by / March 5th, 2012 /

PlayStation Vita

OK, we’ve had our sweaty mitts on the PlayStation Vita for just over a week now, and we’re ready to give you our verdict on Sony’s latest portable gaming console.

Having spent the last seven days surfing, gaming, photographing and creating our own weird sound mixes with the PS Vita, State is pretty much impressed with Sony’s follow-up to the PSP.

At first look, the Vita looks like a slightly beefier PSP, but closer inspection reveals a whole lot more going on, the most obvious difference being the second touch-pad on the rear of the machine, which complements the five-inch touch screen at the front. Basically, some games require you to use the regular front touch-screen, as you would with a smart-phone, as well as using the touch-pad at the back, giving you a real 3D sense of movement.

The Vita also has dual analog sticks, like the regular PS3 controller, making gameplay much more immersive than that of the PSP and, when combined with touch-screen controls, allows a lot of variety in the gameplay.

One of the Vita’s big selling points is its connectivity, with WiFi only and 3G/WiFi models available, and it’s here that State believes the Vita will really carve out its market, thanks to the development of exclusive apps like ‘Party’ and ‘Near’, which allow users to instantly connect with their friends (the former through voice chat and texting, the latter to find players in your vicinity), somewhat bridging the gap between gaming and social networking. This, at least, is the theory: since State has no friends we haven’t really been able to test these Apps to their full potential. Indeed, like all new devices, the Vita will probably only show its real potential in the months to come as more users and developers come on board. The launch apps, however, prove that the potential is there for some real innovation.

The Remote Play app lets you connect to your PS3 from afar; The Maps app is just like its equivalent on smart-phones, while the Music app allows you to use the Vita as an MP3/MP4/WAV player. The Videos app allows you to download from the PS Store, which brings us neatly to the Vita’s online characteristics.

The web browser is OK, although it does seem a little ponderous, even over a super-fast WiFi connection, but the ability to download games and videos direct to the Vita is a definite bonus, which will come in very handy for travelling.

The operating system across all apps and games is pretty intuitive, and easy to navigate (you close open applications by turning the virtual page), particularly for anyone who has spent time with a smartphone.

‘But what about the games?’ we hear you ask. We’ve been working our way though the launch titles and you can expect to see reviews hitting the site on a regular basis over the coming weeks. For the moment though, we’ll let you know that we’re remarkably impressed by the quality of the graphics and sound capabilities, which are powerful enough to allow Nathan Drake, one of the heroes of the PS3, to make a very effective debut on Vita, while other launch titles (Rayman and ModNation Racers, we’re looking at you) seem to have found their perfect home on the Vita.

Our favourite thing about the Vita, however, is the Sound Loop mini-game in Welcome Park, the app designed to familiarise users with the Vita and how it works. In teaching you how to use the microphone, you tap the screen to record short loops, which you can then layer to create your own minimalist masterpieces: class.