PS Vita Review – Little Deviants

Just as much as the dual analog sticks are a first for a Sony handheld, so is the tilt and touch functionality that’s been added to the PlayStation Vita. Even more unique still is the rear-touch panel. From the titles we’ve played on the Vita thus far, none utilize the features in more ways than Little Deviants, which make it a great proof of concept type of game for the Vita. But the actual game itself leaves a lot to be desired.

Little Deviants was one of the first games ever to be shown running on the PlayStation Vita, then called the NGP, and for good reason – It’s the best example of touch to on-screen reaction available using the rear touch panel. Running your finger along the back of the Vita causes the ground beneath your “Deviant” to rise, directing the rolled up alien around the level. But that’s just one mini-game of many found in Little Deviants, and just one example of how it uses the rear-touch panel.

Little Deviants is a smorgasbord of mini-games for the PlayStation Vita, more akin to what you’d find on smartphones, all in one cohesive package. Because they’re all focused on tilt and touch, none of the games have much depth, especially when compared to the more console-feeling PlayStation Vita launch line-up. And they all feel like you’ve played them before, sans the rear touch. All of them are decent, but none are all that good, either.

Mini-games range from a tilt-focused game that’s similar to those wooden labyrinth mazes where you tilt to send the ball into the hole (except you’re not finding a hole, you’re avoiding Dead ‘Uns while collecting stars and clocks), all the way to an Augmented Reality shooter. While there is a great variety here, the same ideas get recycled as you progress through the game. The difficulty increases, but more creativity would have benefited the title.

One of the more simple touch and tap mini-games has a number of structures with doors swinging open to reveal the game’s main enemies, Botz, as well as clocks to increase your time, and civilians you must avoid at all costs. The twist here is that the Botz can only be hit in the back. So depending on which way the Botz are facing, you may need to tap the rear panel or front touch screens to knock ‘em out. And with a number of these doors swinging open in rapid succession, things can get intense – and fun. Again, it’s a clever use of the Vita’s touch features, but it’s more of a side dish rather than a main course.

There’s no story here, either. Well, there is, but it’s a joke. Botz are launching a full-on attack on the Little Deviants in outer-space, when their spaceship goes down and crashes into a nearby planet. Now it’s up to Goopher, Pyrrus and the other Deviants to locate all the pieces of the ship and rebuild it. The Botz give chase, and decide to raise the dead, the Dead ‘Uns, to help take out the Deviants. The addition of the Dead ‘Uns feels out of place, and another useless attempt to try and smash and grab that Zombie affliction the public seems to have. There’s really no point in having a variety of the Deviants, either. Despite each having a different attribute (i.e. fire, ice), there’s only a glimmer of it having any effect on the gameplay.

You must collect stars and complete objectives for points, which depending on how high you score, can award you with a Bronze, Silver or Gold rocket. You need at least a Bronze to “win” each game. For each game you complete, another mini-game opens up, and eventually more themed locations become available. Completing objectives also unlock pictures for your gallery, but aside from bringing a small element of collectable-ness, it doesn’t really add anything to the game. There are also these square-headed cats you can collect called Moggers, again, adding nothing.

One thing extending the gameplay, is Near, leaderboards, and friend-to-friend challenges. Say your friend has a higher score than you – you can contest his or her score, almost rubbing it in their face if you top them. You can also razz them with your higher score than theirs, by sending them a challenge, encouraging them to take a crack at beating you. You can also leave gifts for PSN friends with Near. These points are probably the few things that could possibly extend your enjoyment of Little Deviants. Otherwise, once you’ve seen it all, you are unlikely to go back. Sure there are Gold rockets to get, but the points needed to achieve them feel out of reach unless you spend hours practicing – but the mini-games aren’t really that good where the time necessary to hone your skills is justified.

Little Deviants is a good game, or rather, a collection of mini-games ranging from meh to great, averaging out as just “good”. They’re all built to show off the Vita’s unique feature-set, and in that respect, it’s a success. But the lack of depth and overall variety and longevity make Little Deviants feel more like a $9.99 PSN title over a retail title. Sony should have realized this, and made this a pack-in with every Vita system sold to increase the value of both the game and the system, and it would serve well to show off the Vita’s functionality. But as a retail title, the value just isn’t there for $39.99.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Good variety of mini-games…

+ …that utilize the Vita’s tilt and touch features very well…

– …but ultimately lack the depth needed for a retail title.

5.5 out of 10