Review – Sumioni

The Vita has a few contenders for “greatest waste of potential” – Modnation not being online, Unit 13 having a generic ‘modern warfare’ theme and Ridge Racer deciding that a career mode was soooo 2011… but none of these can take the top spot from Sumioni. This game is so close to greatness, yet so very, very far, that it’s liable to cause your brain to explode if you think about it for too long.

See this building? Cool, right? Well I hope you love it because at least 65% of the game is fighting it in its various forms.

Here are the facts that will cause spontaneous combustion:

1.  The game controls wonderfully.

2.  It has a neat mechanic (much like Max and the Magic Marker) whereby you draw platforms to maneuver about.

3.  The art style is unbelievably good.  Top 5 of the year, easily, and I’m calling that in April.

4. The game is boring as piss to play.

As you may have noticed numbers 1-3 don’t really jibe with 4, and that’s exactly the problem. Mechanically the game is fine, the drawing thing is neat, it looks amazing… so why is it boring? The answer is rather simple… it’s in the level design.

This is the stage layout. If you don’t reach a certain score by the part where it drops to the level below you will have to finish that level and then the game ends. And, right, you guessed it, you have to start over again to try to get lower.

Bad level design is one thing – in fact, this generation I have come to expect bad level design.  But this is beyond simply bad. Every single level in this game is the same thing, only with varying degrees of difficulty.  You run right for about 30 seconds and then you fight a building. That’s it. Sometimes you have to jump over spike or kill dudes or do whatever – and that part is usually pretty fun. But it’s over in a heartbeat and then you are fighting the same goddamn building over and over and over. And these things take forever to freakin’ kill. So you mash the square button and you draw shapes to summon your demon pals and you mash and mash and dodge projectiles. Think the first “boss” in the original Contra (you know…. the building with the red dots and the gun on it?). You basically fight that like 9000 times, but instead of red dots to kill you just mash your sword up against the side of this thing until it dies.

This is where the game completely lost me. I was really into it when I first got it. The art is amazing, it felt good, but after about 90 minutes I was like HOW MANY FUCKING TIMES HAVE I FOUGHT THIS BUILDING?! If they had added some variety to the levels, used the drawing mechanic to get through some interesting platforming sections and fights, and had varied boss fights – this could have been a very capable game – if not a classic.

The art is amazing. I wish the game was.

It also doesn’t help that the game is painfully short and built around the idea of replaying it over and over to get further. The world map requires you to have a certain score by a certain point to get to the next set of levels below it.  If you don’t have that score you just finish up the row you are on and that’s that. It’s a silly design that only breeds frustration when you don’t make it down to the next level and are stuck repeating the whole thing over and over until you do. And then once on the next level you repeat the process.

Sumioni was a full retail title in Japan, somehow.  It’s $20 here and even that is far overpriced. Content-wise it’s a 99 cent iphone game, except the art style warrants a few extra bucks being thrown in. If it was $7 like Mutant Blobs Attack I may not be as disappointed. It still wouldn’t be good (or hold a candle to Mutant Blobs Attack) but the whole package would at least feel appropriate. Right now I feel like it exists to lure people into buying it and filling them with remorse. That’s just mean.

FyFYI Episode 140 – Midlife Crisis


Pete is depressed. James really digs The Walking Dead and really doesn’t dig Brink.  Pete ponders how and why he prefers Skyrim on the PS3 more than the PC.  Pete and James kick the dead Vita horse again discussing whether/why it’s a failure.  Pete discusses his new Transformer Prime and capture card.   Bummers all around.


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Review – Touch My Katamari

When I first laid eyes on Katamari Damacy on the PS2 I never in a million years would have guessed how ubiquitous the series would become.  In fact I would have guessed that it wouldn’t have had a sequel at all and in ten years time we would be like “hey remember that weird game where you rolled around and picked stuff up and a rainbow came out of the king’s crotch?”  Thankfully though, my predictions were wrong.

One of the most impressive things about Katamari is the scaling. While this room looks gigantic now by the time you’ve created a huge rubbish ball all of this will look tiny by comparison.

