While Lono snuck into the conference rooms to get some hands-on experience with the Vita, I was able to go to Sony booth’s VIP (thank you friends in high places) to also see if the Vita was worth the buzz it was receiving. Two games stuck out for me because of its interesting mechanics and innovation: Gravity and Sound Shapes.
Sony Studios Japan’s “Team Siren” is working on a new IP named Gravity (Gravity Daze in Japan). Gravity is about a young woman named Kat who has amnesia and is lost in an unknown town. She finds a mysterious glowing cat on a bench. Kat doesn’t remember the basic rules of not talking to strangers, or at least avoiding weird glowing animals, and soon she is floating in the air with gravity-defying powers.
The style of the game is very eye pleasing; its manga-inspired art seems to be a great fit with its story. Although we don’t know much about the story, it is very intriguing. Also, the cutscenes are comic panels you flip through with the touchscreen and tilt with the gyro sensor to get a better look at them.
Since it is an action-adventure game, you do end up fighting some odd-looking creatures every now and then. The standard kicks and punches are there, but with your gravity-defying powers, you can float in the air then dive down with an awesome kick to knock the enemies out cold.
To navigate around the city: you press the R button to float, then you change the camera angle with the right analog stick and use the Vita’s tilting mechanic to find platforms to jump to (most of which are at a 90 degree angle). When you find where you want to land, you press the L button to come crashing down to it. It may sound complicated, but you get the hang of it pretty quickly! Maybe it was because the developer detected my sense of insecurity, but he did compliment me on my fast learning… so if I can do it, you can too!
As the demo came to an end, another chick appeared who had the same powers as Kat. You quickly realize she’s your adversary considering she has a hawk (and the animal that gave you powers was a cat). The game looks great and while it’s still being developed, it should be done in time for Vita’s launch.
Now on to Sound Shapes! Sound Shapes is a simple yet fun title by Jonathan Mak. In the game, you’re a ball with multiple suction cups to stick to surfaces. You roll along collecting blue circles through the maps; these blue circles add instruments to the soundtrack and everything you land on also makes music. You can’t touch anything red, and at times you will need to roll underneath a moving platform to avoid getting hit. It was hard for me to do that since my instincts told me I’ll fall if I try to move under the platform, but you get used to it.
Although the visuals are extremely simple, that actually helps you focus more on the music you’re hearing. There’s also a level editor, where you can make your own level/soundtrack by adding instruments you’ve collected throughout the game. When the game releases with the Vita, you’ll be able to share your creations with your friends.
As for the other titles set to launch with the Vita that I tried, Little Big Planet truly incorporated Vita’s aspects of two touchscreens and tilting to give you an entirely new experience from the original PS3 games. It was simple to manage and, as Little Big Planet always is, a lot of fun. In regards to ModNation Racers, I had a hard time getting the level creator to work well with me. Uncharted: Golden Abyss is a Vita game that takes place prior to Drake’s Fortune, but it’s not connected to the first game’s story; it’s a separate adventure altogether. It looks absolutely beautiful on the device! The platforming touchscreen jumping mechanics, however, were very hard to manage as it didn’t respond as well as I hoped. Thankfully, you CAN still use the standard buttons to play the game; the touchscreens are just an alternative method of gameplay in case you get bored of playing the “button way.”
The Vita overall looks like a great device and a good purchase (since we now know the $250 price point). If these titles truly launch with it, it will sell well… unlike another device I was hopeful for. I’ll be pimping out my friends to save up money for the Vita, so you better start too!