When consoles launch, they usually launch alongside a cluster of games that are designed to deliver on the promises the marketing team made during the lead-up to going on sale.
In the case of the PS Vita, which has a whole range of new features to demonstrate – the same thing happened.
Launched and bundled with the PS Vita, came first-party titles that show what the system can do – full games in their own right, but coupled with that feeling of “launch title fever” that’s tough to shake off.
Want to show off every input and motion method the PS Vita has to offer? Little Deviants is the game you need.
The game doesn’t try to sell itself as anything more than a compilation of mini-games featuring cutesy creatures of different thematic origins, fighting against robot oppressors.
Indeed, even that description gives more context to the concept of Little Deviants than the game itself.
The mini-games effectively show off how the PS Vita handles the various input methods – as well as incorporating some augmented reality and Sixaxis motion controls too.
You’ll be shooting down robots in your living room, as they try to drag your little creatures away; touching the rear (giggle) to guide the squishy tots over maps and collect stars; shouting at your Vita in different tones and pitches; or simply rolling the deviants around with the Vita’s gyroscopic control.
The mini-games are very accessible – and frankly, quite fun to play – though they are sometimes a bit hit-or-miss. Getting to grips with them can be a bit frustrating, especially the augmented reality shooter, which requires you to move the Vita around to follow the robot hordes.
I kid you not, I nearly whacked my grandma while swinging my arms around the room.
Progressing through the game isn’t particularly involved, as you drift from one mini to the next, and although there’s replayability in trying to maximise your score and go for gold, you’ll likely be itching to get busy with another Vita title waiting on the sidelines.
As an introduction to the Vita’s many control capabilities, Little Deviants is all the demonstration you would need – but as fully-fledged game, it struggles to set itself apart as a tech-demo launch title for the console’s features.
Reality Fighters shows off the PS Vita’s impressive augmented reality capabilities. You’d be forgiven for looking at it as a glorified tech-demo, but let me assure you, it’s a far richer experience than it seems.
Particulalry impressive is the game’s character creation and customisation mode. Here, in the right lighting conditions, you can use the PS Vita’s camera to put your face on a fighter for use in-game.
You can dress yourself up, choose a fighting style and away you go. While the customisation items may seem a bit frivolous – they’re actually an important part of your character, affecting various stats and techniques.
There are 15 fighting styles (my personal favourite was ‘ballet’ for reasons I don’t care to divulge) and as you play and progress, you unlock more clothing items (of which there are about 400) and weapons.
What is frivolous, however, is the actual gameplay. Or at least it feels like it is.
The game’s story mode – if you could call it that – was frightfully easy, posing little to no challenge at all. If you choose to go for touch controls over traditional controls, it becomes even easier, as combos and special attacks are activated with simple swipes on the front and back touch-pads.
The other game-play modes (survivor, quick fight, time attack and versus) offer a slightly tougher challenge – with the option to adjust difficulty – but even then, you never feel like the system is quite as refined or as balanced as other fighters out there.
When choosing arenas to fight in, you can opt for a pre-loaded ‘panoramic’ arena – or you can simply opt to fight in reality (get it? Reality Fighters!) by using augmented reality.
The AR cards that come bundled with the PS Vita are a must here, to avoid awkward-looking positioning, and losing your characters as you move the Vita about. Sure, it feels like a gimmick – but there’s some special part of my heart that gives love to any game that let’s me fight digital characters on my gran’s head.
Reality Fighters is a fun game – but once again struggles to set itself apart as a PS Vita launch exposition of the console’s capabilities. It’s far from tacked-on and half-hearted – but it will only tide you over briefly, while you wait for Mortal Kombat or one of the other ‘big’ fighters to come along.
ModNation Racers Road Trip
ModNations Racers Road Trip isn’t even a ported version of the PlayStation 3 racer – it’s a bona fide sequel to the game, though you’ll unlikely get a very different experience out of it.
Having never played ModNations on the PS3, you may wonder how I could say such a thing – but the basis comes from the fact that the game feels like it could very well have been done for the touch/AR/motion-sensor-less console counterpart.
That’s not to say the game doesn’t make use of the Vita’s features – but where you do use touch control to navigate, customise and modify, it never feels quite as refined or as responsive as one would hope.
The racer plays out like you’d expect a kart-racer to play – you race around tracks, collecting power-ups and weapons to fire off at your opponents, while navigating twists and turns – and avoiding the dynamic obstacles each course throws at you.
Power-ups are colour coded so you can make out what it is you’re aiming for, and drifting around corners as you fire off at your opponents is endlessly satisfying – and hey, no blue tortoise shell in sight. Thumbs up! (Oops, can we say that in a Sony review?)
ModNations is a great kart racer – but where its true appeal lies is in the building, customisation and sharing of characters and tracks. What this game does best, it also does the worst – but we’ll get to that.
Building your own tracks is as easy or as complicated as you want it to be. Seeing as I was in the middle of doing a million different things, I went for easy.
Using the touch screen, you simply draw out the path of your track – if you do something wrong, the game prompts you to reverse (using L1) which moves you back slowly – and if you run out of track, it offers to auto-complete the track for you.
Then the magic happens – you can then let the game auto-populate the track for you, which then shows you zooming through your custom track as buildings, plants and everything else pop into position. Seriously cool.
The character and kart customizations are equally as vast, with almost every facet of your character and vehicle being open to colour changing, pattern shifting, tattooing – and then some.
The options are so wonderfully vast, that it feels a bit let down by the control scheme used to manipulate it – all of these things are controlled using the touchscreen, and holy hell is it a struggle.
The various customization tools are handled by using familiar pinch and pull methods of touch control, as well as sliders and tabs which seem to require pin-point precision when trying to shift them. Something that my fat fingers on a relatively small screen cannot adequately accomplish.
This makes changing things about a bit of a chore. Couple that with the touch motions feeling unresponsive – and suddenly navigation feels sluggish, and you start wondering if it would just be better to stick to karting, and leave the customisation to the PS3.
Having said that though – that can be done. If you have customised characters from your PS3 game, they can be made available on Road Trip – all thanks to the game’s social sharing features.
Tracks, karts and characters, all shared over the network – showing us the potential of how the PS Vita will be fitting into the greater scheme of cross-over functionality.
Finicky touch controls aside, ModNations is probably the best of this first-party launch round-up – effectively setting itself apart from being a simple launch title tech demonstration.