Katamari games are everywhere. PS2, PS3, 360, iPhone, PSP… and now the Vita.  Because there are so many of them it definitely has a bit of a ‘been there, done that’ feel to it – probably even more so for people who have actually played all of those versions.  I came into this game having not played one to completion since the PS2 days.  I bought the iPhone version but LORDY LORDY that thing controlled like a wet sack of walrus corpses.  So even though the Vita version felt instantly familiar, it did also feel fresh – like watching an old favorite movie and picking out new folds to the story that your younger brain seemingly ignored.

So how fun/fresh you’ll feel Touch My Katamari is depends directly on how much Katamari you’ve played. Touch My Katamari does not reinvent the wheel in any way.  You are still a weird little prince, you still get missions to go roll a ball around and get trash, you still get bigger and bigger as your ball picks up more objects and you still get mocked by the king when you’re finished.

So why “Touch?” The main use of the touch controls is to stretch your ball in whatever direction you need to get into really tight spaces. It’s a small change but it adds new layers to the strategy of finding the best scoring line a level. Thankfully, though, touch doesn’t mean touch controls – as this game controls wonderfully with both analog sticks.

There are a few things that were new to me (though may not be new to the series, since I skipped a few).  The missions now come from people (who live on the King’s shoulder?) and beyond the standard goal of “get your trash ball to size ____ cm” they also add secondary goals like “I want candy!”. This gives you the added option of trying to find as much candy as you can in the level.  It adds replay value, for sure, as there are now two objectives to work on to improve your scores.

Replaying levels is something you will have to do to get a long life out of this game.  It is appropriately priced at $25 on the US store, as it’s rather short.  You can see all of the levels in 3 or 4 hours.  Mastering them all takes far more time, of course.  Katamari is a puzzle game after all, as weird as that may seem.  And puzzle games aren’t so much about how long it takes to see all the content – if they were, Tetris would clock in at about 15 seconds.

Are those cats fishing? Katamari certainly is a strange game.

Katamari is a lot of fun though, and replaying the levels to find better lines to get better scores is as addictive to me now as it was a decade ago.  Given the bargain price (relative to other things) on the store, it’s hard to think of a reason to not pick this up unless you’ve completely played out the series already.  And for those of you who have never played one before – jump in.  It’s really weird fun.

Editorial and Review – Stardrone Extreme and reviewing cheap games

When reviewing a game I’m trying to decide (and describe) its worth. This is a nearly impossible thing to quantify as game prices fluctuate and the income of consumers are varied. So while $50 for Uncharted: Golden Abyss may seem high to me, it may seem like peanuts to someone who makes far more money than I do.  And then it gets even more confusing when certain territories, like Australia and New Zealand, have the same games priced even higher.  So while I did plunk down the $50 for Uncharted eventually, if I lived in New Zealand where the game is currently $88 (which is about $72 USD), I likely would have passed.  And while I think $40 is too much for Dungeon Hunters Alliance, if you ever see that sucker on sale for $20 totally pick it up – it’s quite fun.  But how do I convey that in a review?

The reason I’m bringing that up now is that Stardrone Extreme is the first of what I assume will be many games that are iOS-esque…. meaning they are small, (hopefully) fun and cheap.  Stardrone Extreme will set you back $3.99 on the US PSN currently.  How do I review whether that is worth the money?  For $4 I would buy Reality Fighters, and that game is complete garbage.  Even after a few years of iOS gaming on both my phone and iPad (and an Android tablet) I still can’t make any sense of what is worth what.  I’ll buy anything at 99 cents, and I have, and most of it has been completely terrible, but I’ve also played certain 99 cent games for 50+ hours.  But part of that platform is that unless you research everything you purchase (and have incredible willpower – something I DO NOT have) you will waste money on tons of crap.  It’s inherent to the platform.  If you’re smart you can come out of it with just awesome 99 cent games…if you’re me you come out of it with about 10 duds and one awesome find, so in essence I spent $11 to get that one game.

I’m gonna start talking about this game soon – I promise. I just have some stuff I need to hash out first.

