Gaze upon the launch spread of PS Vita — WipEout 2048, Uncharted: Golden Abyss and those cheeky Little Deviants to name but a few — and it’s easy to overlook the system’s in-built software. Stop salivating over Nathan Drake for ten seconds, though, and flicking around Vita’s bubbly operating system uncovers a pile of free tutorial-tastic mini-games in Welcome Park.
The games found here are designed to introduce Vita owners to their new system’s various control inputs, and as such they weigh in at the simple end of the gameplay spectrum. Touch surfaces, microphones and cameras are all there to be exploited in this collection of technology demonstrations.
Digit Chase is the most immediately substantial, testing players’ reflexes and counting abilities. A first section displays several large circles that must be pressed in order from lowest to highest number as quickly as possible. Though this starts with single presses, soon double taps are required to pop the orbs away, before Vita shows off its multi-touch capabilities by displaying the same numeral twice in different parts of the play surface: both need to be hit at the exact same time to get rid.
That’s not all, though. A new stage again asks for numbers to be tackled in ascending order, but this time it’s by spinning a circle of tempting post-it notes around with flicks before peeling off the offending paper. Handily this correlates directly with the unsticking mechanic found as part of Vita’s core OS, used to reveal icons and applications. As do the first stage’s spheres with the home arena’s icon array...
Finally, Digit Chase ends with a test involving the back touch pad. Here paint-like balls are launched up through numbered hoops with touches on the left or right of Vita’s rear end; once more, the numerals need to be wiped out smallest to largest. After a couple of easy goes the numbers split out over both piles so that one or two taps no longer suffice. While extremely simple, Digit Chase has some replay value in the fact that it’s timed. That’s actually the case with each part of Welcome Park, and returns are encouraged by those ever-desirable trophies yearning to be earned. Scores can be exchanged via near too.
Snap + Slide is the first of two camera widgets. The front- or rear-facing camera is used to capture an image which is then converted into a slide puzzle. Your image can be split into seven, eight, 14 or 15 pieces to play around with. The second camera game, Hello Face, features a friendly chap who wants to see pictures of face-like things in the real world. Recognition is a bit hit or miss: an image of a woman in a newspaper was firmly ignored, whereas it was more than happy to animate eyes and a mouth onto a paragraph of text.
The media inputs continue in Sound Loop, an interesting little sequencer aside. Vita will pick up any surrounding noise through its microphone for as long as a finger is held down on the touch screen. Multiple sounds can be stored, each separate recording sorted under its own buzzing bauble, and are then played back in a loop alongside some backing music. Said back-beats can be swapped out for different styles at any point. Perhaps there’s room to make something good here, but it was difficult to tell with the raves and rabbles of the PS Vita Rooms.
Welcome Park's message about Vita’s inputs is clear: the console's got a bunch of them, and they all work.
Skate Axis is the most traditional game in the package, taking advantage of motion to control a skateboarding little chap’s quest to dodge gigantic bouncing marbles. With each obstacle avoided come more points — creeping on under the balls with cynical slow left and right movements builds up the total slowly, but hopping over dangers by tilting Vita forwards or backwards quickly is the real money maker. Snatching up stars is also an ideal way to increase the bounty. The game continues, EyePet-esque music building alongside the score, until the protagonist is unceremoniously squashed. There’s loads of replay value in this one as an arcade-like score ‘em up.
Welcome Park's message about Vita’s inputs is clear: the console's got a bunch of them, and they all work. Not all of its sections are hugely exciting — the camera antics particularly lag behind the rest — though with an emphasis on scores or times, plus the linking of near and Trophies, Welcome Park should prove to be a reasonable diversion on launch day. Can’t complain too much: it’s free after all.