Where the gaming experience tends to fall down, then, is the software. Most obviously, there simply aren't that many truly great titles yet available. One might have expected to see Wipeout, Loco Roco, Burnout or God Of War available, but sadly no. You do however get what appears to be a direct port of the PS1 game Crash Bandicoot.
It's a nicely ported version in terms of game play with the controls working properly and the game properly pausing when you exit it to answer a call or such like, but not only do the graphics look really blocky but the screen aspect ratio hasn't even been changed to widescreen so you end up with black bars either side. You can stretch the game to fit the screen but then everything looks squashed.
Conversely the quality of some other games, at least in presentation is excellent. Asphalt 6, Gun Bros and Reckless Racing are all sharp, colourful and engaging. They're also fun to play with the controls again working seamlessly with them.
Where some of these games slip up though is, like so many casual smartphone games, they lack the depth to warrant extended playing. After five or ten minutes you're rather bored. The main problem here is that many of the great smartphone games have been developed for touch screens, and invariably they have a slower pace to them. With proper game controls, though, you want a proper gaming experience.
We're sure great games for the Play will eventually arrive – and as we say, there are some good fun ones already – but that does lead us to the final problem with this phone: there are too many ways to purchase games.
Instead of creating its own games store, which in turn could have integrated with other aspects of the PlayStation gaming network, that has only certified Play compatible games on it, you have three different ways to download them. You can go through the MarketPlace where there is a great selection but currently no way of filtering for Play optimised titles. You can also go to a Sony store of sorts. The PlayStation Pocket app that shows your classic PlayStation games also lets you purchase new games. However, it actually just redirects to the MarketPlace.
Finally there are third party app stores whose titles you can search for through the More Games link. However, once you've selected a game it launches the web browser and directs you to the developers website where you can pay through PayPal or enter your credit card details. What's more, these aren't the obscure games, a number of the bigger name titles like Avatar, Assassin's Creed, Guitar Hero and Worms 2 have to be purchased this way.
All told, it's a bit of a mess right now.
We're sure things will improve soon, though, as more and more titles are developed for the platform. Moreover, there are still plenty of fun games to make the Xperia Play a tempting proposition, especially as the phone has already dropped in price from its starting point of nearer £500 to near £400.
It's hard to definitively judge the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play because so much of its appeal lies in what games will be available for it – currently the choice is a bit limited but in a couple of months there could be loads of great titles. What we can say though is that there are definite problems with it. Most notably the build quality doesn't live up to premium smartphones and its processor, while fast enough now, is already behind the times. The app purchasing experience is also horrendously disjointed.
That said, the game controls themselves are a huge success and even with the modest selection of games currently available they make a huge difference to the enjoyment of gaming on the move. So if that's your priority then it's worth keeping an eye on what games become available over the next few weeks then maybe take the plunge. If, however, you value the general smartphone experience first and the gaming second then you're better off with something like the HTC Desire S or Sony Ericsson Arc, or even one of the dual-core superphones such as the LG Optimus 2x.