Little Deviants review for PS Vita

Platform: PS Vita
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Big Big Studios
Medium: Vita Card / Digital Download
Players: 1
Online: Leaderboards
ESRB: E10+

When Sony first showed off the Vita (then known as the NGP) in Japan over a year ago, one of the first demos shown to the press was Little Deviants. The game is a good showcase of the system?s various input mechanics so it makes sense to include it with the Vita (at least for those who purchased the First Edition Bundle). The majority of gamers purchasing a system won?t get this game bundled in; instead having to shell out $30 if they want to own it. While the game does have some endearing qualities, the package as a whole leaves much to be desired.

The game opens up with a short cinematic showing the Little Deviants? space ship being attacked and crash landing on a planet. You must help them navigate the different chunks of planet by completing a set of mini-games. Each game has its own set of rules and controls, and most can be played in a very short time (under 5 minutes). In theory this game should be a perfect portable experience, but it falls short in execution, and charm, especially when compared to a game like Warioware on the DS or Game Boy Advance. You?ll be using every input method available on the Vita, both the front and rear touch screens, the camera, and the gyros & 6-axis. Therein lies part of the problem – for a game that?s designed to played in short spurts on the go, who wants to be seen in public moving around erratically?

There?s a bevy of mini-games to play and some are definitely better than others. I?ll cover a few of the beginning stages as to not spoil the later parts of the game. The first 2 modes you have access to are Botz Invasion and Rolling Pastures. For those who own a 3DS, Botz Invasion is identical to Face Raiders. You must shoot the enemies using the L and R buttons while moving the Vita around left, right, up and down using the gyro sensors. I found playing this game was easiest standing up since I could turn quicker to blast the foes. As you beat waves of enemies they become faster and more of them try to kidnap the surrounding Little Deviants. Overall the experience is shallow and boring. Don?t expect to spend much time playing this one.

Rolling Pastures is the demo that was shown to the press over a year ago. Here you roll your Deviant around by morphing the environment with your finger on the back touch screen. Pressing the screen makes the land pop up and your Deviant will roll in the opposite direction. The goal is to find the key to activate the exit portal and then make it to the exit alive. Along the way are stars scattered about that give you points, plus a sweet bonus if you collect all of them on a single level. These levels have robot enemies that will slowly follow you and try to zap you with their electric beams. There are obstacles placed strategically around the level to encumber your progress. Many levels will have a heart to regain some of your health bar if you?ve been unlucky enough to suffer damage. This mini-game is actually pretty entertaining to play, although the controls definitely take some getting used to.

Shack Shover was my first experience with this game at E3 last year. This simple game has you trying to push the enemies out of a house. There are several windows that are covered up with shutters. Some will randomly open revealing who is standing in the window. Your goal is to tap the back of the baddies to eradicate the house of them. The thing is, you must tap their backs, so you have to pay attention to which way they are facing. Sometimes you?ll have to use the back touch screen and other times the front. You only have a few seconds to tap them before the shutter closes and you move on to the next wave. To make things more complex, you must avoid tapping the Little Deviants or friendly characters that can appear behind some of the shutters. As you progress in this game the shutters open and close quicker and it becomes very chaotic and challenging. Ironically, the biggest challenge in this game might be to hold on to your Vita. The large screen and back touch areas make it somewhat difficult to hit some of the windows, especially the ones located at the center of the back touch screen. My hands looked like claws trying to play this game and I can imagine those with smaller hands or children will have a tough time holding onto the Vita while trying to quickly tap some of the baddies.

Probably my favorite game of the bunch is called Rotten Rumble. Here your Little Deviant is rolled up into a ball in a wrestling ring. The monsters will jump into the ring and you have to take them out by flinging your Deviant at them. To do this, you put your thumb on the front screen and your index finger on the back screen to pinch the ropes on the wrestling ring and pull them back like a rubber band. You can adjust your angle and strength naturally before you let go and your Deviant rolls around the ring, bowling the enemies over. In addition, stars will appear at random spots that you?ll want to collect to earn bonus points. As you progress there will be tougher enemies, and those with special powers to try and take you down. I liked this mode because not only is it simple and fun, but it uses the system?s screens in a very unique and entertaining way.

I barely scratched the surface of the various mini-games included in Little Deviants. The odds that you?ll find at least a couple of them entertaining are pretty good, but I think there?s an equal chance that you?ll play some once and never want to go back to them. The game suffices as a tech demo that shows off what your Vita can do in the realm of touch screens and gyros. Instead of being wild and wacky like the Warioware games, Little Deviants takes a more pedestrian approach, which comes off like a rather generic iPhone game. This game would have been a great pack-in as a freebie or a download. There?s simply not enough good content here to recommend a purchase at $30. You?d be much better off putting that money toward Uncharted, Wipeout, Hot Shots Golf, or Super Stardust Delta. Buy with caution.

Grade: C-