One of the PlayStation’s biggest claims to fame has to be the God of War series. Whether a result of excellent design or Sony’s marketing muscle – probably both – Kratos and his chained blades have become a gaming industry icon on par with the greats like Sonic and Mario.
With such an important burden to bear, you’d imagine Sony would go out of their way to make sure that each game in the series is as good as it can be, and the lastest PSP chapter, God of War: Ghost of Sparta, is no exception. Set just after the original God of War, Ghost of Sparta gives us a glimpse into how Kratos went about earning the distrust of the Gods of Olympus after taking over Ares’ throne. While on his way to attack Atlantis, Kratos learns that his brother – yes he had a brother – is possibly alive and in the hands of Thanatos, the God of Death. Defying tradition and breaking every law of the Gods, Kratos decides that he’s going to rescue his brother, no matter who gets in his way.
What follows is pretty standard God of War fare: fast-paced combat interspersed with hazard-traversal, puzzling-solving and hunting for hidden chests containing souls and upgrade items. The combat is as good as ever, and Kratos can beat enemies to death, use magic or grapple with them to wrench of their limbs or crush their heads. From time to time, larger enemies will appear, and they can soak up a lot of damage before they’re ready to keel over, meaning that Kratos must use all of the attacks and magic at his disposal while avoiding their crushing blows. And then of course, there are the bosses, which are different kettle of fish entirely, requiring plenty of pummeling and several quicktime mini-games to defeat.
One of the highlights of God of War is seeing what nifty toys Kratos will get to play with. This time, there seems to be a bit less on offer – or maybe I’m still spoiled from the plethora of weapons we could use in God of War III. In any case, they’re still fun to use and include the Eye of Atlantis, which lets Kratos use lightning magic, and the Flame of Thera, which lets Kratos imbue his attacks with scorching fire and explosions. The highlight, however, is the Arms of Atlantis: a suitable spear and shield combination that makes Kratos look like a real Spartan. With these weapons, Kratos can walk around and attack with his guard up, throw spears at distant enemies, and deliver crushing and slamming attacks with the shield itself.
The graphics and audio are excellent, enough to make you wonder if you’re still actually playing on a PSP. The game is long enough for a portable game and there are plenty of challenges and unlockables on offer, so it’s almost impossible not to recommend Ghost of Sparta to software-starved PSP owners.