The Vita Experience Part One: Six Must-Own Titles for PlayStation Vita
Recently I had the pleasure of having some extended hands-on time with the PlayStation Vita, courtesy of an exclusive Sony event in London. I was greeted upon arrival with food, drink and tons of Vita units, with most of the games scheduled for the European launch in February. Many games I had seen previously, but there were some genuine surprises hidden within the bottom floor of this posh London venue.
After playing as many titles as I could (unfortunately there were a few titles I didn’t have an opportunity to try), I have whittled the list down to what I believe are the six PlayStation Vita games you need to keep an eye on. Presented in no particular order:
Wipeout is most definitely the series that is synonymous with the PlayStation brand. Each iteration has been an early title for each of Sony’s systems, proving to be a good test of each new PlayStation’s horsepower. Wipeout 2048 is no different, however, Liverpool-based SCEE have taken things back to the future (so to speak) with a title that chronologically takes place before the very first game in the series at a time where the anti-gravity racing league has just started to take off (no pun intended).
This new game makes the most of the Vita hardware, looking gorgeous and running smoothly. While your anti-gravity sled can be controlled with standard analog controls, naturally you can now tilt the Vita to steer. Surprisingly these motion controls worked better than expected – although there is a learning curve to mastering the tilt, Wipeout’s typically narrow tracks have been widened to accommodate the motion-controlled racers out there.
Wipeout has always been quite a punishing series in terms of challenge, but I’m pleased to report that SCEE have made an effort to open up the title to newcomers – for a start, the game now has an easier difficulty curve; you begin the game only needing to worry about racing, with elements such as weapons and items being added to the mix as you progress through the game’s many events. The events are laid out on a map, interacted with via the Vita’s touch-screen (I was also informed that some secret events can be discovered on this map, by touching the rear touchpad in specific areas – Aan interesting use of the interface).
As well as playing the single-player game on a standalone Vita unit, I also had the opportunity to have a cross-platform multiplayer session with Karl Jones, lead designer of WipeOut 2048. In this mode, players of Wipeout HD on the PlayStation 3 can race WipeOut 2048 players on the Vita. I can safely say there were no problems with lag or responsiveness while playing in this fashion and is a great demonstration of Sony’s commitment to Cross-Platform gaming.
With multiple vehicles to choose from, plus tons of tracks and events to race them on, Wipeout 2048 is shaping up to be one of the must-have Vita launch titles.
The fourth game in the LittleBigPlanet staple is a real gamechanger for me, in terms of my desire for a PS Vita. Before I walked into a developer session for the Vita at Eurogamer Expo in September, I was on the fence about the system – then I saw a demonstration of this title and I immediately “got” what the PS Vita was all about. The demo I played featured a variety of levels that did an awesome job at demonstrating both what the LittleBigPlanet engine can be used to create, along with the brilliant uses the many Vita interfaces can be put to.
Best of the bunch is the Puppet Circus, a standard platforming level where the player has to use both the touchscreen and rear touch pad to move objects and solve puzzles. My particular favourite section was a wall of Tetris-like blocks in the background, where the rear touch pad has to be touched to push individual blocks to make platforms. Another section sees you in a catapult, touching and tragging it down to catapult Sackboy to another part of the level.
Other levels included Collision Course, a simple game where the Vita is held vertically and the player uses the right analog stick to navigate a car through lanes of traffic, avoiding other vehicles. There was also King of the Rink, a simple air hockey style game and Squid Sorter; where once again the Vita is held vertically, a squid drops smaller squids and by touching different gates and the player must direct these squids to particular holes at the bottom of the screen.
These demo levels give a good idea of what is possible with LittleBigPlanet on the PS Vita and with the ability to use the system’s camera to create objects for use in your own levels; there is plenty of scope for some creative level design.
With fantastic use of the system’s abilities, LittleBigPlanet Vita has plenty of content for those who wish to create, or those who just want to play – further proof of Sony’s focus on using the Vita to provide fun experiences for all types of gamer.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss
I didn’t get anywhere near enough time to play as much Uncharted as I wanted to as the two demo units were constantly in use for the entirety of my time at the preview event. However I did get to play a small section of the game before I left and from what I can see it is a worthy portable representation of the series.
The brief section of the game I played was set in a burning building that Drake has to escape from; a good chance to look at the PS Vita’s graphical prowess. While the system isn’t quite on par with it’s bigger console brother (understandably), it is light years beyond what that Nintendo 3DS can offer, with brilliantly detailed environments and characters.
