The successor to the PlayStation Portable certainly has been hotly anticipated — especially since there haven’t been many games for the PSP recently.
Overall Games Score: 7.6
Wow Factor: 8.0
Overall Vita Score: 8.0
Pros: Graphics are jaw dropping; large variety of games on launch day; two touch screens.
Cons: Some promised apps not available on launch day; no Flash (yet) to watch videos; short battery life.
So let’s look under the hood. The tech stuff that makes the Vita superior is its zippy computer processor. It’s faster than the current iPhone and even the upcoming iPad 3.
But it’s in the gaming graphics department that the Vita really shines. For detailed artwork, it truly feels like the next big thing. It’s almost like having a PS3 that fits in your jacket pocket.
There are over two dozen games to choose from (and dozens more to come). But don’t put Vita in your pants pocket. With its five-inch screen and nine ounces of weight, it’s too big for that.
PLAY YOUR WAY
Once you start playing, you’ll see that the Vita’s design has also been influenced by the Nintendo DS and Apple iPad, which made touch-screen gaming so popular. Sony really loves the idea of touch, so much so that you can use both the front screen and the back of the Vita to put games through their paces.
You’ll either enjoy using a combination of ways to play or stick to one. (And, thankfully, buttons are still an option.) The main thing is this: The way you play is all up to you.
Here’s the most useful new idea. If you have both the Vita and PS3 versions of MLB 12: The Show, the baseball season you play on the Vita will be remembered when you turn on the PS3. You have to sync up the two via the PS3. But that only takes about 10 minutes.
Nothing’s ever perfect and neither is the Vita. The front and back cameras are primitive, especially for a system that’s so cutting edge in other ways. Just like Nintendo’s 3DS, they only have .3 megapixels, laughable in this day and age. You can take your own picture and have it placed onto a character in a game like Virtua Tennis. It’s a nice idea. But when I did it, I saw that it doesn’t really look like me. And it takes a long time to do.
The touch screen can be hit and miss. For instance, Escape Plan is a charming-looking downloadable game with unusual characters and movie soundtrack-type music. It only uses the touch screen. But it fails because either the touch screen isn’t precise enough or the game itself isn’t programmed properly.
Touch works better with a game like Rayman Origins in which you search for relics by tapping areas of the screen.
There were some aspects of the Vita that actually weren’t functioning when I finished my review on launch day. The Augmented Reality cards, which let you play mini games, had no app to get them started. There was no Flash program to let me watch YouTube videos. And there was no app for Facebook or Sony’s tune-streaming service, Music Unlimited.
If these were promised on launch day, they should be there on launch day. Not to have these available is a pretty big deal.
There’s no doubt that the Vita is a remarkable piece of equipment. Developers have yet to perfect the precision of the touch screen and the gyroscope (for racing games). But that will come with time. What you have now is a system that adds cool realism to the games you play.
You might want to wait for a sale because the Vita is as (or more) expensive than a PS3 right now. But when you get it, you’ll really feel like you’re living inside these games, particularly the best ones.
BEST LAUNCH DAY GAMES
Rayman Origins (Ubisoft)
Rated E10+ for Everyone 10 and Older
What an outstanding game. If you’ve waited to play the console version that came out last year, I’d actually suggest playing the Vita version instead. Why? It’s like having sheer optimism in your pocket. If you’re a little down from schoolwork or losing in your sport, it’s the kind of game that makes you hopeful and happy. The Rayman characters presented here are as endearing as any Disney character.
Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour (Sega)
You’ll have to laugh at a bug in this tennis game that occasionally has your famous player running off the court prior to a serve. Is he scared? Does he need a bathroom break? Still, the smart simulation portion asks you to use the same finesse you would for a console game. And the minigames, one of which asks you to herd chickens, are strangely fun.
WipeOut 2048 (Sony)
This futuristic racing game is so speedy, it’ll take your breath away. Imagine a racing car as fast as Sonic the Hedgehog, and you’ll get the idea. Add weapons, powerups and a zippy soundtrack for the craziest racing experience on Vita.
Lumines: Electronic Symphony (Ubisoft)
Remember Tetris? Lumines is Tetris with a science-fiction feel and an electronic soundtrack including folks like LCD Soundsystem. The result is not only a music game that’s easy to pick up and play, it’s also one that you just can’t put down.