PlayStation Vita Review
A hand-held beauty you won’t put down.
A large portion of my gaming career has been either on consoles or my PC. I’ve very rarely strayed into handheld gaming or even tinkering around with games on my mobile. Not since my original days of gaming on my Nintendo Gameboy have I picked up a handheld gaming unit – when my roommate got a Playstation Portable I found that I couldn’t play for long without my eyes watering. When the Nintendo 3DS came out I played around with it, tried a few games, but ultimately didn’t warm up to it. So when Sony announced the Playstation Vita, I was ready to pass it off as just another device that I would play around with but not really get into. But after trying the device at E3, GAMES11, and at a press event last week, I seriously cannot wait for this little gem to hit the shelves. So really, just how good is the PS Vita?
Even when it’s turned off, you can’t help admiring the PS Vita. It just sits there with its sleek finish and tempting curves, begging you to turn it on. While the device is of course a remarkable improvement from the Playstation Portable, it still maintains much of the PSP’s original design elements, but with a few changes. To the left of the device is the traditional D-pad, and the left analogue stick. This analogue stick is a welcome improvement from the flat disc that functioned as an analogue joystick on the PSP, and it feels much more comfortable to use when gaming. It’s worth nothing though, that the analogue stick doesn’t click down as on the PS3 controller. Right below the left analogue stick is the Playstation button, which you can use to quickly jump out of a game and return to the main PS Vita home screen. To the right of the device is the tiny front-facing camera (more on that later), and the four face buttons. These buttons have been made a bit smaller than what they were on the PSP, and it’s only after a substantial amount of gaming do you notice that this might not have been the smartest move. Of course, that could just be down to me having ridiculously long fingers. Below the face buttons is the right analog stick, as well as the start and select buttons.
Where the PS Vita makes a quantum leap forward from the PSP is with the additional controls that are hidden away on the device. The gorgeous front touch screen is mainly used to navigate through menus, but can also be used for various actions while playing games. At the back of the PS Vita is the hardly noticeable touch panel – I say hardly noticeable because apart from a subtle application of a design created with the face buttons, you wouldn’t really know that there was a touch sensor there. While the rear touchpad is a cool feature, I found it more of a gimmick than of much use in the games that I played. As mentioned before, the PS Vita has a front and rear facing camera mainly for taking player photos and for games such as Reality Fighters where augmented reality are the primary attractions. Both cameras are of surprisingly average quality, but I’m not going to hold this against Sony at all – the device is for gaming, not macro photography. On top of all of this, the PS Vita also has motion controls, which makes for plenty of fun in games such as Frobisher Says where shaking and tilting the Vita is the norm.
It would be cruel to not have a paragraph about the Vita’s screen – larger and crisper than the PSP, it is an absolute joy to behold. I’m raving so much about the screen in particular because I was able to game on the Vita for about 45 minutes non-stop without experiencing any of the discomfort in my eyes that I would experience with the PSP. The OLED display does every single game justice, and even viewing photos or videos on the screen are a real treat. The screen was responsive to my slightest touch, and swiping through menus and scrolling through web pages couldn’t have been simpler. You really have to see this screen in person to appreciate just how detailed things look on it. But as with similar high-resolution screens, the performance tends to be a bit lacking when outdoors – in direct sunlight the screen is just too glossy to look at properly, and even in shaded areas with maximum brightness I had trouble playing games like Uncharted.
At the top are small buttons for turning the device on as well as controlling the volume. This is also where you’ll plug in the PS Vita game cards, with the slot being covered by a plastic flap that you have to carefully pry open with your finger. It feels a bit fiddly at first, but in time I think you’ll hardly notice. Overall though, the Vita feels like it could withstand the daily wear and tear of being thrust into backpacks and shoved into your back pocket, a scenario that I could never imagine with my PSP which has never left its padded casing.