We just ran through a quick tour of Playstation Vita titles, and found a range of awesome to clunky.
At the media level of its E3 booth, Sony had quite an impressive number of Vita games on display. Of course its own first-party titles took the center of attention, while the third-party section was practically ignored entirely.
So we hit up the third parties first, because we were curious to see how the companies who weren’t ingrained with the device itself were managing with the radical new controls.
What we found was a lot of them weren’t adjusting to them as well as Sony’s first-party studios were. For example, some titles wanted to have the back-touch control activated throughout the course of the game.
This requires holding the Vita in a rather uncomfortable way, such that you are never touching the majority of the back of the device the entire time, until you want to activate that control.
Based on our experience, it seems that using the touch panel on the back of the system is best used in moderation. For example, the LittleBigPlanet demo – which exemplifies how to use the Vita’s controls to their best extent – uses the back-touch only in certain puzzles. The rest of the time, you’re free to hold the system however you want. LittleBigPlanet was a great example because the very nature of the game totally encourages new and interesting controls.
And the Uncharted: Golden Abyss demo looked absolutely spectacular. It meshed the touch-screen and button controls perfectly and also used back-touch in only very sparing circumstances. Just enough to enhance the experience, not overpower it.
Some of the third-party games also had a cumbersome combination of using the front touch screen and the physical buttons, making your hands clunkily jump around to perform actions that should have just used either the touch screen or the buttons.
So, the Vita absolutely can be a great system with new, intuitive controls, but from what we saw today, only Sony has mastered that skill. For now, it looks like third parties are still trying to figure it out, but once the dust settles and developers spend more time with it, that may change.