Once I arrived in Los Angeles for E3 2011, one thing I knew for certain - I had to get my hands on Sony's upcoming PSVita system while I had the chance. And while the games I had on my list of must-see titles mostly involved games like Hot Shots Golf and LittleBigPlanet, it was actually a title I hadn't given a lot of thought to called Little Deviants, that actually ended up impressing me the most.
While Little Deviants will feature 30 mini-games in the finished product, the E3 show floor demo whittled the experience down to four distinct games, each featuring different control functions of the Vita system. And while the overall theme of the games remained pretty much the same, the playing experiences were vastly different from one another.
Hole Roll Control would have to be the most interesting of the four mini-games that were on display at E3 and probably the one most familiar to gamers who've watched the various gameplay videos of the game in action. In this game, you're basically tasked with rolling your Little Deviant to the hole located somewhere around the level. But since you can't directly maneuver your Deviant, you'll have to press on the rear touch pad in order to lift up a section of land which will in turn cause the Little Deviant to roll off of the hill you've created. You can then continue to slide your fingers across the rear touch pad to carefully guide the Deviant into the warp hole.
The rear touch pad works quite well and feels fairly intuitive, even from the moment you begin playing the game, but getting a feel for maneuvering your Deviant takes a bit of time and patience. And to top it all off, the developers have tossed in a barrage of robots who are constantly trying to grab your Deviant, not to mention a wealth of stars for you to collect, to add even more challenge to the quest in each wave.
Botz Blast was the first mini-game I tried out and uses the Vita's rear camera to offer up a rather intense augmented reality shoot-fest. The screen becomes your targeting window, complete with a reticle in the center of the screen to help you aim properly, and you can then pan around your surroundings using the system in order to locate and destroy the enemy robots who are trying to capture the Deviants.
The entire gameplay experience is very fluid and responsive, and even using the "R" shoulder button to fire your energy cannon works like a charm. The game also tosses a unique twist at you by having the robots toss slime your direction, which sticks to the touchscreen making it difficult for you to see the action taking place onscreen. Of course a quick wipe across the touchscreen with your finger will clean it right off, something you'll find yourself continuously balancing in between your robot blasting duties.
Depth Charge puts you in charge of guiding one of the Little Deviants through various narrow passagways of a cave using the Sixaxis controls of the Vita system. You basically tilt the system in order to manipulate the passages as to allow your Deviant to make its way safely to the bottom. While this might sound overly simple, you'll soon find that the winding corridors, not to mention obstacles contained therein, begin to become quite intricate and challenging. And when you toss in the inherent desire to collect stars as you go along, you end up with a rather challenging task ahead of you.
The tilt controls of the game are extremely smooth and responsive and in no time I was navigating my Deviant like a pro. And while this particular mini-game didn't offer quite the level of variety of the others, it was probably the more enjoyable mode of the bunch just the same. There was something insanely simple, yet addictive, about the entire experience that really leaves you wanting to come back for more and a great show of the Vita's Sixaxis control capabilities.
House of Whacks will immediately remind most gamers of the classic carnival game "Whack-a-Mole". You're presented with a barn, featuring a grid of barn doors that will individually fly open at random times, revealing either a Little Deviant or a child dressed up like a one. Your goal is to touch only the Little Deviants while avoiding the children, but there's a little catch. In order to score points, you must touch the Deviant from the front, which is quite easy to do using the touchscreen when it's facing you. But for those times when the Deviant has its back to you, you'll then have to use the rear touchscreen in order to successfully touch it.
The responsive Vita touchscreen works like a charm with this mini-game and even the rear touch pad is very effective, although it does take a little getting used to in order to become accustomed to knowing exactly where on the touch pad you need to make contact. The fast pace of the game and having to quickly differentiate between the Little Deviants and children can make successfully navigating this mode quite tricky indeed. Think of it as a cross between Whack-a-Mole and Hogan's Alley, minus the mallet and gun.
If you're one of those who are prematurely dismissing Little Deviants as just another gimmicky mini-game collection, you're going to be missing out on one heck of a gaming experience. Not only have the developers been able to make perfect use of the system's many control functions, but they've managed to do so without it feeling the least bit tacked-on or forced . Little Deviants is hands-down the best Vita title I've played to date and the perfect experience to show off the wealth of creative control functions the Vita system has on offer.