PlayStation Mobile is out now on Vita and select Android devices, allowing developers to easily deliver their games onto new platforms and us consumers to make merry as indie games fall like rain. Plus, hey, it's always nice to have something to play on our pricey Sony handhelds.
I personally feel that PlayStation Mobile is a uniquely forward-thinking venture that could grow into a massive new marketplace, ripe with potential for developers and gamers alike (so long as it's handled properly, see also: XBLIG). For now, however, we're going to focus on five notable games from the launch lineup and discuss whether or not they're worth buying on Vita.
Spoiler alert: you need to go and buy three of them immediately. Let's start strong:
Aqua Kitty: Milk Mine Defender
Upon booting up Aqua Kitty, your eyes will initially be attracted to the first part of the title. After all, everyone loves cats and including a bunch of moggies certainly won't hurt sales. You'll then be floored by the the gorgeous big pixel art style, but most savvy gamers will quickly realise that Defender is the operative work here. Aqua Kitty is a gorgeous and responsive reimagining of Williams Electronics' classic arcade game, packed with hectic action, rock-solid mechanics and a superb chiptune soundtrack.
It's also one of the best Vita games on the market.
As a Defender-like, the core conceit of defending some vulnerable colonists (in this case, adorable kitten miners extracting milk from the bottom of the sea - why not?) from alien abduction is present and correct. You'll pilot a powerful combat submarine across the wraparound 2D plane, fending off a varied cadre of foes determined to distract you from the cheeky saucers headed for your miners. A deliciously varied palette of foes to fight and hazards to overcome make Aqua Kitty a satisfying and cerebral shooter, with action both visceral, responsive and solid from a mechanical standpoint.
Presentation-wise, Aqua Kitty is very much an homage to all things arcade. Its crisp and colourful pixel art shines at 720P resolution, backed up by a moreish selection of chiptunes to bop along to. The net result is a game that feels both fresh and familiar, comfortingly similar to classic arcade titles yet packed with new challenges to overcome. All for less than three quid.
Aqua Kitty: Milk Mine Defender is an exquisite shooter at a ridiculously low price. Go buy it. As in, right now.
A new Futurlab game is always cause for celebration. Coconut Dodge was fun. Velocity is exceptional. Indeed, the mini studio has already been making massive waves on the PlayStation Store, and Fuel Tiracas is another big hitter.
It's dead simple too, at least as far as the concept is concerned. With the breezy aim of powering up some reactors by balancing their fuel levels, gameplay essentially boils down to a test of reflexes. You'll need to charge up fuel rods by furiously tapping icons on the sides of the screen, while ensuring that you don't overpower them or let their levels fall back below the threshold. This might sound incredibly simplistic, but furiously intense gameplay coupled with pin-sharp visuals make Fuel Tiracas a truly zen experience, more meditation than frustration.
Be warned: global leaderboards make for an intensely addictive thief of time.
As a touchscreen-centric game, Fuel Tiracas is going to be a perfect fit for both Vitas and smartphones, and its 40p price tag is frankly too delicious to ignore. Get on it.
Developer: Pompom Games
Rebel is best described as a Passive Aggressive Bullet Hell Shooter. After escaping from prison only to realise that he's trapped on a tiny island, our jump-suited protagonist decides to cause as much chaos as possible before being recaptured, running around to desperately avoid being shot by an increasingly ferocious force of turrets, tanks, helicopters. Brilliantly, high scores revolve around forcing enemies to shoot each other, requiring some fancy footwork and deft reflexes on your part. The longer you survive, the more loot you'll collect and the more modes, features and powerups you can unlock.
Chunkly voxel visuals help to grant Rebel its own personality (and look fantastic on the Vita's high resolution screen), but some more variety in terms of map and enemy designs would have been welcome. Only a single island map per mode feels a bit stingyto say the least. For the price, though, Rebel provides more than enough frustrating fun to be worth a speedy purchase.
Developer: Crash Lab
Sharp graphics aside, Twist Pilot is really quite mediocre. Its mazey, puzzly gameplay is brought down by an aggravatingly clumsy movement mechanic based around tiny swipes and an unsastisfying challenge curve; barely a shadow of its obvious inspiration Kuru Kuru Kururin.
Plenty of raw content here, but an experience that comes across as a bit limp. I suspect that it will be much cheaper on iOS, where it's scheduled to release in due course.
Super Crate Box
Super Crate Box is brilliant, but you already knew that. However, even if you've already sampled Vlambeer's exquisite arcade offering, the Vita's thumbstick, D-Pad and buttons make a world of difference.
Sure, touchscreen controls are getting better all the time. Yes, Super Crate Box works very well indeed with the virtual pad. And yet, you'll never want to jump, shoot and constantly bisect yourself with the disc gun without a thumbstick again. It feels... right.
Just buy it. Again, if necessary.