The Vita clearly doesn’t have that issue yet but as more cheap games come down the pipe, and believe me – once PSsuite goes live there will be quite a few, we will need to figure out a way of parsing all of that stuff and figuring out what is worth what.  For Your Vita Hype will look at cheaper games as a genre to themselves to help lessen the confusion.  For instance, if you’ve peeked to the bottom you know I’m giving Stardrone Extreme 3 stars.  Elsewhere on this site you will see that I gave Ridge Racer 2 stars.  Now, I really like Ridge Racer – a lot.  But as I pointed out in my review it has so many weird design choices it’s hard to recommend to anyone but the most hardcore fans (the very definition of what a two star game is on this site).  Though if Ridge Racer cost $3.99 like Stardrone, it would be a 5 star game.  Hell, I would start inventing stars.  It would be 11 out of 5.  So, obviously, these things exist in different realities, if you will. A cheap game at 3 stars is not necessarily better than an expensive game at 2 stars.  It’s all relative to what type of game it is.

So how did Stardrone find its way to a 3 star score?  Pretty simply, actually – it’s quite fun.  The game is an interesting mix of physics puzzler and pinball.  The controls are all touch – which is odd given that the PS3 version is (obviously) all buttons.  But the touch controls work much better.  In fact, Stardrone is further proof that the back touch may just yet be the preferred way to play touch based games, as you can control it just as well without ever obscuring your vision.

The main crux to the gameplay in Stardrone is to touch the screen to attach to nodes which you immediately start orbiting. The trick is to release and shoot off into the direction you want to go. Simple concept, difficult execution – classic iOS gameplay…. err, I mean Vita gameplay.

The goal of Stardrone is to either collect all the stars in a level or collect all the colored gems.  There are enemies to avoid (or kill if you become powerful enough) and some vast levels to explore.  It’s mostly just a case of doing some geometry in your head on the fly to try to launch yourself in the direction you want to go in. It’s much like Angry Birds in that way – you know what you want to do, but the fun comes in trying to do it.  However: caveat – I don’t find Angry Birds to be all that fun.  But you get my point…

Stardrone is exactly what I would expect out of a $4 game.  It’s simple, the levels are mostly short, it looks good but not jaw dropping, and it plays well.  I wouldn’t suggest it’s the deepest game on earth, but the difficulty does ramp up quite a bit to the point where calling it the much maligned ‘casual game’ would lead people to think that someone without much game experience can finish it.  Let me make it clear: that just isn’t happening.

Besides just testing your phyics mettle the game does have some pinball-esque areas and a bit of exploration.

The game does sync up with the PS3 version if you happen to be one of the 5 people who bought that last year (I am…).  The cloud saving is nice, and I certainly wouldn’t ever knock a developer for adding this… but it’s mostly unnecessary. The Vita version is so much easier to play and the visuals aren’t all that much better served on a bigger screen, so why even bother playing the ps3 version at all?  Skip it.  And speaking of skipping it, the game features a 99 cent unlock which allows you to skip levels.  This, in and of itself, does not bother me.  What does bother me is it asks me about 500 times a play session whether or not I want to buy it. NO!  I DON’T!  LEAVE ME ALONE!

In the end what you are left with is a good use of $4 to help fill out your Vita library.  The game isn’t going to overtake your late nights of Unit 13 co-op or hours of grinding in Disgaea 3, but when you want a quick fix you will enjoy yourself.  And that’s all we can really ask of $4, isn’t it?

Review – Uncharted: Golden Abyss

Since its release, Golden Abyss has been dogged by the internet platitude that casts it as the ‘straight to video’ episode of the Uncharted series. This is at least in part unfair; it holds a smaller team, working on a handheld, presumably with less money and a shorter lead time, to the standards of Naughty Dog. In fact, Sony Bend should be commended for having come as close as they did to matching the PS3 releases, at least in technical terms. As a game that I play, using my fingers and my buttons, Uncharted on the Vita is the equal of what you can find on the PS3. It’s the parts without buttons, both in and out of gameplay, where Uncharted: Golden Abyss comes up short.

