Transferring a much-loved gaming icon to a new platform can be a risky business: if the new game doesn’t live up to expectations, you can place the entire franchise in jeopardy. Perhaps the biggest compliment that can be paid to Sony’s new handheld Vita, then, is that Nathan Drake’s latest adventure feels like a proper Uncharted game, with all the twists, turns and terrible quips that you’d expect from gaming’s answer to Indiana Jones.
Set before the events of the original Uncharted, Golden Abyss begins with Nate on the run from an army of heavily armed Central American guerrillas, led by his one-time ally Jason Dante. Once the preliminaries are out of the way – helping newbies to familiarise themselves with the controls, which are pretty similar to those of the PS3, thanks to the dual analog sticks – we’re flashed back to a time just weeks before, when Drake and Dante were friends, happily traversing jungles in a bid to uncover the treasures of the Kuna, the ancient indigenous people of the region. It’s not long, however, before we’re trying to solve the mystery of centuries-dead conquistadors, trading insults with ‘El Generale’ Guerro and discovering clues about an ancient, outlawed sect. Of course, it wouldn’t be Uncharted without a love interest, this time in the shape of Marisa Chase, another supposed amigo of Dante’s, whose father disappeared without a trace from the same dig site our heroes are sneaking around.
The gameplay is the usual mixture of combat and puzzle solving, with the touch-screen integrated into the regular control system, whether you’re dusting off archaeological finds, tracing charcoal drawings of important symbols or going knuckle-to-knuckle to the bad guys. Thankfully, the mixture of analog and touch-screen controls works reasonably seamlessly, when it could have felt clunky.
The graphics throughout are gorgeous, to the point where some of the stunning scenery wouldn’t seem out of place on a bigger console, and the voice acting is similarly impressive. The plot, while not the most original in the series to date, is diverting enough to keep you climbing and shooting your way to the next chapter. Unfortunately, there is no online play, but that’s about the only negative for Golden Abyss, a game which should prove to be the Vita’s classy calling card.