is a far more advanced gaming platform and, despite Sparta's cheap asking price, we expect more. For the money you get a solid 4-5 hours of gameplay, but anyone who's been schooled on better is unlikely to want to sit through all of it.
The initial batch of PSP Minis is incredibly mixed. On the one hand you've got classics like Tetris and Pinball Fantasies, while on the other you've got Alien Havoc! and Hero of Sparta. On a mobile phone platform like the iPhone, Hero of Sparta stands out as something quite impressive, but simply porting a game like this to the PSP as a Mini isn't good enough.