The series’ three PS3 outings have taught us what to expect in an Uncharted game. As with all the previous releases, U:GA is great to look at. There are one or two Vita launch games that are a little more crisp, but none with as much going on as this. It’s worth reiterating: technically, this is really an impressive achievement on a handheld. Perhaps most importantly, Sony Bend have done an excellent job of capturing the feeling of adventure of the earlier installments, all without the massive set pieces that figure so heavily in Uncharted 2 and 3. In terms of both setting and scale, GA feels much more like the original Uncharted than either of the sequels, something from which I feel it benefits, given the relative constraints of the platform. Much of it is confined to Central American rain forests as Drake searches for lost gold…or a lost city…or a lost golden city or something. It’s pretty standard fare, but the plot in these games has never been anything more than an excuse for jumping around on platforms shooting baddies, and I’m down with that.

The sense of exploration and moments of awe are still present and will keep you moving forward even when other layers of the game let you down.

So far so Uncharted, but then cracks begin to appear. I may not ask much of the plot in Uncharted, but Naughty Dog have conditioned me to expect a lot of the characters as a storytelling device. What Amy Hennig and friends managed in the earlier games was to have me take a real interest in the cast and their relationships. This is a singular achievement in video games, at least with respect to my tastes. To me, each of  the console games is characterised as much by the relationships that comprise its framework as by the setting. Uncharted 1 is the story of Drake and Elena, 2 is essentially a love triangle, and, best of all, 3 is the ballad of Nate and Sully. These interactions keep me invested even while the plot is essentially recycled with each game. Some of this stems from the naturalistic look and feel of the characters – real actors, not simply delivering their lines, but actually acting out the events of the game as they do so. Golden Abyss makes a fairly good fist of this element. However I would argue that it’s primarily the dialogue that make the characters in the first three Uncharted games. Where it is written it’s pithy and feels natural, and where it’s extemporized it’s always consistent – it feels less like actors that are playing characters than actors just playing themselves.

Unfortunately, almost none of this quality is apparent in U:GA. While the dialogue is usually simply mediocre in Golden Abyss, at times it is truly awful, and I actually found myself cringing once or twice. The love interest, Chase, is an insipid shadow of both Chloe and Elena from the earlier games, and Drake’s interactions with her sometimes feel more lech than lovable rogue. This extends to the main villain. Where Naughty Dog’s antagonists were memorable, here we have a tired stereotype, apparently based loosely on Manuel Noriega. Even the return of a favourite character about half-way through the game cannot rescue this aspect of U:GA; in fact it just serves to highlight that Sony Bend cannot match Naughty Dog here, even when they’re working with the same material.

The tilt mechanic helps with the aiming quite a bit if you are willing to give it a chance.

Graphics and writing aside, there is a game to be played, and in this respect Golden Abyss fares well. For me the platforming has always been the weakest element of the Uncharted games – there is effectively no challenge beyond determining in which direction the game will let you jump. I appreciate that this helps the devs control the pacing, but I’ve always found it a bit monotonous. GA takes this automaticity a step further by allowing the player simply to trace a path on the touchscreen. It’s a nice touch that helps to reduce the repetitiveness of mashing the X button.

The shooting mechanic also comes with a tweak. Generally speaking I’m not a fan of tilt controls, so I turned this feature off before I even started Uncharted: GA. However I quickly found that the controls were horrendous with only the sticks (and auto-aim off). I could not hit a thing. I reluctantly turned the tilt-aiming on, and after getting used to it I found it a lot of fun. Its function is to fine-tune the right stick aim, rather than replace it altogether. I got so accustomed to it that when Unit13 was released I initially found myself wishing Zipper had eschewed auto-aim in favour of the Uncharted solution (my feeling is that the short analogue sticks on the Vita will always necessitate using one approach or the other for a shooter). It’s the shooting mechanic that  does more than anything to rescue U:GA from the ‘straight to video’ epithet. It gives the Vita version an identity that it never quite manages elsewhere.

Welcome to my….. PAIN CAVE!!!

