Less than a month to go now before the PS Vita arrives and we can’t wait. There’s a fantastic number of titles available around the launch and we’ve been everywhere from LA and E3, Germany and Gamescom, and more recently London and Manchester to try them out. So take a few minutes to look through our guide to see what you fancy picking up.
Developer: Evolution Studios
Anything that reminds us of Micro Machines or Mashed is always going to get our attention so this looks ace already. This simple top-down racer is a much more casual affair than the other MotorStorm games, favouring quick thrills over gruelling punishment. There are plenty of modes to choose from in addition to races. Some events task you with overtaking as many opponents as you can before time runs out. The most addictive game so far has to be the lapped time trials where you chase trailing arrow ghosts around the track trying to beat a medal time. After that you’ll want to beat your friends’ arrows and then the rest of the world. The devs told me they lost “weeks of development time” competing amongst each other at the office, and we can see why. The game will be released for the PS3 and Vita as a single download, allowing play at home and on the go, all for a “competitive” price. Click here to read Matt’s interview with producer, David Bramhall.
MotorStorm RC might initially frustrate a few series stalwarts. The controls are a little fiddly and may take some getting used to, but for anyone bred and raised upon a feast of quirky 90s top-down arcade racers, this will be a nostalgia trip of pure joy. The game looks gorgeous on both machines, there's plenty of fan service packed in there from Evolution and, fired up four ways on a PS3, we can see this being a straightforward party hit. - Matt
ModNation Racers: Road Trip
A quick race and fiddle with the editing suite revealed yet another Vita title that matches its PS3 counterpart pound for pound. The smooth drifts and weapon-based races are a nice fit for the handheld. The track editor now benefits from being able to use the touchscreen to draw a track and then pinch and pull at it to deform to taste. Awesome editing features aren’t the only thing the game’s inherited from the PS3, the loading times on this unfinished version were terribly slow too.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Sometimes we gamers don't need completely new experiences on a new console, sometimes it's nice to see brilliance simply transferred, with a bit of tweaking here and there. That's what SCE San Diego have done here, plonking the whole PS3 version of the game down onto the Vita. As with LittleBigPlanet, the creation tools find themselves enhanced and simplified thanks to the touch interface. It's not going too far to suggest that this might end up being the definitive version of the game. - Matt
A selection of very brief WarioWare-style minigames is a neat way to get used to the Vita's wide range of control functions. The better your scores the more time you earn to carry on playing multiple games and earn a decent highscore. Admittedly this doesn't go a great job of explaining how to play each game. Some are obvious, such as pulling clams apart with the touchscreen, whereas others like moving a spaceship through obstacles won't tell you if you move it with the touchscreen or d-pad and by the time you've tried both, you will have failed. You’re sorted once you do know, but annoying nevertheless. The price will be a big factor in the relevance of Frobisher Says when it’s released despite offering 50 minigames.
This is much more suitable to a portable format, as the concept of playing darts on your PS3 is a bit like using a Kindle to read car insurance small print. The version I tested was solely reliant on the touchscreen. Drag the dart to where you’d ‘like’ it to go, tap the screen once and then wipe your finger down then up the centre of the screen as straight and as smoothly as you can. It works, but the smoothness of the motion will depend on how clean your screen is and if your finger drags it out in stutters at all. Hopefully an analogue stick option will make its way into the final game. Graphically the game is razor-sharp and the raft of minigames could make this a regular time sink.
It works, more or less, but frankly I've never understood the allure of virtual darts. This goes for Kinect Sports Season 2 as well, although at least with that game you can be holding a pint at the same time as you're supposed to. - Matt
Developer: Fun Bits
Using a hand-drawn art style and black and white visuals is a bold move for a launch title, but there’s no denying the game’s unique charm. Escape Plan is a 2D puzzle game where you have to get your little guy across a hazardous room to the other side. It’s like a cross between an Abe Oddworld game and Lemmings. You give commands to walk and stop, but you can also use the touchscreen to interact with the environment. Sweep bricks out of the way or flick electrical hazards around to avoid getting fried. If you get the avatar to drink coffee you can then give him a pinch using the front and rear screens so he’ll briefly sprint. This particular command often takes multiple attempts, but a little more time with the game may improve this, as we’re still getting to grips with the Vita itself.
This 2D brawler won’t be on the top of many gamers’ lists on launch day, but it might be worth a look later on. The hook here is the ability to use the Vita’s camera to fight with a real-world backdrop. There are a few glossy examples ones built in too and as you move the Vita around you can move the game’s viewpoint. It can be a little disorientating, as I ended up looking at the fighter’s feet more in some fights. Simple Street Fighter-esque combos make up the meat of the action, with a strong pick up and play feel coming from my brief session. Extensive creation options allow you to put your own face into the game too.
Super Stardust Delta
Players of the original PSN version of this twin-stick shooter will be able to get into this straight away. The PSP version was a bit rubbish as it suffered from the lack of a second analogue stick, but the Vita is a nice fit for the genre. As good looking as the game is, you can’t help but feel that if you have the PS3 version you probably don’t really need this one. PixelJunk Shooter on the other hand would be well worth a revisit.
Developer: Bigbig Studios
This is the game that’s meant to show off all the Vita’s control features. Both touchscreens, motion control, microphone and more are all taken advantage of. From what I’ve played though the results are very hit and miss. It’s important to note that this seems to be more a problem with the game rather than the responsiveness of the technology itself. Using the rear-pad to roll a ball around by lifting the ground underneath looks great on the demo videos, but the reality is a fiddly and frustrating experience. Steering a skydiver through hoops isn’t as responsive as it should be either. A quick-fire whack-a-mole-style game fares much better though as you tap the front and rear screen to hit enemies as they appear on a grid of windows. An augmented reality shooter where you move the Vita around to fire at UFOs floating around your room is showing promise too.
Sony's desire for the Vita has been to provide an all-encompassing handheld: one that can take advantage of its superior power to deliver experiences you simply can't get on a smartphone, but also to beat the iOS and Android crowd at their own games. Out of all of the launch titles, Little Deviants is the one that most fulfils he remit of the latter approach. Stuffed with invention, immaculately presented, it's a Best Of...Vita compilation that strives for that 'just-one-more-go' compulsive attraction with its minigames. Results are promising, though as Brendan notes, the responsiveness on a few could use a little tweaking. - Matt
Everybody's Golf: World Invitational
Developer: Clap Hanz
Ignore the cringingly cute visuals; this is a serious golfing game. You can use familiar three-button presses or analogue swings for striking the ball and motion controls can be used to pan the camera around. Add this to the impressive list of titles that emulate the PS3 experience. The Tiger Woods games usually have a monopoly on the golf genre, but you really should take a look at this. You know a game’s good when you enjoy it despite not caring for the real sport itself.
Don’t forget to also check out extensive hands-on previews for the other launch titles: Uncharted: Golden Abyss and WipEout 2048. We’ve also got hands-on previews for other titles to be released later in 2012: Little Big Planet, Resistance: Burning Skies and Gravity Rush.