[2008; Ready at Dawn]
All one could hope for is a faithful God of War-lite out of Chains of Olympus, which it fully delivers on. So much so that the only true surprise of the game is that it's one of the select few to accomplish such a seemingly capable feat (from the eyes of a consumer). In the vein of Metroid series, the GTA series, and the Castlevania series, Chains of Olympus is a near excellent addition to the series that could hold up as a triple AAA release on the past generation's consoles, as well as a generation later on a handheld.
Ready at Dawn, developers of this side-story in the GoW cannon, have once again, as they did on Daxter, brought a PS2 mainstay onto the PSP with surprisingly little missing. The graphics look near PS2 quality, the production lives up to the series, and the fighting is just as addictive as ever. The game truly is GoW-lite, taking the best of both series and making a much more tame pace and plot built around the always compelling gameplay of the series. The game is worth playing, if you found yourself going through either of the God of War games a 2nd time or have a desire to fill in whatever backstory that is offered. I can't fault Ready at Dawn for not making a game as rich or exciting as the previous games, but there is a bigger problem that takes away from the experience.
The controls are horrid in this game and it's entirely the PSP's fault. I've always defended the system for having better graphics and being a better multimedia hub than the DS, but Chains of Olympus is "exhibit A" on the detractor's side. It's tragic that Ready at Dawn created a faithful portable adaptation that I want to immerse myself in, but couldn't for more than an hour because how bad my fingers would hurt. To the game's credit, I fought against the pain, most of the time, because how addictive it is but found the problem to take much fun away overall. This largely has to do with the weight of the system and how hard it is to hold on to the triggers for hours. I own the original PSP model and I know the newer models are lighter, so perhaps that addresses this issue. Either way, I'm going on my experience on my legit PSP system--a completely valid point that many who play the game will share.
Despite not being as original as the previous games and having bad controls (not completely accurate--read above), Ready at Dawn is one of the best handheld experiences I've had in some time. If the game were on PS2 I would bump it up half a star, but, for better or worse, this is the handheld, high production action/adventure we've always wanted. I couldn't ask for much more without sounding unreasonable (to Ready at Dawn--not Sony who screwed up on the PSP), so I accept the game for what it is. It certainly doesn't have equal ground as it's predecessors, but considering where it's coming from and who it's coming from--in a way it does.