It feels a little mean-spirited to criticise a game for something trying something new, but I wish Sony Bend had resisted the urge to make further additions to the Uncharted formula. Had they simply added tilt-to-aim and the touchscreen platforming, I might even have argued that they had improved the overall gameplay, but they went further. Mechanically, probably the weakest parts of the game are the touchscreen mini games that pop up from time to time. Most of these have you making charcoal rubbings of the stone reliefs that litter the game, or cleaning the dirt off artifacts by rotating them with the rear touch while you wipe them with the front. My issue is not that these activities are necessarily awful (although the combat and machete mini games are pretty bad), but more that they just feel unnecessary. For me they break the pacing while adding little of value. In my head I constructed a narrative in which some bigwig at Sony mandated the inclusion of every single feature of the Vita in its flagship launch title.That I got this impression reflects poorly on the game, whether or not it is actually true.

I should stress though, that in the end this is a relatively trivial matter. The mini games were at worst an occasional irritation. More problematic was the weak dialogue and poorly written characters. U:GA fares much better though as a straight-up video game. The traversal and shooting, which comprise the vast majority of the gameplay, could even teach Naughty Dog a thing or two. It’s a game that starts slowly, but once it hits its stride it is as much fun as most of the launch games on the Vita. The fact is that for me, even characterising it as the weakest entry in Uncharted series still makes Uncharted: Golden Abyss a better game than most.

|For Your Inbox| #2

Pete: This week we have Rich Grisham of GamesRadar  (among other things) and host of the excellent Box Score podcast. Thanks for joining us Rich. I guess we can start with something right in your wheelhouse – sports games on the Vita. Virtua Tennis 4, Hot Shots Golf: World Tour, FIFA, and MLB 12: The Show make a pretty goddamn good argument that sports games are going to thrive on this device. What sports are each of you hoping to see the most (I know the obvious answer is ‘all of them’) and do you think inter-connectivity between the vita and PS3 versions is essential or just a nice perk?

For the sake of this conversation, Camus, we will consider Soccer, Cricket and Rugby to be sports, I guess.

Camus: There hasn’t been a decent rugby game since the PS1, and there has never been a very good cricket game, so I’m not optimistic there.

I’d love to see some more arcade sports games come to the Vita. Sims are great, but I want the game that is to FIFA what Motorstorm is to Gran Turismo. Something in the vein of Sensible World of Soccer, which will mean nothing to you philistines.

I have no interest in transfarring™ my sports games, unless they come at the price of two-for-one.

Mik: I think I’m on record as saying I’m most excited at the prospect of sports games on the Vita (and if I wasn’t before, I am now). Concluding a several-days-long business trip last night only reinforced that excitement. Being able to take my Road to the Show career in MLB 12 on the plane, and have the experience be so close to its console sibling, is terrific. But it occurred to me that one of the most important things that the Vita brings to portable sports gamers, sadly, is the ability to patch and update them much more seamlessly. I say “sadly” because the truth of the matter is that sports games are always–I know that word smacks of hyperbole, but I will not back off from it in this instance–always released broken to some degree.

It’s the bane of a sports gamer’s existence, and one reason I could never get comfortable with sports games on a portable before (and maybe one reason to embrace Camus’s desire for a more arcade sports experience).Remember when EA finally released NCAA Football for the PSP? I was euphoric that I could play my favorite sport on a device that delivered a “near-console” experience. That is, until I discovered that the game had a bug that completely ruined it. For some bizarre reason, after each play the ball was always spotted at the point where the runner was first contacted. So, for example, if your halfback broke a tackle one yard beyond the line of scrimmage, then rumbled for 37 yards after that, the ball was spotted one yard beyond the previous line of scrimmage, negating the big gain and first down. Unplayable. And, at that time, irreparable.

The Vita can correct that and make sports games on the system the same as they are on home consoles: almost kinda totally somewhat playable after three months and 12 patches.Also, not even crickets like cricket.

Camus: I will resist the urge to go toe to toe with Mik on the relative merits of cricket and baseball, but a billion Indians can’t be wrong (well they can, but they’re not in this case).

