Preview: The Vita’s devious Little Deviants

June 30, 2011

If there’s going to be a poster child for this year’s release of the PlayStation Vita, it’s Little Deviants. It’s not going to be the biggest game; Uncharted: Golden Abyss has that covered. It won’t be the most innovative either, as there’s the sublime Sound Shapes. It is, though, the big new IP on the system, and the game itself is designed as that system show-off piece.

If you’re looking for a series that feels similar, the closest thing we can think of is Ubisoft’s Raving Rabbids. There are little creatures, they’re in gimmick-filled minigames and they’re generally supposed to be mischevious in a cute way. What gives Deviants a different character is the system itself.

We got to play three of the games in the collection. One, remarked news editor Shawn Vermette as he was watching us play, was very similar to the 3DS’ Face Raiders. It’s an apt description, as it’s a motion-based, spin-around-and-point shooter, just starring little creatures instead of creepy pictures of your own head. Strangely, we’re not sure this is an improvement. Still, it’s a fun game, and the controls worked as well as you’d expect. The second game used the system’s tilt controls to navigate around a 2-D area, avoiding obstacles and trying to get through quickly. This we’ve seen in various forms on the Wii, and it had a certain charm to it, if not depth.

The final game had us tapping creatures in a whack-a-mole style as they opened doors in a house. This one had a twist, though: the back touch panel. When the Deviants were facing backward, we had to tap them from the back of the system rather than the front. We had a bit of a problem with this, as the house was off-center and at an angle, and it was unclear whether to hit the absolute position of the creature or, say, hit the top right corner of the back to hit the top-right door of the house. Having constant contact on the back, or using controls that rely entirely on relative position from where you touch initially, work fine. Absolute tap controls on the back touch pad? That may be a bad idea that will linger throughout the system’s life.

Each game has a leaderboard, but otherwise there doesn’t seem to be much staying power in these games. Little Deviants has charm and potential for showing off the new system, but developer Bigbig needs to avoid being the next Wii Play. It’s teetering on that edge.