PlayStation Vita Mini-Review
by Alex Baldwin
©2012 Alex Baldwin
We’re big fans of Sony’s latest here at OXCGN, and it’s only right that we assist in avoiding the crushing disappointment that comes with receiving a shiny new console, but a horrible game to play on it.
Don’t have time to hunt down reviews for all the major Vita games? No worries, we’ve got you covered!
The list below is a handy summary of each game with pros, cons, and overall ratings of most major Vita game releases (in alphabetical order) since launch, with all being owned and played by yours truly over the course of the past eight months since launch.
Note that the rating assigned to each game may not match that which was given in an earlier review of the game by a different reviewer.
ASSASSIN’S CREED III: LIBERATION
A companion to Assassin’s Creed III on consoles, Liberation retains all the staples of the genre including the open world format but morphs it into a Vita-exclusive spin-off with a few new features such as the ability to change outfits or ‘personas’ to gain different abilities and avoid detection.
+ Excellent graphics comparable with console games.
+ Full open-world.
+ Interesting protagonist.
- Framerate issues.
– ‘Multiplayer’ is deceptive and involves pointing and tapping on a static map.
– Pacing a bit off.
– Colours can appear strangely dull.
CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS DECLASSIFIED
Another companion game, Declassified was released alongside Call of Duty: Black Ops II for console and contains a loosely linked selection of short missions and cut-down online multiplayer mode for some bite-sized Call of Duty on the go.
+ Looks good and runs very well.
+ Shooting feels meaty.
- Ridiculously short singleplayer (1 hour).
– General lack of content.
– Poorly-designed multiplayer maps.
– Most expensive Vita game, yet very little content.
DYNASTY WARRIORS: NEXT
Command armies while fighting right in the thick of it. One of the best releases from the long-running series, Next sees you fighting in ancient Chinese battles to slowly conquer regions by fighting through large open environments to capture key points and defeat generals.
+ Excellent graphics at native resolutions. Handles large battles with ease.
+ Large-scale battles are suitably epic.
+ Touch-screen minigames in battles actually work.
- Can be repetitive.
– Strategic planning unnecessary on lower difficulties.
– DLC overload, but can be ignored.
Use touchscreen gestures and motion-sensing to help Lil and Laarg escape side-scrolling environments through careful planning, precision timing and a bit of luck in this budget PlayStation Store-exclusive puzzler.
+ Great black and white art style.
+ Highlights Vita’s hardware features.
+ Perfect for playing in quick bursts.
- May not hold attention over the long-term.
– Failure often the result of finicky gesture controls.
– Not for the easily-frustrated.
Explore an open world with a focus on verticality using the ability to change the direction of gravity for both navigation and combat.
+ Unique gravity mechanics makes movement interesting.
+ Great art style.
+ 3D comic-style cutscenes looks great.
- Graphics can appear slightly grainy.
– Over-use of brown filter.
– Some disorientation with 360-degree movement.
LEGO HARRY POTTER: YEARS 5-7
Another entry in the Lego series, Years 5-7 mimicks the final 4 Harry Potter movies with typical Lego humour, puzzles and a mountain-load of collectibles.
+ Still got the Lego charm.
+ So many collectibles…
- Cutscenes are extremely compressed.
– Port of DS / PSP / 3DS version, cut-down from console versions.
– Levels can jump between scenarios without explanation, requiring knowledge of the books / films to understand.
– Missing online co-op.
– Visually unspectacular.
Utilise all the Vita’s control options in this collection of minigames with multiple levels available for each and a bright, colourful art style.
+ Looks great.
+ Shows off Vita’s control functionality.
- Games are more often miss than hit.
– Control frustrations.
– Little sense of investment or progression can make it boring very quickly.
LittleBigPlanet‘s multi-layered side-scrolling platforming has transitioned from PS3 to handheld with even more features and content including support for touchscreen mechanics. One of the most extensive level-creation tools ever seen in a game.
+ Fantastic art.
+ Incredible level-creation tools.
+ Wealth of user-created levels to download.
+ Excellent singleplayer.
- Missing online multiplayer.