Rich: Glad to be here! Thanks for letting me barge into your world here; I’ll try not to drag it down too much. My God I love sports games on the Vita. All the titles you mentioned are various shades of spectacular, each for their own reasons. Hot Shots’ asynchronous multiplayer, FIFA’s console-quality gameplay, MLB The Show’s amazing integration between Vita and PS3, and Virtua Tennis’ wonderful career mode all make compelling arguments that the Vita is built for sports. And that’s just scratching the surface.

Where I get the most value from my Vita these days is The Show, because of the cloud saves that let me do my thing anywhere. I’m on the road constantly, and the fact I’ve been able to take my starting pitcher with me from Vegas to Galveston to Orlando to Chicago the past month is a big reason I’m well into my second full season; in past years I would have trailed off by now because frankly I get very little time in front of my big-boy console anymore. I see the same thing happening for NCAA Road To Glory, my Madden Superstar, my NHL Be A Pro, and so on. In the past, if given the opportunity to play for an hour on the PS3, I’d almost always go to my franchise/dynasty/whatever and my individual guys would end up stuck in limbo; they remain there to this day.

These are game modes that I know I’ll finally dive deeply into because I don’t have to be tied to my console, but I can if I want to. Even if I play 80% of the dudes’ careers on the Vita, being able to boot ’em up every now and again on my PS3 is key. It’s amazing how great my Road to the Show guy looks when see him on the PS3; while the Vita version looks nice, the console version is a significantly better from a visual standpoint. And I do have to disagree with Camus on the rugby comment; Jonah Lomu’s Rugby Challenge on the 360 and PS3 was great fun. Even if I didn’t know what the heck was happening a third of the time.

Pete: I agree with you rich – the ps3 version of The Show is amazing looking, but for whatever reason when I want to play it, even when I’m sitting right in front of my PS3 and 3D monitor I still play it on the Vita. The Vita version is basically the same game other than polygon-count, which is absolutely incredible to me, and I love being able to just turn it on and off at will with standby mode. I wonder why consoles don’t have standby mode…

Mik, you’re bringing up such fantastic memories of NCAA. I loved even more when EA PR explained the following year that their wouldn’t be another NCAA-PSP game because it didn’t sell well. They neglected to mention why it didn’t sell well.

Next topic: favorite game so far on the Vita? Rich, for you im disqualifying sports games, Mik/Camus – for you I’m disqualifying Mutant Blob.

Mik: Despite being slightly flummoxed by the question, “what is your second favorite game?”–seriously, Pete, you are a weird motherfucker–I will answer anyway. With an equally flummoxing answer:

Pete: Listen here chief, disqualifying games comes from YOUR PODCAST. Shall I roll the tape of The Fanboys picking the game of the year that isn’t LittleBigPlanet? Or the game of the year that isn’t Uncharted 2?

Mik: I’d probably call it a tie between Uncharted: Golden Abyss and… my collected PSP backlog.

I find Uncharted to be a near-baffling achievement in a portable game. The fact that most people can only levy the criticism “it’s not as good as Uncharted 2” against it is testament to that. I even like (or at worst, don’t mind) all the gimmicky-new-system features they pumped into it. something about doing the puzzles on the touchscreen makes it seem more like an adventure game to me, for some reason. I enjoy them every time the pop up.

PSP games look and play so incredibly well on the system that I wish they’d hurry up and get ALL of them up on the store and compatible with the Vita. I’m finally playing through Persona 3 Portable, resuming my Tactics Ogre and Half-Minute Hero love, and playing through GTA Chinatown Wars… for the fourth time.

Rich: It’d have to be Uncharted then, which I haven’t finished yet but am thoroughly enjoying. I’m not an uber-fan of the franchise – I did finish the first and second games but haven’t gotten around to 3 yet – but it’s just so strong in so many ways. Looks great, sounds amazing, and still manages to bring forward all the problems of the first two games with terrible shooting mechanics. It’s really impressive how they managed to capture everything good and bad about the console games on the Vita.

Perhaps that’s not exactly what they were going for, but there you are.