Gameplay wise, it plays very much like any of the Uncharted games on the PlayStation 3, something that I imagine would please a great many of you. While I didn’t get a chance to indulge in some combat, I did do a lot of climbing, shimmying and balancing.
One thing I am possibly a little concerned about is the use of the touch screen and motion control functions. There was a point early on in the demo where I had to cut through a sheet by swiping some directions on the screen and in another area I had to balance on a beam by tilting the Vita to keep Drake’s footing. While these elements were not too obstructive, they felt very tacked on and unnecessary; I can only hope the final version doesn’t have too many of these distractions in but given that most of these features are optional anyway, perhaps it won’t matter. Of course, the balance between using a new console’s features and keeping it relevant to gameplay is one that many developers will struggle with when creating games for the PS Vita.
Despite my little misgivings over new control schemes, Golden Abyss will allow fans of the series to take Drake out for an adventure on the go – something that will appease many fans at launch.
Touch My Katamari
Now for a personal favourite of mine. I do love Katamari Damacy and have been looking forward to a completely new title in the series for a while. Touch My Katamari is that new instalment, with a wonderful new feature to keep things nice and fresh.
Once again you play as the green-clad Prince, son of the awesomely camp King of All Cosmos. The King has once again found himself in a spot of bother and once again he has ordered his son to do something about it, by rolling stuff up with a sticky ball (The lazy, yet glorious bastard).
As well as using the Vita’s dual-analog setup to roll the Katamari like previous titles, you can how use the rear touchpad to roll your sticky ball over all that falls in it’s path. You can also use the rear touchpad to squeeze and stretch your Katamari, contorting it into different shapes and sizes – these new modes can be used to gather more objects, or fit into previously unreachable gaps.
Over the course of the game there are tons of objects to roll over, cousins to find, candy to gather and spend on items, leaderboards to challenge, costumes to wear and environments to decimate – there is no scrimping on content for this portable instalment.
With the controls working incredibly well and the game featuring all the lunacy we have come to expect from the series, this is sure to be one of the best versions of the game yet!
The dirt-track based racer has taken a new form for it’s latest incarnation. Motorstorm RC is a digital title that shrinks the action down to a game that brings back the old-school top down racing fun of games like Micro Machines, Skidmarks and RC Pro Am.
It really does play like those fun-filled racers of old – your tiny remote controlled car (I have been told that there are different types of vehicle, all with different speeds/handling/etc) handles as an arcade racer should, with no distractions such as weapons or powerups – just pure racing enjoyment.
It’s the kind of game we see little of these days and my time with the Vita version of the game was highly enjoyable, the game’s tight controls making it fun to navigate each courses curvaceous forms.
This small downloadable title (I was told that the entire game clocks in at just over 600MB) will be playable on both PlayStation 3 & Vita. The PlayStation 3 version supports split-screen multiplayer as well as single player modes – the beauty of the game is that you can take your single player progress from your console and take it out with you on the PlayStation Vita and your progress and times pass over to the handheld system.
What makes this configuration all the more attractive is that once you buy Motorstorm RC, it is available to play on both systems – no need to purchase separate PlayStation 3 and Vita versions; a single purchase will get you both versions to play. I have been informed that the game will be released at a budget price, so there is no reason to not pick up the game for either platform.
Well this game was a surprise! Hidden on a lonely PS Vita unit seemingly ignored by most, was this little gem. Frobisher Says is a set of mini-games, owing much to Nintendo’s brilliant WarioWare series.
Much like the aforementioned series, these mini-games are prefaced by an order to do something; this order is carried out by using one of the PS Vita’s control methods in a particular way, within a set time limit. Unlike WarioWare, you are told what the controls are, but you need to figure out how they work.
Frobisher himself, is certainly a strange little fellow; this is made clear in the ridiculous requests he makes of you. “Poke An Otter With A Stick!” he bellows, as you try and poke a quick-moving furry mammal by poking it with the touch screen. “Deliver my Pudding!” involves using a toy train to delivery a chocolate snack via toy train (and careful use of the R-button).
It’s a delightfully insane set of mini-games and a real dark horse in the PlayStation Vita lineup. It is fun of the purest sort, making the player grin and chuckle as they play and therefore is definitely one to watch out for.
Keep your web browser primed on GodisaGeek.com in the coming days, for a look at yet more PlayStation Vita titles in Part Two of The Vita Experience.