RedEye special contributor and gameboy Ryan Smith says Sony has a slick,… (Sony )
Overcompensation isn't always a bad thing, at least not for the new PlayStation Vita.
I got the feeling playing the portable gaming system that Sony is desperately trying to make us forget that we live in an “Angry Birds” world where portable gaming is now ruled by cheap apps and games designed for smartphones or tablets. The Vita is stuffed so full of gee-whiz features, it’s like the physical manifestation of Sony throwing down the gauntlet and saying, “Oh yeah, you think making a bulky, gaming-heavy handheld system is a bad idea? Well, take this!”
When listing all of the Vita’s many charms, the vivid screen comes to mind first because the quality instantly evokes “Oohs” and “Ahhs.”
The system brags a 5-inch OLED touchscreen capable of displaying 16 million colors and vibrant images on par with the best screens that smartphones such as Apple’s iPhone 4S have to offer. A similarly sized touch panel is located on the back of the device.
Vita also comes with front and back-mounted cameras, a built-in microphone and speakers, a six-axis motion sensor for tilt and steering functions and a built-in GPS—which Sony says will be used in games and social functions like leaderboards that are localized based on who is physically near your location.
Software-wise, Vita has a lot in common with an iPod Touch in that you can use it as a Web browser, music player and a place to download a bunch of apps—including Netflix, Facebook, Twitter and Skype. The Vita syncs up with your PlayStation Network account so you can create parties, and talk and play with your friends. If that isn’t enough, the Vita also claims a “cross-play” function, a service in which you can connect Vitas and PlayStation 3s and play each other through a Wi-Fi connection.
Even though it comes with more bling than a luxury car, not all is perfect in Vita land. The battery life, at three to five hours, is nowhere near as good as the PSP’s. Load times seem excessively long as well; it’s hard to play for short sessions on the go when you’re waiting 30 seconds for the game to start.
The cost of the system is $250 ($300 for 3G capabilities through AT&T) but that retail price is a bit of a boondoggle because memory cards are not included and you’ll have to buy pricey compatible Sony branded memory ($99 for 32 gigs worth).
The most important question, of course, is: Are any of the games good? The answer is yes. Well, kind of. The launch lineup is full of portable versions of PS3 favs such as “Uncharted,” “Mod Nation Racers” and “Wipeout” with small Vita touches, like the ability to slide the touch screen to make “Uncharted: Golden Abyss’s” Nathan Drake traverse obstacles. It's also worth noting that the Vita's graphics are undeniably great to look at.
On the other hand, there are few original games that you can’t already play on the Vita’s console big brother in some way or another. None of the games feel completely essential yet.
Overall, Sony has pulled out all stops to deliver a slick, versatile portable, but the jury is still out on whether or not today’s gamer will want to pony up the cash for a Vita when they can play decent games for pennies on their phones and iPads. Hardcore gamers on the go will probably want to jump in headfirst, but the rest of us might want to wait to see if Sony drops the steep price a bit.
GAMES: Several games are available for the new Vita. Here are three to play and three to avoid.
3 TO PLAY
Touch My Katamari
This oddball series about a galactic prince who rolls an increasingly large ball of trash around feels right at home on the Vita.
Lumines: Electronic Symphony
Best described as “Tetris”-on-acid, “Lumines” is a trippy, block-based puzzle game with an electronica soundtrack.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss
It’s hard to believe Naughty Dog managed to pack an entire Nathan Drake adventure onto a tiny Vita card.
3 TO AVOID
Michael Jackson: The Experience
“Beat It” is a great MJ song and also what you’ll want to do with this game after playing it for more than 20 minutes.
Feels more like a tech demo showing off the Vita’s unique features than a real game.
Dungeon Hunters: Alliance
This game is so crusty, it had to have been unearthed from a dungeon.
RYAN SMITH IS A REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR