Game Room: February Roundup

PS VITA
Photo: Sony

PS VITA

Manufacturer: Sony

Sony's biggest hardware release since the PS3 is finally on shelves at your local electronics store. One look at the screen and it is love at first site. The huge -- by portable gaming device standards -- five inch display pops dramatically. The absolutely dazzling graphics owe their brightness and sharp contrasts to OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display technology. No other handheld screen produces graphics this clean, and compared to Nintendo's DS and 3DS it's worlds better.

Touch screens are pretty standard these days, so the Vita took it a step further by adding a rear touch pad. You can now influence the action by swiping either side of the handheld. For example you're encouraged to aim your shots in FIFA Soccer by poking the rear touch pad, and in Little Deviants the rear touch pad alters the landscape to move your character around. It takes a little getting used to, but after a little exposure the rear touch functionality becomes both useful and natural. The launch titles vary in how often they take advantage of this functionality, but once developers get more time with the Vita, the sky is the limit for how this will impact control schemes.

In addition to being the first handheld with rear touch capability, the Vita is also the first portable device to boast dual analog control sticks. This is huge for gamers who crave the type of nuanced control they enjoy at home, and a point of differentiation from touch-only devices like the iPad. The two tiny toggles are springy and reactive, precisely recreating the feel of standard video game controllers. The only concern here is whether or not the protruding sticks will be sturdy enough to withstand the type of abuse most portable gaming devices suffer when they're tossed into backpacks or luggage on the road. No doubt there will soon be tons of custom cases to protect your Vita, and you're going to want one.

Vita review continued...

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