Kotaku Vs Lifehacker: The PlayStation Vita

The offices of Allure Media overflowed with review PlayStation Vita units this morning. Naturally, all productive activity ground to a halt. But can Sony’s handheld saviour live up to our expectations? Mark (Kotaku) and Angus (Lifehacker) dive in . . .

MARK: Well, it's here. And it looks pretty slick. I pulled my Vita out of the box and, really, the first thing I wanted to do was simply hold the device in my hand because — more than any other handheld/phone/tablet on the market — the Vita is a 'lust' item. The kind of device you want to own. It's like an expensive piece of jewellery.

So I clutched at it for a while, cradled it in my arms like Paris Hilton with a shitzu, and then went to put the whole thing together as it were.

Because, sweet lord, it felt as though there was a lot to put together!

My first impression of the Vita is that it comes with a lot of stuff. Mine had a SIM card, a memory card, Augmented Reality cards, and then the games themselves — actually finding where the hell I was supposed to put all these things was half the battle.

I honestly did spend a good 10 minutes working out where the memory card went. I'm still not sure where I'm supposed to put the SIM card (oops, found it!)

To be perfectly honest, this is not the experience I'm used to with a handheld console.

ANGUS: I do feel duty-bound to point out that at no stage did Mark actually read the manual before attempting insertion. But his general point holds: there’s a lot of gear to handle (even for people like me who didn’t get the 3G version. But hey, I’m not complaining; someone sent me a free console!)

I offered up my launch impressions of the Vita on Lifehacker yesterday, but having one to play with does offer a big potential advantage: I can test all the networking and social stuff that was a total non-starter on the launch boat. I've also got six games to try out, though it should tell you something that the one I suspect I will enjoy the most is ModNation Racers Roadtrip. But first of all I will also need to install the memory card. Curse. Grunt. How's it going back on the Kotaku desk?

MARK: Well, it's definitely going. The interesting thing to me, to begin with, is that it really feels like an Next Generation Portable. Sony's initial code name was an accurate one. On all fronts it really feels like a last stand for handheld consoles.

And like all last stands, the PlayStation Vita is throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the hooded spectre that is the mobile phone. Touch screens on both sides, more cameras than I can count, 3G, Wi-Fi, Augmented Reality, games, online networks... man — the list literally does go on and on.

In that sense the Vita feels, to me at least, like a bit of a Frankenstein's monster of a device. It seems to have taken the PlayStation 3's current slogan 'it only does everything' and ran with it. Big time.

But what's really surprising is that, despite its massive feature cluster, the PlayStation Vita really feels like an ergonomically designed device. It looks like something you'd pay a lot of money for. It feels like something you'd pay a lot of money for. And this is probably why Sony expect consumers to pay a lot of money for it!

ANGUS: I totally dispute that it's ergonomic. Attractive, possibly. Ergonomic? Not in a million years. I'll repeat one of my earlier whines: There’s no way to comfortably hold this baby for games that expect you to use both the touch screen and the back touchpad. Certainly not with my surprisingly dainty hands.

But actually, I'm getting ahead of myself there, because the Vita on my desk has a bigger problem right now: it refuses to connect to Wi-Fi properly. When this happened on the boat, I figured it was down to the non-optimal environment (crowds, journalists, alcohol, too many devices on one shitty wireless network). But it’s not doing any better with the office network; it can see the network and claims it is connected, but then everything collapses in a welter of annoying messages about DNS I won’t bore you with here.

Trying to fix that problem also made me aware that the user interface for the Vita is, bluntly, not very good. It’s an unfortunate mix of diagonal swiping, button pushing and scrolling that isn't very consistent, doesn’t make much sense and certainly wouldn’t encourage me to spend time on the device outside a gaming context. The wireless issue will probably have to wait until I'm on a different network, but that means all I’m going to be able to do today is play the handful of games that came with it. Which I guess is still ultimately the main point. Prepare for some balls-achingly low scores.

MARK: Yeah, I'm having the same problem with the network set up as well, and network set ups really is your area of expertise, so if you're struggling to set it up, what hope do idiots like me have?

Re: the touch screen situation — I'd probably argue that very few games will force players to use both screens simultaneously, unless games start using some sort of pinch mechanic, so I'm sort of fine with it for now.

Really the back touch screen is the one I'm most interested in — particularly when it comes to games. The idea of a simple intuitive touch experience that doesn't leave dirty fingerprints on my screen, or obscure my vision, intrigues me. I had a quick demo of LittleBigPlanet on the PSVita a while back, and that made some pretty nifty uses of the back screen. I'm hoping to see more of that stuff.

Concerning the device itself — one thing that surprised me, was my lack of surprise.

Maybe 'surprise' is the wrong word, but I'll never forget the first time I held a PSP in my hands, at home. At the time it felt as though going back to my DS simply wasn't an option — super high fidelity, super hi-res screen, the sheer size and visual splendour of the original PSP had my retinas doing the moonwalk.

I expected a similar reaction to the PS Vita and the OLED screen, but I'm just not as blown away as I thought I would be. Maybe that's an unfair reaction — I suspect most will be blown away by the PS Vita — but after turning it on and spending a good portion of the last hour messing around with games on the device, it just hasn't had the WOW effect I was hoping for.

Vague, I know, but that slight disappointment is tangible for me.

ANGUS: I hadn't thought of the fingerprints angle. My chief problem with the back touch screen is that if you’re a total gametard like me, it’s very hard to use. I just tried the first level of Little Deviants, where you have to deform the landscape to move the protagonist. I'm absolutely hopeless at it, and now I want to kill myself. Or eat a hamburger. But I certainly don't want to play the game anymore.