Pete: Well I’m gonna disagree with you about the shooting mechanics in Uncharted 2 – I absolutely love that game and after 100s of hours online it’s pretty much how I think all games should control. But I do see your point and I agree that the shooting mechanics in Uncharted-Vita are terrible. It had me worried for a little while that maybe shooters couldn’t work on the platform but Unit 13 soothed those fears.

I guess I will disqualify myself from sports games also, since anyone who has read my reviews knows that MLB 12: The Show is the only 5 star game on the site… and I run a Hot Shots league. So taking those out of the equation I think my favorite game is probably the aforementioned Unit 13. It has its problems for sure, which is why I could only give it 4 stars, but it’s a formula I can just keep coming back to again and again. I also love the co-op though I need to play more of it, CAMUS!

Camus:  I’m really bad at deciding on this stuff. I’m tempted to choose both Rayman and Hotshots, but I think I’m going to have to go with Unit 13 too.

It has plenty of problems, most of which Pete dealt with in his review, but this is the pace at which I like to play my shooters – there is always time to look at what’s coming up, and decide whether to go stealthy or messy. The combat is very satisfying too – which is a pretty good achievement on such a small system. I also like the fact that it was a new IP – albeit one with a setting so generic that it could be any one of dozens of other games.

What are you guys hoping for out of the Vita going forward, besides the obvious need for more games?

Mike: I think if I were Sony (which is already weird because then I would be a company, so let’s instead suppose I’m a dude named Bob Sony, who’s in charge) I’d be assembling a team of schmoozy salesmen to entice every bootstrap iOS developer whose game was ever described as “wonderful, except for the virtual d-pad.” Help them with some resources, grease the skids a little, and get an instant boost to the downloadable games library.

There are a number of titles that I’d gleefully re-purchase–even at a slightly higher price–in order to play them with the Vita’s controls. I’ve recently been playing Galaxy on Fire 2 on the iPad, and it’s a terrific revival of the space shooter/exploration genre. But you’re faced with playing using either tilt controls or a virtual joystick. It honestly ruins the experience.

Pete:  Personally I will be content if it’s, like mik said last week – the psp2. But I do have hopes beyond that. The beta for PSsuite started this week and I think that’s going to fill a huge portion of the platform. Those games will work across a myriad of android devices but it’s pretty safe to assume they will play best on the vita… and I’m a fan of the smartphone sized game and I think the combo of a great touch screen and some sticks/buttons is gonna mean I spend a ton of money in that store.

Beyond that I hope the PSN level of game continues to exist. I think it’s safe to assume the big games will keep coming and PSsuite will take care of the smaller ones… but I hope the ones in the middle don’t get phased out. In this launch period I think Mutant Blobs, Stardust, Escape Plan and Pinball Arcade are some of the most compelling pieces of software. I would hate to see mutant blobs 2 not do well at $10 because some clearly inferior clone is being bought at $2.

Camus: I’m very much down with Pete on wanting to see lots of games from all three tiers. If necessary, I’d like to see Sony offer PSN devs some incentive to release all their games on both PS3 and Vita. I would have bought games like Closure if I’d been able to play them on my Vita.

What I want most of all is to be allowed to put multiple accounts on my Vita, but I know that ain’t gonna happen.

I can’t really think of anything I want that isn’t directly related to games (apart from a few minor UI tweaks) because I have plenty of other devices for Skype and the like. Even in terms of future hardware iterations all I can really think of is better battery life, and a bit more distance between the right stick and the X button.

Rich:  What I realistically hope and expect is oh so different from what I want.

At this point, my realistic hopes and expectations are for my Vita to be my go-to handheld device in order to play more than I would otherwise. I love everything about it, from the big beautiful screen to the solid controls and wonderful sound – and by carting it with me wherever I go I’ve been a more rounded gamer than I was the day before it launched. But, I’m also a creature of habit, and know that I’ll revert to the mean; lots of sports games, a few big-time titles (Uncharted and Resistance, I’m looking at you), and the occasional “holy mackerel the internet is telling me I simply have to play this game” like Mutant Blobs.

