Sony to Developers: Do It!
Sony seems to have learned from the gaffe that was Nintendo’s 3DS launch. With the Playstation Vita, not only are they launching with several of their key first-party franchises, but they’re also using their first-party releases as a kind of referendum to developers on how the device should be used. You can almost hear the whip-crack as Sony executives scramble to exhort their developers to try and steal users from the mobile games market: “Bend Studio! Use the touchscreen more to make Drake do stuff. I don’t care if quick-time events are played out! Double Eleven, Tarsier, touch everything in the level! Use the Sixaxis like you mean it!” Little Deviants is a perfect example of an entire game built to this specification.
On launch, the Little Deviants demo first asked if I wanted to purchase the full version from the Playstation Store and I accidentally acknowledged and waited, staring dumbly at a connection screen until I canceled its vain attempt to try to connect to the server. While it wasn’t terribly surprising, it did confirm that downloadable demos would be available for the device, as with the PSP and PS3. After cancelling that, I was treated to a colorful, and totally ignorable, game intro video that introduced me to the main characters.
Little Deviants is a mini-game collection featuring cute, little blob things (presumably the deviants) who are manipulated using the features of the Playstation Vita, predominantly using motion controls, the touchscreen, rear-touchpad, and the camera. In short, Little Deviants feels like a series of brief tech demos that have been adapted into a mini-game collection. Again, every game feels like someone was looking at the iPhone app store and going, “Yeah, we could probably make something like that."
That’s not to say that some of them aren’t enjoyable, and all makes clear use of the controls. One game has a deviant in a flying saucer and uses the Sixaxis gyroscopic controls to pilot through an icy mineshaft and avoid obstacles. Another uses the rear touchpad to create a hill that can be used to roll a deviant through an obstacle course. Another has the player alternating between front and rear touch panels to knock robots out of barn windows and doors, depending on which way the robots are facing. One other level utilizes the camera to fill in the background for a shooting game where the player has to turn in real-space to track the enemies using the gyroscope (similar to the aiming mechanic used for the slingshot and bow for Ocarina of Time 3D).
The games aren’t easy, though; the controls in some cases requires a great deal of concentration and, while the games are preceded by some brief instructions, they aren’t always completely clear. Through trial and error, it is possible to discover what the game intends the player to do, but better instructions or a tutorial might have made that unnecessary.
With enough good mini-games outweighing the bad, Little Deviants should be a fun and entertaining package; with a healthy degree of increasing challenge. Whether or not Little Deviants ends up being a good game or a good set of mini-games may be immaterial; it’s been made available as part of a Playstation Vita early launch bundle, so for those who want to get their hands on the device, it will be what’s available for the first week until the rest of the software launches. Not a bad choice for Sony, since the demo seems like an instruction manual on how to integrate touch and motion controls common to mobile platforms with traditional analogue sticks and buttons.
Sony: Hey, Third-Party Developers, use it this way; forget that it’s a tiny PS3 monster! Just do it!