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PS Vita Launch Preview

A new console is coming our way and its name is Vita. Despite a lukewarm reception in Japan, Sony’s new handheld has managed to pique the interests of the average Western gamers and lead to sporadic clamouring in both Europe and America. Here at Thunderbolt towers we remain a bastion of cool stoicism, tipping our sunglasses in admiration as opposed to slobbering down our dungarees in lustful desire. Here then is a choice selection of Vita games we are looking forward to playing if the opportunity grasps us and the situation demands it.

ModNation Racers: Road Trip by Calvin Kemph

I love the portable racing game. It’s one of those things that ought to be best played on consoles but allows a delightful, looser brand of racing on portables. Whether it’s F-Zero or Mario Kart or some deviation thereof, portables are simply a sound space for characterful racing experiences. In comes ModNation Racers: Road Trip, a racer defined by broad customization and creating your own fun. Early video previews of Road Trip offered up one of the most promising things I’ve seen for the Vita thus far in the ability to trace out a track outline with your finger. If it works as intended this will be a brilliant piece of functionality that taps into the kind of experience not currently available on consoles. Then there’s the lack of online multiplayer and while surely a downer, it’s not enough to deter my excitement for the proposed ease of customization or the premise of another easily digestible portable racing game.

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Uncharted: Golden Abyss by Ashley Wilkinson

Being one of the most popular series on the PlayStation 3, it was no surprise when Sony revealed that a brand new Uncharted game would be released for the PS Vita. Looking to carry on the previous high standards, effort has clearly gone in to making Golden Abyss look and feel just like its console-based siblings. Utilising the Vita’s unique movement controls and both touch screens to enhance combat and exploration, Uncharted: Golden Abyss is set to be one of the key launch titles.

Little Deviants by Richard Murphy

For those of you unfamiliar with the new tricks Sony has hidden up the Vita’s sleeve then perhaps Little Deviants might be just the game you’re looking for. In a similar way that Wii Sports introduced us to the ignoble act of flapping our arms in front of a television in a manner that no way resembled playing tennis; Little Deviants gently introduces us to the rear touch plate with a series of mini games. Whilst this may not be sitting at the top of many gamers Vita wish list sometimes a series of well constructed and addictive micro games can be just what you need if time is tight. Little Deviants will do well if it manages to entertain on a similar level to Wario Ware, but will never make as big of an impact as WipeOut 2048 or Golden Abyss.

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MotorStorm RC by Richard Murphy

The news that the next MotorStorm game was going to be played out in radio controlled cars left me feeling… tepid, to say the least. The MotorStorm franchise has always been about more and the most recent iteration, Apocalypse, marked a peak in cinematic racing. The Vita was touted as a portable console that could rival home gaming, why then have Evolution Studios scaled back the entire operation and created a fairly basic looking Micro Machines clone. Conceptually the game does not stand out; however, knowing the heritage that MotorStorm RC has behind it is encouraging indeed. Tight controls and fierce competition has always been a staple of the franchise, but will it be enough here to warrant a purchase when there are much flashier games on the market?

Ridge Racer by Nick Vracar

Another Sony system release comes, and along with it another Ridge Racer seeking to capitalize on a limited market. This time it brings to the table lush, fantastic visuals. All three tracks are shiny re-releases seen in previous games (DLC pending). All five cars are highly detailed and customizable (DLC pending). You know, there’s always an expectation that a new Ridge Racer is going to be bad because the history it’s built, but that’s not true. I’m sure it will release with its own unique set of faults (such as lacking content) that will set it apart from its predecessors.

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Unit 13 by Calvin Kemph

Unit 13 is an unlikely portable launch game. It’s a third person shooter from SOCOM creators Zipper Interactive that makes full use of the device’s dual analog sticks. That’s about all the merit a project may need but at the time it seems to have opposing goals. The concept of bringing on core-oriented shooting into the portable climate seems at odds with the context for the genre. SOCOM had never been much of a pick-up-and-play type game and it’ll be curious seeing that experience truncated onto the Vita. I’m cautiously optimistic and am fond of enough of the developer’s work to see some potential there in spite of the apparent hardware mismatch.

