I was very excited to test out some of the promising new games for the PlayStation Vita. In this post I’ll take a look at Namco Bandai’s Touch My Katamari and Zipper Interactive’s Unit 13. Matt Blum has already written a comprehensive review of the new portable system.
The multi-tasking abilities of the PS Vita make it easy to play any game, even update game data, and go back to Settings with the punch of the PS Home button, and a flick of your finger to “turn down” the game screen, and another swipe of the finger to change to another home screen of applications or media.
Touch My Katamari is an amusing game that is designed for kids 10 and over, but will no doubt appeal to adults as well. Touch My Katamari is the heir to a series that started on the PS2 platform in 2004. The storyline is still the same. A character that appears like a cousin of the Android man with a cork sized head has to gather up in a rolling motion as many objects as possible within a set time limit, so that at the end of each level the King of All Cosmos can turn your gigantic tangle of bits and pieces into a shining star. You start with a small clump and gradually pick up more and more pieces of random things. I found it sort of relaxing in a weird sort of way, watching the little green man with titanic strength, pushing his enormous ball of flotsam and jetsam around.
As the name of the title suggests, you are able to move the katamari ball with your fingers. The touch controls took a little getting used to in the beginning. I took advantage of the excellent new innovation with which Sony equipped the PS Vita: dual analog sticks. Controlling the katamari ball was much easier with the dual analog sticks, as slick as a console controller. And there is another novel ability with this latest PS Vita version. Using the front or back-touch controls, you can pull and flatten your katamari ball, morphing it into a rolling pin shape to pick up a larger swath of junk. The loading screen is interactive, which in this case means that you can move the katamari ball around and change its size as you wait for the next level.
Finally, Touch My Katamari truly showcases the magnificent color display of the Vita. Its 960×544 resolution has approximately sixteen million colors. Mind, the brilliant clearness of the colors has as much to do with the Active Matrix OLED 16:9 display. The AMOLED of the PS Vita allows a higher resolution on a larger screen. OLEDs use electro-luminescent organic compounds. They enable a greater artificial contrast ratio, meaning the ratio of the luminance of the white to black. There is a much wider viewing angle because OLED pixels directly emit light. In fact, OLED pixel colors appear correct and un-shifted, even as your viewing angle approaches ninety degrees from a normal view angle.
The second game that I tested was Zipper Interactive’s third person mission shooter, Unit 13. This is the company that brought us SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs on the PS2. My hope, in starting to play the game, was that this was a better game experience than SOCOM 4 on the PS3.
Unit 13 game-play centers around forty five missions that you can select from the main menu. You select and launch your missions via touch, a nod towards the Vita’s acute capacitive screen. The main interface is a tiled menu listing details of your operation of choice, which are fully customizable. At a glance, you are briefed on your mission’s tactical description: speed, stealth or “pwn all that moves,” and each mission has different win-loss scenarios. You can choose dynamic mission objectives, which generate random objectives each time you play a level, an exciting component that adds some unpredictable excitement in retrying a level the next time. The user interface is perfect for the Playstation Vita in its informational brevity. With military precision, you’re briefed on the length, difficulty and type of mission so you can choose a covert operation that you can manage in your own timeline. As you play, you can acquire more powerful weapons by grabbing them from dead opponents. You also unlock more powerful guns and better accessories for your weapon as you progress to higher levels in the game.
The gameplay is well designed, and the brilliant color display of the game’s environment make Unit 13 a richly immersive experience. You seamlessly reload your weapon and make use of items you find via the Playstation Vita’s touch controls. The developers have made every effort to make this game a console-like experience. The dual analog stick controls feel natural as they guide your operative’s vertical and horizontal movements on the screen. Meleeing, aiming down the sights, and switching weapons are easily fused with the Vita’s button controls, already imprinted on the game-psyche of Playstation gamers everywhere.
The AI in the game is not programmed with tremendously reactive movements, and there are only limited maps on which to play your missions. Perhaps there are map packs that will be available for future download, as more of such DLC content would add more variety to an already entertaining portable gaming experience. But, these are minor complaints about a game that deserves applause as the first shooter for the Playstation Vita.
Finally, one great feature is the online coop play, which requires an online pass (included with the game) and a PSN account. Partially because of the relative newness of the PS Vita, online coop games were few, but I managed to join a few. The party chat launched straight away, and in one game I found myself coordinating an attack on a warehouse guarded by terrorists with two fellows from southeastern China. We were all new to the game, but we managed to get through the first level as a team.
Touch My Katamari was part of the original launch lineup for the PS Vita. I highly recommend it as a very fun gaming experience with familiarly amusing game-play and a beautiful color palate. Unit 13 is a must-have for those wishing to test the waters of the Playstation Vita shooter experience. Once you try these games, you’ll be hooked on both games for the wondrous color display and the intense, amusing game-play. If this is a taste of what’s to come down the road for the PS Vita, I’m in it for the long haul.
Disclaimer: GeekDad was provided with a PlayStation Vita review unit and copies of the two games.