– Controls still feel very slippery and floaty.
– Some long loading times.
MODNATION RACERS: ROAD TRIP
Another handheld spin-ff of a PS3 game, Road Trip takes the Modnation formula of Mario Kart-esque combat racing and adds extensive track creation tools.
+ Good kart handling.
+ Full characters and kart customisation.
+ Extensive track-creation tools.
- Frequent framerate issues impact gameplay.
– No online multiplayer, so only able to use your created tracks locally.
– Unusually dark / muted colours while racing make it more difficult to see than it should be on the small screen.
– Excessive loading times.
The complete 2011 Mortal Kombat game from console available for Vita with all functionality intact and a buttery-smooth framerate. Take the violence on the go.
+ Full console game.
+ Extra vita-exclusive minigames.
+ Fighting feels impactful and rewards skill.
+ Full suite of online features.
+ Extremely fluid and reactive at 60fps.
- Graphics have taken a severe downgrade, which also affects gore and makes it somewhat less violent and impactful.
NEED FOR SPEED: MOST WANTED
The latest Need for Speed complete on Vita with open-world racing and integrated online functionality and social features. From the developers of Hot Pursuit and the Burnout series.
+ Full console game on a handheld.
+ Great multiplayer implementation.
+ Enjoyable car handling.
- Dark, washed-out colours.
– Low camera angle on small screen makes corners and traffic much more difficult to see and the game significantly more challenging for the wrong reasons.
– World loses some life with reduced traffic and detail.
– Ridiculously small interface text.
NEW LITTLE KING’S STORY
A combination of Pikmin and SimCity, the follow-up to the Wii’s Little King’s Story is exclusive to Vita and sees the player slowly building up their kingdom through assigning tasks to villagers, exploring the surrounding areas and defeating enemies.
+ Addicting mix of building, commanding villagers and adventuring.
+ Always something to do.
+ Rewards exploration.
- Frequent framerate issues in town.
– Washed-out colours.
– Commanding villagers to fight can be awkward.
NINJA GAIDEN SIGMA PLUS
Another re-release of one of the original Xbox’s best games, the latest iteration of Ninja Gaiden retains Sigma on PS3’s graphical polish and adds a few small tweaks such as a new Hero difficulty mode to make it more accessible for those put-off by the original’s punishing difficulty.
+ Still one of the best and most fluid fighting systems in any game.
+ Looks excellent and runs at full native resolution.
+ Lots of content.
- You’ve probably played this before in Ninja Gaiden, Ninja Gaiden Black or Ninja Gaiden Sigma.
– Difficult to justify full price for the 4th release of the Ninja Gaiden Xbox game unless you’ve never played it before.
PERSONA 4: GOLDEN
Hailed as one of the PS2’s final great games, Persona 4 is back with more content on Vita and feels much more at home on a handheld. A surprisingly dark story and themes surround a mixture of almost text-adventure school life segments and 3D dungeon-crawling with turn-based combat. Highly unusual but not to be overlooked.
+ Lengthy story with tons of content.
+ Mature story and unique setting.
+ Fully-voiced cutscenes.
+ Very engrossing.
- Motion-blur filter unnecessary.
– Takes a few hours to get into.
– Some extended periods of story with minimal interaction may put off some players.
PLAYSTATION ALL-STARS: BATTLE ROYALE
Taking the Smash Bros formula and filling it with Sony characters both past and present, PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale adds a few twists like the use of regular attacks to charge 3-level super moves that are the only way to take out an opposing player. Free for Vita using the same PSN account if the PS3 version is purchased, and with full cross-play online multiplayer.
+ Fluid and detailed graphics running at full native resolution.
+ Fighting mechanics are finely tuned and allow for different strategies.
+ Good collection of classic characters.
+ Cross-play and cross-buy with PS3 version.
- Relatively low number of characters and stages.
– Some issues with super-move system.
– Combination of realistic and cartoon characters and stages can be awkward.
RESISTANCE: BURNING SKIES
Taking Insomniac’s PS3 Resistance series and making a more bite-sized version of Vita, developer Nihilistic has attempted to maintain to the mix of inventive weapons, sci-fi combat and online multiplayer that has made the series so popular on PS3.
