Comic books on the PSP? It be witchcraft!!
Before getting too deep into this review I feel I need to make it clear that I am not a huge comic book fan. I am more of a casual reader with a handful of graphic novels in the same genre and same license, that being Star Wars and a few random others.
For this piece I am reviewing the PSP app that allows the reading of the comics, rather than reviewing the comics themselves. But, for the sake of the review, I was reading Star Trek Year Four: The Enterprise Experiment, which was free, and 2000AD Prog #1647, which I purchased from the PSN store for Â£1.19, although prices on the store begin from Â£0.79 depending on the title. I do not purchase individual comics in real life, preferring to wait for collected issues to be released in graphic novel form, so itâ€™s hard for me to compare prices. But the prices on the PSN Store seem relatively reasonable for what you are getting.
Okay, so the Digital Comic Reader itself is a free app which you can download from the PSN store and install too your PSP. Once installed, adding titles too your collection is as easy as heading back to the store, browsing through the available titles and buying, much like you would games and add on packs. There is usually a small ever changing list of free titles to pick up and books are available from publishers such as Marvel, IDW Publishing, Disney and 2000AD, along with a good selection of independent publishers.
On starting the application after making a purchase, it will automatically recognize books you have added to your collection. From the main menu you can browse through your books by genre, publisher, read or unread or even your full collection. Then once you have chosen a title from your collection, the controls for reading it are pretty well laid out.
You can zoom in and out on pages using the shoulder buttons and, when zoomed in, you can move your view around the page using the analogue nub along with using up and down on the D-pad to turn the pages. You can read your books using these controls to move around the pages manually. What is cooler than that is using the Autoflow feature, tapping right on the D-pad turns the page. with the next tap you zoom into the first panel on the page, giving a good look at the artwork before tapping right again. you then zoom in on the first piece of text on that panel with each subsequent press of the button moving through speech and text on that panel before zooming out again to take in the next panel. Flowing through the panels and text on each page using this method makes reading your books feel so simple and fun.
No matter how you choose to read them, using Autoflow or moving through the pages manually, you can still use the shoulder buttons to zoom in and out. Which brings me to the point that even zoomed in on the art closely the PSP screen handles it extremely well, keeping the image as sharp zoomed in as it does zoomed out viewing the full page.
Another small feature that is included is the ability to play any music you may have stored on your PSP while you are reading. Itâ€™s a nice little addition to the app.
So up to this point it has all been good and quite rightly so. For what it is and what itâ€™s designed to do, it excels. But to me and a few friends, who are more avid comic book readers and collectors, the main problem is, and itâ€™s the same problem I have with e-readers, that when it comes to reading, be it actual books or graphic novels, I much prefer the printed page over the electronic readers. Which is strange for me as I am a huge fan of gadgets and therefore should love and embrace these things. But when it comes to graphic novels, I would rather have the book in my hands. One of the small things is the smell of the ink on the printed page of a comic and that probably made me sound a little strange but itâ€˜s one of those smells that I absolutely love.
I am sure there are more people like me out there who prefer to have the books in their possession, and the serious comic book collectors definitely would. On the other hand, for the casual reader or for those who are new to the world of comics this could be of great interest.
So to sum it up, the PSP Digital Comic Reader is an excellent app and does brilliantly what it was made to do. It all comes down to whether you prefer to have the printed page in front of you or you are content to read your books on a screen. If the later is you, then you should definitely have a look at this and hey, the app and a small selection of books are free. So I urge anyone, comic fan or not, with a PSP to at least give it a go. You have nothing at all to lose.