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E3: Hands on with PS Vita and its games

Now that Sony has officially announced the new name of the NGP to be “Vita”, we decided that it was time to get some hands-on time with the powerful handheld device. After waiting in line for two hours, We finally got to the demo stations and were told that we would have four minute demos with five different games. That’s only 20 minutes, so keep that in mind when reading this. The five titles that we had a chance to play were Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Virtua Tennis 4, Little Deviants, LittleBigPlanet, and Sound Stage. Here’s what we thought:

Hardware

Now the hardware is interesting. You’d think that a device with a five inch touch screen would feel huge and bulky, that isn’t the case with the PS Vita. The device is comfortable to hold and feels natural in the curvature of the hands. The device is so incredibly light that we thought it was bareboned and was hollow inside. That is not the case here, which is crazy if you think about how much is packed in there. The dual analog sticks felt fine, they might be a little bit small but it seems to fit the size of the system well. The camera position on the front of the device felt like it would have been better suited in the middle of the device rather than the right side of it, but judging by how much room the screen takes up, it makes sense as to why it cannot be there. The front touch screen felt smooth, almost like that of an iPhone and the back touchpad felt like a textured trackpad on most modern laptops. It didn’t feel like a stretch to use the trackpad either, our hands were in the right spot whenever the game required the use of it. On the top of the device there were dual flat covers that looked to be similar to that of the Pro Duo slot on the original PSP but when we asked what they were, we were told “We aren’t talking about that yet”.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss

This prequel, set before the events of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, aims to blur the lines of touch controls and traditional controls by integrating both into the core gameplay. We only had four minutes to get through the level so we tried our best to get to see as much as possible. This level showed off the ability to mix touch and button combat as well as sow how simple it is to navigate the environment using the touch interface.

The graphics looked great; better than anything that we have seen on handhelds to date. While they aren’t anywhere near as good as the Playstation 3, did you really expect them to be? They look great and that’s all that matters. The PS Vita seems to handle lighting and water dynamics very well.

Virtua Tennis 4 This was probably the most simple out of the five titles that we had a chance to try out. When serving, tap once to throw the ball up and a second time to hit it. Swipe your finger across the screen to return the ball after your opponent hits it back. Swipe towards the opponent to hit it normally or towards yourself to out some backspin on it. While the player can control his character using the left analog stick, the game will do it for you if you wish.

Little Deviants

Little Deviants is essentially a minigame collection showing off all of the new featured of the PS Vita. While the games looked visually pleasing, they were very bland and felt more like tech demos than an actual game.

LittleBigPlanet

What can we say, it is almost the exact same game as that of it’s Playstation 3 counterpart, with the exception of a few instances in which the game leverages the unique new control schemes that the PS Vita has to offer. There are some areas that require you to touch the screen, back touchpad, or tilt to interact with objects in the environment but this all seemed pretty standard. The cool thing about this release of LittleBigPlanet is that all of the user-created content currently available on the PS3 will be available day one for the Vita.

Sound Stage (Working Title)

So Sound Stage is neat and wasn’t what I was expecting when the demonstrator called it a “music platformer”. The player starts as a little sticky ball-shaped object that sticks to anything white or gray using it’s tentacle arms. The player can only touch those platforms, if he touches any red, he dies. He must then navigate the world collecting little objects that are beats to a song. Once they have been collected, that part of the song plays until the end of the level. This made for an interesting moment where I could have finished the demo but went back to get that one last note that left me dying over and over again.

This game has a huge Super Meat Boy quality to it where it respawns so quickly that you end up saying “Okay, just one more time”. There was 8 levels available during the demo but will be over 40 in the full game. The best part about the whole game is that there is a level editor in which the player can create their own song and level at the same time and share that with friends online. The level editor was simple to use making creating a level quick and easy.

That’s it for what was available to play at the Sony event but more titles were shown during the conference so stay tuned for more information on them in the coming months.

Final Thoughts

The PS Vita certainly stands out as something that wants to have everything and be your “go to media device”. While we certainly didn’t spend enough time with the device to make a full decision, it impressed us greatly and we look forward to seeing what developers can do with the hardware as we approach launch.


Edited On 07 Jun, 2011

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