Contributor John Roche offers his thoughts on a variety of recent releases.

Playstation Home (PS3)
Price: free (but only if your time is worthless)

Sony's attempt at a sort of social/marketing environment was created using a simple, two step procedure:

1) look at what made Second Life so popular.
2) do pretty much the exact opposite.

Putting it bluntly, there's nothing worth doing in Home except playing simplistic pool and bowling games, along with some Flash-quality software that can't be enjoyed with friends.  Your character's mobility is also greatly restricted... apparently, the developers thought it was more important to let your avatar do corny-looking dances than jump onto ledges hanging just out of his reach.

If you get bored (and in Home, that's a likely prospect), you can watch ads for miscellaneous games and movies by Sony and third-party publishers, but there's enough advertising for these products everywhere else.  Honestly, Playstation Home is less impressive now than Second Life was five years ago.  Sony actually managed to make a free virtual world that wasn't worth the price of admission.

Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero? (PSP)
Nippon-Ichi Software
Price: $40

Nippon-Ichi is one of those rare game companies in the post-Wii era that's dedicated to a hardcore audience.  In the Disgaea series, it's possible to power up weapons to obscene levels by fighting in worlds that exist inside said weapons, and to get your characters' levels up to 4-digit numbers.  Prinny takes this hardcore mentality and applies it to the side-scrolling platformer.  To drive home how hard the game is, you get 1,000 lives to start out.  Then again, you're playing as a character from the Disgaea series that explodes if it's thrown, mishandled, looked at funny, or scolded, so it evens out in the end. 

The game indulges in everything that you remember about old-school, tough-as-nails platformers, but unlike those miscellaneous rom hacks of Super Mario games, this one doesn't indulge in unnecessary sadism, arbitrary time limits, or artificial difficulty, making it tough but fair.  There's even a secret item you can find somewhere in the game that lets you quit the game early.  Some of Nippon-Ichi's early PSP efforts may have been hit-or-miss (Spectral Souls had load times whenever you had a character do anything), but this game is definitely on the "hit" side of the equation.  Also, it comes with a soundtrack, and if you tried to order that from Japan, you'd probably have to pay $40 for that alone!

Dead to Rights: Reckoning (PSP)
Namco (Rebellion)
Price: ~$15 (used)

On the one hand, you can actually wield two sawed-off shotguns at once--a feat which I'm sure would probably dislocate your shoulders in real life.  On the other hand, the game is fairly boilerplate (think Max Payne if he had a dog), the ending makes less sense than the final act of Metal Gear Solid 2 (And not in the "everything just got a whole lot weirder" sense either--which is a shame, as MGS2 showed that something could be salvaged from that sort of thing), and at one point, the game red-screened with an "out of memory error"--something that simply should not be happening on a console.

Dead Head Fred (PSP)
D3 Publisher (Vicious)
Price: $15 (new)

The game has you as a detective who is a body with a brain in a jar for a head.  (Or a skull for a head, or a zombie head for a head, or a mannequin head for a head...)  Most of the heads are useful for particular situations, certain heads being more useful against given enemies than others (particularly, in countering the attacks of the enemies; so think God of War meets Mega Man and you'll "get" this particular aspect of the game.)  Plus, it's got more John C. McGinley for your money than a boxset of Scrubs.

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (PSP)
Konami (Hideo Kojima)
Price: $20 (new)

The Metal Gear series was a bit different from the typical contemporary fare--it emphasized sneaking around rather than shooting, blowing up, or stabbing everyone in sight (and the occasional off-screen goon).  After a (roughly) decade-long hiatus, a PS1 game came out to some fanfare.  Then, a sequel came out and completely changed the game in a way that was mostly like the first one with a new set of characters...okay, it was pretty much EXACTLY like the first MGS with a new set of characters.  Also, the last half-hour or so made no real sense.  Then, they made a prequel to the game, putting The Artist Not Yet Known As Big Boss in the Russian jungle, pitting him against his former mentor and the wild.

This game is a sequel to Snake Eater, with everyone's favorite gravel-throated-superspy-voiced-by-a-screenwriter forming a band of abandoned Russian soldiers while trying to stop global thermonuclear war.  Also, you can use Wi-Fi hotspots to recruit new soldiers (probably one of the more creative ways to use this feature).  It's probably one of the best sneaking games you'll see on a portable console (and this is against two Syphon Filter games and a Splinter Cell game, so it's not exactly "wins by default" here).