    "I do feel duty-bound to point out that at no stage did Mark actually read the manual before attempting insertion."

    That's what she said?
    What he said?

    good to see people like it.
    but i still have a strange feeling it wont be as good as expected

      Me too, I think I'll wait till they release a platform exclusive Kingdom Hearts for the Vita haha

    you lucky bastards. lol

    I can't help but see the problem clearly illustrated by the picture at the top. Especially on the left side, the stick and DPad probably should have been switched. Just look how precariously the left hand holds on with fingertips. That's gonna get old real fast IMO.

      That's not how I'm holding mine. I'm using it with my index fingers at the top on the bumpers, thumbs over the sticks and middle finger curled around underneath. Bumps the back touch a bit though, I think if anything they should have added a raised edge between the finger indentations and the start of the touch panel on the back so that you could feel you're starting to slide over onto it without meaning to.

      I do think the left stick and D-Pad would be more comfortable switched though, but the same thing is true of the Dual Shock controller and Sony's shown no sign of changing the layout there either.

        No, I like the DualShock layout just the way it is, with the sticks placed symmetrically. My hands are pretty much symmetrical, so I want my controller laid out the same way.

        What would be interesting would be if they made it modular so the sticks, d-pad and face buttons were 4 individual plug-in components, so you could pull them out and swap them around into any configuration you like. That would also allow left-handed people to swap the left/right sticks and dpad/face buttons if they wished. But that'd cost way too much, I guess.

      Seems like it's likely to induce some trackball-style hand cramps.

      Sony will never move their left stick and D-pad. That would be like admitting microsoft is right with their controller design for the 360. :)

        Even worse, it would be admitting that Sega had it right with the Dreamcast controller. :P

      That's always how Playstation controllers are; if there's an analog stick it's below the d-pad. If you prefer it the other way, wait for a portable Xbox.

        As someone who works in human factors, this shit really bothers me. We've had guidelines on how to design for the had for like 70 years. Every time I pick up a PS3 controller I cringe. I love me some PS3, but its the key thing I wish they would change.

          You might want to look for a Power A Pro Elite PS3 controller, its effectively an xbox controller for the ps3 (and one of the few to have all the features of the dualshock 3). I have a feeling the designers had hands larger than the 8 year old girl the dual shock controlers were apparently designed for

            Yeah - I've been seriously considering it. I usually end up spending the money for one on the xbox or PC version of whatever game I want though. Yes, thats right, I actually only buy exclusives for my PS3 because I hate the control pad.

      It should be like the Wii u controller, with the sticks at the top, and the dpad and square circle x triangle at the bottom
      that would prevent cramps effectively - trouble is it would look like its
      upside down

      The way it's held in the picture does look ungodly uncomfortable, but it's not at all how I'd hold the console. The tips of my index fingers rest on the shoulder buttons, while the rest of the finger rests along the sides of the console, the bottom left hand corner ending in that little space in between your index and thumb.

      i got mine today, its not as much of a problem as you would think. i find is easy to hold and use. the think i like least is that the home screen is touch only, id like it if i could just hit circle to go back as well is i wanted.

      That's the thing that bothered me with the PSP: there's almost nothing to grip. I have fairly large hands and really have to contort my fingers to hold a it. I imagine it would only be worse trying to use dual sticks on the PSV.

    I've read some horror stories about the battery life on this thing. So I'll wait a year for the inevitable lite edition.

    I like the PSV. I want the PSV. I'm just 'meh' about the games available.
    What non-gaming features are there. I might end up installing homebrew and emulating Capcom's AvP arcade.

    I feel I need to point out the glaringly obvious mistakes made in this article...

    Ehem, first of all...what's a "shitzu"? a cross between a turd and final fantasy's Zuu?

    Secondly I am deeply offended that you would think Paris Hilton cuddles anything furrier than a chiuahua.

    Spelling mistake and unfounded claims! Unsubscribing. :P
    On a side note, that Vita bit of the article was well done.

      A shitzu is one without many animals.

        Zap, very well said. That was the first thing to honestly make me smile today.

    I want to buy it because it is shiny and it's new. However, I feel like these traditional handheld video game consoles have totally run their course. http://wp.me/p1NBQj-bg
    I can't just pick up and play these things anymore - I think this is particularly noticeable by the fact that there is about 453 ways to use this while playing games. You can blow into it, or swing it around your head and all that. It's too much.

    I've been thinking about buying a PSV for the last couple of weeks, but there's just one problem. You see I'm an adult, with adult sized man hands, if one thing has taught me is that portable games consoles are designed for children, with child sized hands. If I spend more than 20 minutes playing a handheld console I will end up with carpel tunnel syndrome. I had a vain hope that this might just change this, however looking at the second picture in this article has just confirmed that this too, will be another console that will just refuse to fit in my gigantic hands.... Sigh... Back to PC gaming.

      The guy in that picture invented a new way to hold the device, so of course it's going to look awkward to hold.

    It's dope. Get it if there are some games you are into.

    Who's pictured holding the vita? How the hell are you holding it like that?!? :P
    I have big hands and they manage to wrap all the way around it...

    Who's pictured holding the vita? How the hell are you holding it like that?!? :P
    I have big hands and they manage to wrap all the way around it...

    That would have to be the worst way to hold it.

    The original PSP only gave me problems after 3-4 hour use.

    The new PS Vita is sex on a Stick my friends.

    I've had no problems connecting to my network. Works right out of the box. You probably just have a shitty network where you are like you said.

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