Now into its third year, the PlayStation Vita finds itself in a bit of a strange spot. Sony's second handheld system certainly hasn't set cash registers alight, but it has garnered an extremely passionate fanbase – this very website is evidence of that. The problem is that with such a small market to target, bigger publishers are starting to bail out, leaving the device forced to make do with any remaining scraps.
Even the platform holder, in spite of any impassioned speeches at PlayStation Experience, seems to have abandoned the system these days, with its most recent "blockbuster", Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines, shoved onto the PlayStation Store with very little fanfare. Fortunately, the folks at Southampton-based outfit XMPT Games are big fans of the format – and that convinced it to bring DiscStorm to the portable platform.
"We all own and love the Vita," earnest artist Ed Moffatt told us at EGX Rezzed last week. "The main reason that we're bringing the game to the system is because we love playing games on it."
DiscStorm, a title born out of the local multiplayer boom that's currently occurring on consoles, initially seems like a bit of an odd fit for a handheld system, but with online multiplayer and a full single player campaign, there's nothing else quite like it on the PlayStation Store.
"The thing is, other than PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, there aren't many quick to pick up, multiplayer, online games on the Vita," Moffatt pointed out. "So, we really just wanted something that we could play together. At the end of the day, we want more games that we'd like to play on our Vita, so we thought that we'd make one." It's the kind of comment that's likely to fill fans of the format full of warm, cuddly fuzzies – and we informed the developer as much.
Fortunately, it's really fun, too. We only got to try out the PC version with a trio of strangers, but as with the likes of TowerFall Ascension, we could instantly see the appeal. Essentially, you play as an 8-bit character running around an isometric environment. These arenas range from outer-space to a pirate ship, and each has a gimmick that will force you to re-think your tactics. The dark recesses of the Milky Way, for example, will force you to fight gravity, while the HMS Frisbee creaks on the sea.
The idea is to hit your opponents with your power discs before they take you out of the game. Each round adopts a different ruleset, so sometimes it will be a straightforward race to ten points, while others play a little like tag. The end result is always chaotic. And you'll be able to play the game online on the Vita, or with a friend, by each holding half of the console. It's a setup that's been used before, and while not especially comfortable, should at least get people playing together.
Still, a multiplayer-only handheld release seems like a brave proposition, so there will be a single player campaign as well. "The aim of the solo mode is that it's going to be hard – it's going to be tricky to get through all of the levels," beamed Moffatt, with a devious glint in his eye. "You'll be dealing with increasingly difficult waves of enemies, and then we've got mini-bosses and bosses on every level, and these are kind of epic, big fights which are tough to win."
There's definitely a whiff of Windjammers to the Frisbee-based action, and the studio seems eager to play up that comparison. "It's a mix of influences," added Moffatt on the art direction. "We were inspired by some old games like Windjammers, and they kind of influenced the game style. But then I'm also into my fighting games... My Capcom brawlers like Street Fighter and stuff like that, so the character designs and menus are borrowed from those kinds of things."
And it's definitely got a sharp sense of style, with bold in-game visuals backed by really intricately designed character art. There will be just four competitors to choose from in the full game, but you'll be able to customise these as you see fit. "We originally had the plan to have more characters, but when we tested it on people, they preferred to dress up their avatar with a top hat or a teddy, as opposed to lots of different characters." Of course, a teddy.
With both Steam and the Vita in the studio's crosshairs for now, we had to ask whether the PlayStation 4 was eventually on the cards as well. "We can't say anything about that," laughed Moffatt. "We've got a dev contact at Sony, and they're great at working with indies. We'd love to bring it to the PS4, but we can't say anything about it just yet." That's a 'yes', then, we wink. "Hopefully in the future, yeah."
Isn't it refreshing to see the Vita coming first?
Will you be playing a fierce round of Frisbee with DiscStorm, or avoiding it like a flying sphere? Take a shot in the comments section below.