My unrealistic hopes and expectations are for the Vita to blur the line between console and handheld. I don’t want games to be built for one or the other; they should all just ‘be’ on both systems. I’m talking everything, too, even downloads. Make it like my iPad, Mac, and iPhone – anything I get on one is on all of the others.

Gimme gimme gimme.

Bob Sony: Thank you very much for joining us this week Rich.  And thank you very much, readers, for supporting this fine website.  If you would like to contribute to the next |For Your Inbox| please post below with comments or topics.  And please buy the Vita, we’re doing really badly as a company. Please. Do you want me to beg?  I’m not above begging.

Review – Rayman Origins

One of the knocks on the otherwise stellar Vita launch lineup is that it’s filled with ports of games that you would be better served playing elsewhere. It’s an odd complaint, as anyone can play anything wherever the heck they would like. But I do understand the general point. Rayman Origins is a glorious game that should, in theory, only get better as you make the image bigger and bigger. The console versions were gorgeous at 720p and the recently released PC version is insane looking at 1080p.  So why is it that I find the game to be much more fun in qHD on a 5 inch OLED?

The Vita version of Rayman is, at the time of this writing, also the most expensive version. This is something I don’t have a witty retort for. Ubisoft is clearly extorting Vita early adopters. The aforementioned PC version came out *AFTER* the Vita version and is $10 cheaper. If you’re looking for a reason to not play this game this is it.  Because, other than this, one doesn’t exist.

I love many, many indie games… but no small, underfunded indie team is going to be able to put together art quite like this. Ancel and his team went above and beyond.

I will admit that my love affair with Rayman Origins started slowly.  I rented it on the PS3 when it first came out and thought it had a cool art style and seemed to control just fine, but I just wasn’t into it. When I got it on the Vita I went through the same feelings – except this time I owned it, so I kept pushing through.  The first world was good.  The second world was really good.  The third world was great.  The fourth world melted my brain.

Rayman’s level design is clever and gorgeous, but it’s the play mechanics which create the steady rise into greatness.  Like many platformers you start off with very few abilities, but as you gain more the game becomes exponentially better.  When I could float after jumping I thought I had reached the apex of platform control – until about an hour later when I unlocked the ability to run up walls.

So why the Vita version? For me it’s because I feel like platformers are the perfect portable gametype. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that these colors absolutely pop off of that beautiful OLED screen.

The sensibilities of Rayman Origins are really what set it apart from most platformers around these days.  There has been a 2D platformer resurgence lately – which is fantastic – and it’s mostly been from wonderful indie developers. What Rayman is able to bring to the table is some big studios aesthetics.  They didn’t need to make their game look retro to make it look cool because they had the money and the talent to make it look amazing in a modern way.  It truly does look like you are controlling a cartoon character running through an oil painting.  Rayman Origins is easily the game I’ve taken the most screenshots of with my Vita because each new thing I see I’m just so amazed by.

The game is not perfect, of course. The opening hour really is pretty blah and at parts downright confusing.  I’m not sure why they even introduce you to The Snoring Tree (basically a complicated character selection stage) so early.  When the game started I ran around it for 15 minutes trying to figure out where to go because I didn’t know better.  Also, while the mechanics do continue to ramp up through the game I feel like the difficulty takes a pretty sudden jump which halts progression for a while.  And in general the combat feels weird – I still can’t quite eyeball how far Rayman’s punch will go.

The stuff happening in the foreground is cool (and you can’t tell in the shot but im zipping down that line at quite a high speed). But, for me, I can just stare at those backgrounds for hours. I love the art in this game.

The game has tons of things to do however.  The main story is long and filled with collectables to keep you going back.  There is a ghost mode which turns each level a fleet-footed race to the finish – with the ability to trade ghosts over Near.  It’s also fun just playing old levels for the heck of it – like a great Mario game many of these levels have a timeless feeling to them which you can return to repeatedly.  If you must skip this game on the Vita due to Ubisoft extorting early adopters, I completely understand.  But do yourself a favor and go find this game somewhere.  It doesn’t matter which platform, this is a platformer for the ages.