+ Dual-stick shooter on a handheld.
+ Enjoyable shooting.
- Sound design is a mess with guns sounding like bubble-wrap (even through headphones) and strange periods of silence.
– Multiplayer map designs are uninteresting.
– Sections of singleplayer levels often over-long and bland.
– Could use more content.
A console launch wouldn’t be complete without a Ridge Racer, and the formula of spending half the race sideways is back on Vita with a new purchase model of a cheaper base game containing only a tiny few cars and tracks with the rest available to purchase as DLC.
+ Same great Ridge Racer handling that makes drifting an art form.
+ Looks nice.
+ Online multiplayer with clear progression.
- Recycled tracks from previous Ridge Racers.
– Ridiculously few tracks and cars provided, with most content only available as DLC.
– Seriously, the above point is a killer for the game. You are getting very very little for your money.
An interesting twist on the 2D platformer using single-screen areas and a protagonist that is simply a circle with two surface modes. A low-friction surface allows quick but slippery movement while a sticky surface allows the circle to stick to all sides of most objects and roll all the way up, down and around the environment, all while the flat-coloured geometric art pulses in time to music.
+ Unique flat geometric art style.
+ Switching between two movement stylesworks very well.
+ Smooth and fluid movement.
+ Great syncing of music and animation.
+ Level creation tools.
- Music integration largely aesthetic with little effect on gameplay.
– Could use more levels.
SUPER STARDUST DELTA
Protect planets from annihilation from incoming asteroids by orbiting around them with one stick and shooting in any direction. Asteroids will split apart when shot, littering the orbit with debris and power-ups.
+ Looks beautiful and runs flawlessly.
+ Very addictive combination of Geometry Wars and Asteroids.
+ Lots of modes.
+ Cheap on the PlayStation Store.
- Switch off the rear-touchpad controls.
TOUCH MY KATAMARI
The popular series is back with its deceptively simple core mechanic of rolling a katamari (ball) aroud open levels over objects to make them stick to it, growing larger and allowing larger objects to be rolled over.
+ Addictive rolling mechanics.
+ Still very rewarding.
+ Unique style.
- Could use more levels.
– No multiplayer.
– Can get repetitive.
– Not much new for Katamari veterans.
UNCHARTED: GOLDEN ABYSS
Golden Abyss takes the Uncharted formula of exploring, climbing and cover-based shooting back to the jungle with a few Vita-exclusive tricks and amazing graphics.
+ Looks gorgeous.
+ Full Uncharted experience on the go.
+ Excellent voice-acting and cutscenes.
+ Hidden items and collectibles encourage replayability.
- Some gimmicky motion-sensing and touchscreen elements.
– Lacks the location variety of PS3 releases.
Take on a selection of covert missions as one of 4 different characters in this third-person cover-based shooter.
+ Looks very nice.
+ Can use stealth or run-and-gun as needed.
+ Frequent challenges posted online.
- No overrarching story makes singleplayer just a collection of random missions.
– Little sense of progression.
– Could use more content.
– Feels very ‘been there, done that’.
Sega’s long-running tennis series is back with the full Virtua Tennis 4 console game available for Vita. Create a character and take on real-world tennis greats across a campaign as well as unusual minigame training exercises that put a spin on the tennis formula.
+ 60fps at full native resolution looks beautiful.
+ Fast, fluid controls and animation.
+ Tons of content and customisation.
+ Excellent online multiplayer.
+ Engrossing singleplayer.
- Touchscreen controls unreliable, but can be ignored in faovur of button controls.
– Nothing really new for those who have played it on console already.
Incredibly fast futuristic racing with weapons, hovering ships and tracks that can twist in almost any direction and reward precision and focus as you speed past at hundreds of kilometres per hour. Don’t blink.
+ Jaw-droppingly gorgeous for a game on ANY platform.
+ High production values.
+ Controls very well.
+ Full content of WipEout HD and Fury from PS3 available.
- Some long loading times.
– Some tracks a bit visually-busy for the reaction times needed.