Every new console and piece of motion control technology needs a tech demo; a proof of concept that shows new players what to expect from the platform as it matures. Minigame collections tend to be the simplest, most accessible and plain cheapest way to go about it... so right on cue, Little Deviants is set to provide forgettable bite-sized gaming snacks that each showcase a separate piece of Vita functionality.
During my (admittedly brief) time with Little Deviants, I was able to try out three of the five games that the UK-based Bigbig Studios brought along in the preview version – and for the most part, they're fun, addictive if ultimately shallow diversions.
The first game, BotzBlast, is an augmented reality shooter that uses the Vita's outward facing camera to project enemies onto real-time video of your surroundings. Your deviants, inhabiting adorable little spacecraft, have to be protected from ferocious hordes of airborne attackers. The tilt controls are used to rotate your perspective and track targets in three dimensions, and incoming fire covers the screen in green gunk that has to be scrubbed off with the touch screen. It's a simple concept, sure, but the execution is extremely tight and immediately engaging.
Oh, and if the description is sounding slightly familiar, it's because this minigame is exactly the same basic concept as Nintendo's Face Raiders on the 3DS.But without the addictive face collection mechanics.
The Vita's gyroscope provides the basis for the second game, which tasks you with rolling a gelatinous blob through some labyrinthine 2D levels in order to save some deviants from a bomb. It plays out much like LocoRoco since your character can only roll in the direction of gravity, but in an interesting twist, the Vita can be rotated by 360 degrees in order to take tight angles through corners and avoid time-wasting vortices. Grinding for high scores and fast times is the main draw, and it will be very interesting to see whether the full game will provide a stiffer challenge in later levels.
Finally, a Marble Madness-esque minigame shows off the capabilities of the back panel. The objective is to guide your wobbly spherical charge over to a swirling vortex – but instead of tilting the map, players can use the rear touch pad to create hills and deform the terrain. This dynamic terrain is a tactical. However, we can't help feeling that the touchscreen would have been an accessible way to control the action, and that the difficulty curve soon meets a steep jump with the addition of robotic enemies and dangerous obstacles.
But hey, challenge can only be a good thing in a minigame collecion. Bring it on!
Little Deviants is graphically very capable, and it's clear that the developers are spending plenty of time making sure that it's as polished and crisp as possible. A colourful art style and detailed texture work really help it to stand out, though the overwhelmingly juvenile vibe instantly stakes out the target audience.
Essentially, Little Deviants is shaping up to be a decent way to showcase the advanced input capabilities of the PS Vita... but when LittleBigPlanet is set to do all that and infinitely more, Bigbig Studios will have their work cut out making the experience relevant at launch. We'll keep an eye on it over the coming months.