Sony released their next generation portable, the PlayStation Vita last month into a handheld gaming market that is already saturated with mobile social games, and in this world where everyone can play “Angry Birds” on a phone and tablets are getting more powerful, the Vita is still a strong competitor.
At first glance, the Vita is as visually pleasing as any piece of modern mobile hardware, but when it’s turned on it becomes beautiful. The bright Five inch multi-input touch OLED screen is absolutely stunning. The screen may be the crown jewel, but the other hardware Sony packed into their device is impressive. The second thing gamers will notice from looking at the device is that it has two analog joysticks , an industry standard for console games this is the first handheld to feature this. This means that games designed for systems like the PS3 can be easily adapted to the handheld counterpart.
What cant be seen by a first glance is what makes things interesting. The Vita has Sony’s SIXAXIS motion sensing technology, which means games can take advantage of a control scheme where players tilt the system to make in game changes. These tilt controls are similar to what some developers use on mobile platforms such as iOS and therefore these games can be ported to the device.The most unique component of the Vita’s hardware is its rear touch pad. Opposite of the touch screen is a 5-inch multi-input touch pad. This allows for unique gameplay mechanics like pinching and poking from behind. However not being able to see where the finger is making contact means that controls are sloppy and difficult to give accurate input.
The launch of the Vita was backed with stronger titles than its major competitor, Nintendo’s 3DS. The official launch titles for the device are:
There was one in particular which I found myself spending all of my time with, despite my previous 100% completion of the Xbox 360 version. Rayman Origins. The bright colors, playful soundtrack and overall charm fits wonderfully on the the Vita’s hardware. The draw for me was playing the game on such a wonderful screen. The colors and textures of the hand drawn art style are rich and vibrant, pop greater than most televisons.
One launch title which caught me by surprise was Drinkbox’s “Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack.” This “Katamari” style puzzle platformer is great as it is simple. The game doesn’t force players to use some of the Vita’s often gimmicky controls. The touch screen is not used, the rear touch pad can be used but players also have the option of just holding a button for the same input. What makes this game great for me is its wonderful sense of humor. Throughout the background of the game are billboards and buildings with signs all containing jokes either in the form of puns or industry related parodies. [For morecheck out my review here on Monstervine.com]
After playing through a bulk of the launch titles, a month later I have run into the problem of not picking up my Vita to play games any longer. When I am out at work and school I usually don’t have enough time to start a game and make much progress, I instead find myself turning to the causal mobile games on iOS and Android platforms. This allows me to play some casual game like “The Simpsons: Tapped Out” where I collect money from my town and send inhabitants back to work for several hours, or play a quick round of “Draw Something” an online one-on-one “Pictionary” clone.
The Vita has few strong titles coming out in March and April, but I picked up “Unit 13” and it has some great gameplay. The game falls flat with generic story and overall feel of the game makes it for a game I wont likely be picking up after it’s completed. The Vita has a strong potential, with great hardware and interesting gameplay possibilities but it will need a strong, continuous stream of games to stay relevant and to be able to compete with mediocre games priced at $.99 compared to the $29 to $39 prices of Vita games.