Hands-on with the Playstation Vita, part two

Here’s the second part of my Playstation Vita hands-on. I’m going to take a look at the other games I played at the Vita Rooms in Manchester and then give my overall impressions on this new gaming platform.

Gravity Rush

I only had a quick go on this third-person adventure game, but it was enough to pique my interest. It has a lovely-looking art style, which I’d describe as a more detailed manga-style version of the cel-shaded graphics from games like Okami. Videos and screenshots don’t really do it justice, it looks much nicer ‘in the flesh’ on the Vita’s screen. I didn’t experience too much of the gameplay, but the gravity-shifting elements control very intuitively. I did notice that some awkward-shaped objects in the sky can leave you to slip off and hurtle into the air if you land in the wrong place, but I doubt that this something that will crop up frequently during gameplay.

A screenshot of Gravity Rush

Rayman Origins

I haven’t played any of the home-console versions of this, but the game looks absolutely spectacular on the Vita. This comes across a totally full-fat experience and is perhaps the best example of the Vita’s ability to provide home-console games on the go so far.

A screenshot of Rayman Origins

Virtua Tennis 4

Like Uncharted and Wipeout, this felt like it was trying to utilise the full power of the Vita, and it looked quite nice. I haven’t played Virtua Tennis since the Dreamcast days, but I got back into it quite easily. I’d read about a new control gimmick where you swipe across the touchscreen to move your player to the ball, so decided to give that a go. I was surprised how well it worked – it was nice and intuitive. Virtua Tennis 4 recived fairly middling reviews when it was released on other formats, so we’ll have to see how this fares when it comes out.

A screenshot of Virtua Tennis

Super Stardust Delta

This was the first game I tried on the Vita and I only had a quick go as I was eager to test out the likes of Wipeout and Uncharted. It looks and plays similarly to the PS3 game, with some extra touch control gimmickry. You can use the rear touchpad to drop a black hole weapon but this felt very awkward to me.

A screenshot of Super Stardust Delta

MotorStorm: RC

This is a spin-off from the MotorStorm series featuring remote-control cars. I initially struggled to get to grips with this as there didn’t seem to be an explanation of the controls, but I eventually figured out that you use the two analogue sticks in the same way you would for an actual remote-control car. Even once I’d worked this out I didn’t find the game particularly intuitive or fun, and while the graphics looked petty solid they weren’t particularly memorable.

A screenshot of MotorStorm: RC

ModNation Racers: Road Trip

I never bought ModNation Racers for the PS3 because the demo didn’t particularly grab me. I found this fairly enjoyable though – the racing seems solid, although like most kart racers that aren’t Mario Kart there’s a weird generic-ness about it. If you’re not going to be investing in a 3DS then this might be worth a look.

A screenshot of ModNation Racers: Road Trip

Frobisher Says

This is a quirky microgame title in the vein of WarioWare. It acts as a nice demonstration of the Vita’s various features and has you fighting bears and drawing faces on eggs, among other things. It’s also a nice demonstration of the Vita’s ability to carry off Locoroco-style 2D graphics – despite being a modest, quirky title it can look quite lovely in its own way. I had to stop playing it when it asked me to smile for the camera though – I wasn’t willing to do a big toothy grin in the middle of a room of actual human beings. So while I did like it, it’s perhaps not one for the bus.

A screenshot of Frobisher Says

Conclusion

I was playing LittleBigPlanet when the novelty of the Vita suddenly wore off. I realised that, despite Sony throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the Vita in terms of controls, there’s actually nothing particularly extraordinary about the new control methods. While the Vita would have felt very mundane without its range of controls, there’s no single element that’s startlingly innovative. That’s not to say I think Sony’s gone down the wrong path with Vita – there are lots of possibilities here and the buttons-and-touchscreen combo could work quite well (I’ve said in the past that I think Minecraft would work well with this combination of controls). But when it comes down to it, we’ve had buttons and analogue sticks before, we’ve had touchscreens before, we’ve had cameras before, and while the rear touchpad is pretty novel, it’s also the least-practical item in the Vita’s arsenal. I think the Vita’s a nice solid piece of kit, too expensive really, but nice. It’s got a nice combination of controls – but it’s not really going where no console has gone before.

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