Escape Plan by Sean Kelley

While many of the Vita’s launch offerings are repurposed titles or sequels to existing franchises, Escape Plan is a simple concept designed especially for the Vita. It’s no secret that point ‘n click adventure games work great on the iPad, and thus, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine similar titles finding a nice home on the Vita. Escape Plan is not an adventure game, but it utilizes the same mindset and many of the same mechanics. Lil and Laarg have to navigate their way through a series of treacherous obstacles, and like an adventure title, their survival relies heavily on the player’s environmental awareness. Helping the iconic, inky duo to their escape is the perfect, bite sized experience that many players are looking for on the go. Break them out on the bus or in line, then, die – often comically – a few times or persevere a few times, either way you’ve got your quick kicks.

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WipeOut 2048 by Oliver Banham

It’s been a long time since a Wipeout title graced a PlayStation platform. Wipeout HD was released four years ago, and, barring a smart expansion pack in Fury, it had all gone quiet at Studio Liverpool. You can usually pair Wipeout with new hardware, and it seems Sony have stuck to tradition and placed Wipeout 2048 amongst the Vita launch, not least because the series is a fantastic model for slick, sharp and sexy visual design, and the best showcase of a new system’s abilities. I was lucky enough to try out the game at last year’s Eurogamer Expo, and from a mere ten minutes play it had made a big impression.

The iconic speed pads and dazzling neon danced on the Vita’s crisp OLED screen, and the vehicles shifted with a meaty, realistic weight. As the name suggests, races are set in 2048, at a time when the futuristic racing league is starting to find its feet. Expect grassy excursions and skyscrapers not dissimilar to our own, constant vertigo and stomach churning inversions. Mix this in with a stellar electronic soundtrack, cross-platform functionality and an online campaign, as well as new control schemes and features that utilise the Vita’s abilities, and you’ve got a title destined to succeed both critically and commercially.

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Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack by Sean Kelley

DrinkBox Studios’ sophomore effort, Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack, looks to build on the gooey foundation of their 2011 debut Tales from Space: About a Blob. Part quirky platformer and part old sci-fi homage, DrinkBox made one of the funnier, more whimsical games of last year. Mutant Blobs Attack looks to follow that eccentric charm with new powers and levels that make use of the Vita’s touch screen, combined with the original’s twin-stick controls. It also promises a mean new blob protagonist, one that the creators have said channels the attitudes of Steven Seagal in Under Siege, Statler and Waldorf of The Muppets, and Raphael from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles so, basically, a jerk. It all sounds like some kind of mischief I’d like to be involved in.

Touch My Katamari by Richard Murphy

Do you like rolling things? I do, and because of this I will be purchasing Touch My Katamari. The Katamari franchise is not about developing an idea or building upon previously set foundations. It does not have a long running and episodic narrative. Katamari is not about evolution, it is about revolution. Touch My Katamari will be just like the previous games (with added pinching and scrolling) and almost identical to the games that will come after it. There will be a King and a Queen and there will most definitely be a Prince. At some point in Touch My Katamari you will roll up a selection of household objects and foodstuffs only available in Japan. There will be cousins… lots of cousins. If the Katamari bug has not caught you yet, I doubt it ever will. If you’ve never played a Katamari game then you should, just for a little bit. You may be charmed, you may be horrified. I was charmed… apparently.

So there you have it. If you’re looking forward to a different Vita title why don’t you tell us about it in the comment box below. We’re off to warm up our thumbs in anticipation of a whole Summer playing videogames waiting at a bus stop or sitting in a dentist’s reception room. Shiny.

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in January 2011. Get in touch on Twitter @RichJimMurph.

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