The 11 best PS Vita launch games
20th Feb 2012 | 12:00
The launch of a new console can be a fraught time, with your joy at getting hold of a shiny, pristine piece of hardware somewhat tempered by confusion over which games you should buy to play on it.
Launch game line-ups are always pock-marked by ugly, quick-and-dirty ports of games that weren't even any good in the first place. And the PS Vita, with its impressively large roster of 33 launch games is a case in point - some of its games have even been ported from mobile phones. However, buy any of this lot, and you can't go wrong.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss
Nathan Drake's latest starring vehicle isn't some knock-off constructed from bits of old Uncharteds that Naughty Dog found lying around in the garage: it's a bespoke effort for the PS Vita, made by Sony's Bend Studio (although it was overseen by Naughty Dog). It looks magnificent, and offers the full Uncharted experience - climbing, third-person shooting and puzzle-solving - with some added concessions to the PS Vita's unique attributes, such as reassembling ripped-up maps by touching and manipulating them, negotiating rapids and narrow beams by tilting and, ahem, making charcoal rubbings.
Drake also gets a new female sidekick, Chase, who is good for the customary banter. In other words, everything you'd expect from a proper new Uncharted game is present and correct - except, for the first time, you can carry Golden Abyss around with you.
Read the Uncharted: Golden Abyss review.
If a new Sony console was ever launched without an accompanying WipEout game, it's possible that the world would, as a result, stop turning. Thankfully, WipEout 2048 should postpone the apocalypse for a while longer. It is, of course, a futuristic hover-racing game, with a pumping techno-trance soundtrack, and a set of glorious swoopy and vertiginous circuits.
Visually, it's breathtaking, it contains straight races, Zone races which reward precision and Combat races that are all about weaponry, and it has a much gentler learning curve than previous WipEouts. Bound to be a massive draw online, particularly since it lets you play against people with PS3s, via the PS Vita's Cross-play feature.
Read the WipEout 2048 Vita review.
Codemasters' has rightly won an awful lot of praise for the Formula One games it has made since acquiring the official licence, and this PS Vita take on the pinnacle of modern motor-sport was developed in tandem with the console versions. Which explains why F1 2011 looks amazing - and plays more or less exactly like its fixed-console siblings. The launch line-up proves that the PS Vita is a great platform for driving games - but f1 2011 is the only one among them with proper simulator credentials.
Read the F1 2011 Vita review.
Sony has made much of how the PS Vita's graphics-crunching capabilities aren't too far behind those of the PS3 - and FIFA 12 offers a graphical illustration that it isn't lying. It looks uncannily like the PS3 version of EA Sports' all-conquering football game - and plays pretty much like it, too, thanks mainly to the PS Vita's dual analogue sticks.
There are some sops to the PS Vita's extra abilities, such as sending through-balls pinging up to your strikers with a swipe of your index finger, or using the rear touch-pad to place penalties. But more than anything, it provides a startlingly authentic FIFA experience that you take everywhere with you.
ModNation Racers: Roadtrip
If you like creating your own games, you've probably come across ModNation Racers on the PS3, and are therefore aware that it's best described as DIY Mario Kart. Roadtrip is pretty much a full version 2 of the game, shoe-horned into the PS Vita. It's all about cartoon-style kart-racing, with mad power-ups.
But the twist is that you can design your own circuits, using a great application called Track Creator which, on the PS Vita, lets you paint tracks and background settings with the touch-screen and manipulate the scenery with the rear touch-pad. Plus there's a full single-player game. Reckon you'd make a good games developer? Here's your chance to find out whether you're being unduly optimistic.
Virtua Tennis 4
Everyone knows that Sega's tennis franchise is simply unbeatable. So we're dead grateful to the company for ensuring that Virtua Tennis 4 is ready for the PS Vita's launch.
Like FIFA 12, it looks startlingly similar to its grown-up PS3 cousin, and can be played in a more or less identical manner, too. Although there is the obligatory support for the front and rear touch-screens/pads, should that float your boat. Now you can sit on the bus and pretend to be Maria Sharapova, ear-splitting grunts and all. That should give the teenage sodcasters pause for thought.
Lumines: Electronic Symphony
Tetsuya Mizuguchi's much-loved puzzler is best described as Tetris on acid. And Lumines: Electronic Symphony, which was custom-designed for the PS Vita, is good enough to add to the franchise's legendary nature.
It comes with Mizuguchi's trademark trancey, electronic soundtrack, plus graphics which are even more eye-popping than before (like Ray Man: Origins, they are actually 3D masquerading as 2D). A new XP system renders the game far more accessible to newcomers, who can also use the touch-screen to control the action. Simultaneously soothing and trippy.
There's something about black-and-white games: think Vib-Ribbon and Limbo. This wacky monochorome puzzler features two individuals called Lil and Laarg, trying to escape from a sinister facility booby-trapped with all manner of mechanical and electrical hazards - you control their movements using the touch-screen and rear pad. It's inventive and amusing and because it's a download-only game, will set you back a mere £9.99. Escape Plan is far more imaginative than many of the PS Vita's full-priced games.
If you're determined to buy a PS Vita and want a game that will show off every single one of its out-of-the-ordinary control system capabilities, then you'll be needing a copy of Little Deviants.
It's a collection of mini-games starring the eponymous Deviants (sadly, there's not a gimp mask in sight -- they're cuddly, furry blobs) that might get you pushing up the environment using the rear touch-pad, to roll them around a circuit, using the gyro and motion-sensor to aim at flying targets and so on. You may find the novelty runs out after a while, or you might find a couple of mini-games that appeal. But Little Deviants does provide the ideal means of demoing the PS Vita to the uninitiated.
Read the Little Deviants Vita review.
Ray Man Origins
The great maverick Michel Ancel's latest opus probably didn't get the respect (or sales) it deserved when it came out for the fixed consoles last Christmas. But you'll be hard-pressed to find a better platform game outside of anything made by Miyamoto in recent years - and where best to discover it than in this pixel-perfect port to the PS Vita?
Ray Man Origins may look like a game from bygone times, but it combines deeply surreal cartoon sensibilities with gameplay which is as addictive as it is hard. This game will make you curse, but you won't be able to stop playing it. And it will make you laugh, too.
Read the Rayman Origins Vita review.
Ever wanted to put yourself into a beat-em-up? Thanks to Reality Fighters, you can now - this button-basher has been designed to show off the PS Vita's prowess when it comes to Augmented Reality (AR) games.
So, scan your face in, delve into the game's truly preposterous wardrobe and you're ready to take on all-comers - in an arena that consists of your immediate surroundings, should you so desire. Add mad special moves and a welter of fighting styles into the mix and what you get may not be vastly sophisticated - but it's pretty amusing.
Read the Reality Fighters Vita review.