Mortal Kombat: Unchained PSP Review

It took HOW long to get a Mortal Kombat game on the PSP? Granted, Mortal Kombat has already seen the light of day in the form of two inclusions on the Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play package, but we haven't really gotten a full-fledged chapter in MK history on the PSP until now. Granted, that can be a good thing- at least the system didn't get a rushed effort like the poor GBA got. Mortal Kombat Advance still scares me plenty these days.

Mortal Kombat: Unchained is actually a handheld port of the hit 2004 game Mortal Kombat: Deception. This is kind of a bummer for those expecting a completely blown out game on the samel parallel as Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. However, it's a decent second place title, featuring a full-fledged Kombat mode with an all new boss and six extra characters selectable right from the start, including Ermac and Goro. There are other modes to choose from as well, although they won't exactly appeal to everyone.

Probably the most notable extra mode here is Puzzle Kombat, Midway's variation on Capcom's Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. Fighters duke it out by matching up squares and gems to eliminate them from the screen, building combos. At the end of a match, the option to deliver a fatality on one of the super-deformed characters is present, adding a flavor to this game all its own. It's loads of fun, especially if you can find a friend that wouldn't mind hooking up wirelessly for a versus match.

The other modes are decent, but don't fare as well. Chess Kombat is about what you'd expect, a chess game consisting of Mortal Kombat characters who do combat whenever a square is occupied by two opposing parties. Its novelty wears thin after just a few plays, but those who like their chess bloody can step right up. Komquest Mode also marks its debut on the handheld, taking gamers through a full-blown adventure with a certain hero and earning reputation points along the way. It's somewhat fun, but the revamped Konquest Mode from Armageddon is leagues better...and clearly not as boring.

The presentation isn't too bad for Unchained. The visuals retain much of their excellent looks from the console version, despite fuzzy spots here and there. The ability to knock an enemy clear across a stage into another room is a nice touch, and doesn't lose any sense of continuity (like loading between stages). The sound is okay, nothing incredibly new but fitting to the Kombat theme. This includes the deep-voiced announcer, the player taunts and screams, and the swift punching and kicking sounds. Sword-work sounds a little heavy for its own good, but we'll forgive it.

The controls, however, are a different story. Some will love it and get right into pulling off multiple combos, while others will struggle with the faulted D-pad and try to pull off fatalities and special moves a number of times with little or no success. It's not like the controls completely suck, they're just difficult to pull off with something like the PSP. They're mapped correctly, with players able to switch between three fighting stances on-the-fly, but the uphill battle remains.

The whole game is supported wonderfully by wireless play. Players can hook up with a friend via AdHoc through a series of modes and let the blood flow for hours on end. However, not all is perfect. Motor Kombat, an extra game from Armageddon, would've been great to include here, despite the fact it's just Mario Kart with carnage. The loading time is also questionable between matches, taking its sweet time and slowing some of the momentum- especially to someone who's on a roll with so many fights won.

Oh, well, no matter. Mortal Kombat fans are still going to want to dig in to Unchained just to take their favorite Deception games on the go. It would have been nice for Midway to consider some extra modes or new features for this handheld edition to really make it stand apart. But by the same token, at least they didn't botch it and leave us with a game that would want to make us rip our own heads off. that even possible?

What's Hot: Six new fighters to choose from; solid wireless play, especially with Puzzle Kombat; blood and guts aplenty.

What's Not: Based on an earlier Mortal Kombat game; some moves are crazy-hard to pull off; loading times.