Ben Latimore is perhaps our most prolific writer of reader reviews, but today he's testing himself. Ben asked if he could do a mega round-up of all the best downloadable games on the PS Vita, and we said, 'yes, let it be done'.
We've allowed Ben to break the usual reader review format, because... just because!
Take it away Ben!
PS Vita Round-Up
Let us go on a magical journey deep into the PlayStation Network’s offering of PS Vita games. The treasure in the caves of the PlayStation Store can be anything from pure gold to stuff that you won’t be able to unstick from your shoes. Here is my helpful guide on what you want to accompany your Vita, and what you don’t want to be on any memory cards in relative proximity to you.
Super Stardust Delta is the latest in the Super Stardust twin-stick shooter series, and it probably couldn’t be prettier. Backdrops are amazing starscapes, planets are intricately detailed and enemies spin with a smoothness you’d come to expect from a console release. Everything glows in great detail with a high quality atmosphere. Going for high scores can be extremely addictive. Four soundtracks are included for those who prefer classic 8-bit music and there are several mini-games which utilize the features of the Vita (although these do feel slightly gimmicky). It’s difficult but fun, with plenty of stuff to do. Recommended.
Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack is not only a mouthful but a very creative platformer. The graphical style reminds me of a good animated cartoon and each puzzle is entertaining, with new elements being introduced and old ones being recycled well. Tilt puzzles can be annoying (especially the first one) but they don’t detract from the main game. Plenty of references to other indie games are here and they’re often quite funny. The only downside is it’s a little short, you could finish this in one night if you’re not careful. That’s no real complaint though, it’s pretty cheap in comparison to the other games on PSN. Recommended.
Plants vs Zombies is a pixel-perfect port of the PC game. No detail spared here. Adventure, puzzles, mini-games and survival all arrive intact. The graphics and soundtrack translate perfectly to the small screen of the Vita, but the in-game interface has been downsized a bit, which can lead to mis-taps here or there. It’s still as addicting as ever though and it’s a good start to the game if you’re new to it. Recommended.
Motorstorm RC is a bird’s eye view racer with the Motorstorm look and feel to it, and it succeeds. You’re given a bit of content to start with and two content packs add extra content for cheap (although individual skins are on sale…tsk tsk tsk). Cars handle great and are fun to drive with plenty of customization and models to pick from. It looks and sounds pretty much dead on with what you’d expect a Motorstorm game to be except with smaller cars, and integration with your friends list is very well done (complete opposite to the way that Lumines handled it) with friends times being shown on every challenge and you’ll be alerted if someone thrashes you on a challenge. Just don’t go at it too hard and fast, or you might be done with it before you know it. Recommended.
Escape Plan is a noir style puzzler that uses nothing but the touchscreen and tilting to control two characters through a series of escape-the-room traps. The puzzles are fairly easy and the controls are okay, but they were pretty bad before the massive patch came in a day or so before this review was made. The game may not last that long but the developer released free DLC to help with that as well. It was frustrating to get each puzzle with a perfect score due to imprecise controls but the patch fixed that as well. This is a perfect example of a game developer going and fixing everything they got wrong with their game the first time around, and it’s a lot more playable because of it. Also classical music plays every now and again. Recommended.
The Pinball Arcade just came out recently on the store, and claims to be an incredibly accurate recreation of several popular pinball tables. It looks and plays as authentically as you can get, but it definitely comes with all those old pinball table traditions (including balls gravitating inbetween your flippers or into the outlanes, new ball for you!). There’s four fun to play tables in the game and DLC is planned to give the game more tables every month, along with challenges and official tournaments soon enough. Objectives for each table give a lot of replay value and you could find one table pulling you back again and again. Zen Pinball 2 has also been announced for the Vita as well, and since both products are magnificently good at what they do, the competition will be fierce but awesome for gamers everywhere. Recommended.
Sumioni: Demon Arts is arguably a very pretty game, with a Japanese calligraphy style peppering some great effects. You draw shapes and lines with ink in order to help you fight enemies and progress through the stage, however the controls are somewhat hard to get used to, with touch controls requiring me to hold the console with one hand so I can draw ink on the screen. You’re required to play through the game six times to receive all the endings, and it’s usually one stage that determines how far you get. Missed out on the critical stage? Better start the game again! The game’s already pretty repetitive just going through once, but six times eventually takes a toll on your brain and patience. Try it first.
Hustle Kings is arguably one of the hardest games I have ever played. It’s a pool/snooker simulator, and it sure looks the part, the graphics are really quite realistic and pretty to boot. Plenty of the typical types of pool are included and there are lots of skins and cues to unlock. However, I was simply annihilated in the second leg of the campaign, the AI becomes incredibly difficult and the challenges almost insurmountable. I’m a snooker beginner and this game is probably not aimed towards people like me at all. Only for people who like their pool. Try it first.
Treasures of Montezuma Blitz is the devil’s itchy backside. The game is a bad copy of Bejeweled Blitz, you match 3 gems to earn points and matching more earns more points (no special gems like Bejeweled). You play for a minute and it compares your scores with your friends at the end. Play five times and you won’t be able to play again for about half an hour. Wait, they advertise this game as FREE, not FREE TO PLAY. Even games like Spiral Knights give you an hour’s worth of content before asking for money, this game only gives you five minutes before demanding your 99 cents to let you play again. But then again, why am I complaining, it’s a crappy version of Bejeweled done better on any other device. Avoid at all costs.
While there’s a piece of very smelly crap or two on the Store, most of the Vita’s library up to this point is actually surprisingly good, with a lot of enjoyable titles for somewhat cheap prices. Why not pick up a couple?