The Sony PlayStation Vita has just launched, impressing us with it’s jaw-dropping 5-inch screen boasting outstanding graphics and generous feature-set within the stunning hardware. Check out our full review here:
Here’s our expert opinion on ten of the biggest and best launch titles for Sony’s new portable
Uncharted: Golden Abyss
The adventures of roguish explorer Nathan Drake continue with his first handheld outing, which simultaneously showcases the Vita’s capabilities while highlighting its minor shortcomings. Touch control additions are welcome, providing an accessible shortcut for more casual players that even seasoned players might find themselves using, while the puzzles also make good use of motion controls, even if it is just rubbing a dirty map. Gunplay is slightly more problematic – the right analogue stick feels a little too loose for perfect aiming, though the gyroscope proves useful for fine-tuning headshots. It’s a gripping, handsome-looking tale, but its vistas and set-pieces just aren’t as jaw-dropping as they are on PS3.
Lumines: Electronic Symphony
The game that was to the PSP what Tetris was to the Game Boy arrives on Vita, and it looks and sounds sharper than ever. It hasn’t changed much – you still rotate and drop blocks to make squares or rectangles of the same colour – but the audiovisual makeover is substantial. Clearing away a long chain of blocks triggers a spectacular light show, and the soundtrack blends hits from The Chemical Brothers, LCD Soundsystem and Underworld to provide a sensory experience no other puzzle game can compete with. The touchscreen controls aren’t quite quick or precise enough to prove a suitable alternative to d-pad and buttons, but this is as essential a launch title as the original.
A quick and easy port of the critically-acclaimed platformer, that makes few concessions to its new home aside from some touchscreen map navigation and a pinch-to-zoom option, which actually proves useful given that the camera often pulls back so far that the limbless hero is a speck on the 5-inch display. It might not push the format, and you should be able to get the console versions much cheaper, but if you’re after some breezy, family-friendly entertainment, you could do a lot worse than this.
Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition
Uncharted might be the poster-child, but for our money, this is the game to really make that OLED screen sing. Bright, detailed and colourful, it somehow looks sharper than on an HD telly. It’s been subtly tweaked, too – the default camera angle offers a more dramatic perspective, and the animation is even more lifelike: as Federer arced a backhand into the forehand court we wondered if our Vita was somehow picking up ESPN. Even the touchscreen controls are sensibly implemented, though hitting shots is easier than manoeuvring your player around the court. It’s possibly the best entry yet in a much-loved series and an absolute must if you want to show what Vita is capable of.
This sensibly-priced minigame compendium is the one Vita launch title overtly aimed at a younger audience. It’s bright and quirky, with the titular blobs guiding you through the console’s unique features. One moment you’ll be flinging them around a wrestling ring with swipes and taps, while another game sees you morphing the ground underneath a rolling Deviant by pressing your fingers on the rear touchpad. There’s even an Augmented Reality interlude where you move the Vita around the room you’re in to target flying robots. The games make interesting use of the tech, but they’re fleeting diversions – you’ll play most once and abandon them for something more fulfilling.
The futuristic racer is a reliably consistent mainstay of the PlayStation brand, and this latest entry is particularly good, adopting a more realistic near-future look compared with the rather gaudy neon settings of previous games. It’s a stylistic choice that works, even if it’s easy to get lost in the fine details – separating track from background is tricky at times, particularly at the pace this moves at. Tilt controls aren’t quite responsive enough for a racer this fast, and the difficulty curve is rather steep, but this is slick, pacey and immersive with a thumping soundtrack that demands you wear headphones and turn the volume up to max.
Another safe pair of hands, this compares well with its home console cousin – the series just feels more at home on a handheld, and this looks every bit as good as the PS3 game. The unique Vita features are entertaining gimmicks rather than essential additions, though taking a walk along the course from a first-person perspective proves a charmingly relaxing way to unwind between shots. The three-tap control setup works as well as ever, too, and with a wealth of unlockables, it’s a heck of a timesink should you fall for its cartoonish charms.
Modnation Racers: Road Trip
The recent announcement of a LittleBigPlanet-themed kart racer seems to have spelled the end for Modnation Racers – with both series trading off their extensive but accessible customisation suites, something has to give, and it appears this is the franchise that’s getting the heave-ho. Little wonder, then, that this seems such a perfunctory port, dashed off as a contractual obligation. It doesn’t even have online racing which, when you consider even Nintendo knocked up a decent Wi-Fi multiplayer mode for Mario Kart, is pretty shocking. The plumber remains karting champ, then – Road Trip is merely an also-ran.
A surprisingly enjoyable bit of silliness, this is the real showcase for Vita’s Augmented Reality features, as you take a shot of yourself (or a friend, family member or celebrity) and turn them into a combatant on any surface you point the Vita at. Fancy seeing your mum and your pet hamster fight it out on the coffee table? No problem. The scrapping is more solid than it has any right to be, and with a collection of novelty weapons and a training mode provided by Mr. Miyagi – yes, that Mr. Miyagi – it’s an often amusing brawler for a reasonable price, even if its long-term appeal is questionable.
Touch My Katamari
Namco Bandai, £29.99
It’s remarkable that this esoteric series keeps on rolling, many years after its original creator left. Though another sequel is hardly ‘on message’ (ironically, the original was a satirical response to rampant consumerism), it’s still great fun to roll a giant ball around and pick up everything in your path. The control scheme of the console versions transfers perfectly to Vita’s twin sticks, and additional touchscreen and real panel swipes allow you to adjust the shape of your Katamari to capture more objects or roll quickly uphill. It may be more of the same, but it’s easily the best portable game in the series to date.