Are you ready for these jellies?
The handheld market has changed since last generation. It was once a simple David and Goliath showdown, seeing the DS’s unique input and display possibilities pitted against the superior graphical and technical capabilities of Sony’s device (and we know how both of those battles worked out). This time around both parties have taken enough inspiration from the other to muddy the field. Not only are Nintendo focussing on visuals as a selling point for the first time since the N64, but 3D visuals – Sony’s turf. Meanwhile, the Vita is crashing the unique input party, one-upping the DS’s touch-screen with an unprecedented ‘back touch’ capability. With Apple also joining the field, however, this two horse race threatens to be overtaken by a challenger few thought was competing and the usual tit-for-tat rivalry is largely irrelevant. Ultimately, the handheld market is in flux, and where we once saw PSP games that targeted DS gamers and vice versa, we can expect to now see the influence of short-burst iOS titles having its way with them both.
Enter Little Deviants – a primary-coloured cavalcade of those simple, tap and trajectory-based experiences that litter the App Store charts. Obviously, the grand tradition of the mini-game collection is far from being a recent invention, but after witnessing 7 of the 30 different gameplay modes Little Deviants will be offering it’s not a stretch to see where Sony are hoping these critters will take their audience base. Clearly, developers Bigbig have their sights set on the casual market – and they’re sending in their little guns.
Screaming ‘Angry Birds’ until Bigbig give up and go home would be an unreasonable reaction, not least because Little Deviants is apparently tailor-made for a Vita experience ‘impossible on any other system’. Utilising the console’s numerous inputs, the mini-games see motion control used to navigate mazes in the Pacman-esque ‘Depth Charger’ or caves in an unnamed gliding game; the camera involved in Face Raiders-style augmented reality shooter ‘Botz Blast’; microphone capabilities in an unspecified sing-along game; the analogue stick in a Fling Smash wrestling game; and front and back touch-pads being used in both deforming terrain in the Super Monkey Ball experience of ‘Hole Roll Control’ and the whack-a-mole antics of ‘House of Whacks’.
Clearly, what the game lacks in originality it makes up for in scope of experiences. Populating all 30 of these individual mini-games will be the Deviants themselves. Shrouded in mystery, what is known about these brightly-coloured gelatinous characters is that they are aliens who to have some interested in the children of Earth (judging by Botz Blast seeing you shoot down UFOs laden with kidnapped tots and House of Whacks’ shooting gallery of Deviants and innocent children – who are, somewhat confusingly, often dressed as Deviants). They come in 5 varieties, each with differing properties; ‘Pyrus’ is ofcourse on fire, ‘Goopher’ is the orange one and appears to roll.
Given his early naming and prominence, Goopher may well be some kind of protagonist (a possible Gizmo-like hero against his mischievous brethren?) Despite the few details currently available there will, in fact, be a clear storyline tying together the disparate mini-games. The mini-games see you both fighting and playing as Deviants (with what appear to be zombie children in the wrestling mode), suggesting these five could be the rebel heroes against a less-cute invasion force. Whatever the story, Bigbig – whose previous work includes PSP-exclusives, Pursuit Force and MotorStorm: Arctic Edge – say the character and narrative being put in to Little Deviants is indicative of Sony’s desire for the game to spawn a new IP on the handheld.
Besides strong talk from Sony that Little Deviants represents a development on the AR experiences seen in EyePet and Invizimals, there is undeniably some outside influence originating from the AR games on the 3DS and iPhone. What will be the difficulty here is that the former packages these experiences with the console, while the latter sells them for a negligible fee, whereas all signs point to Little Deviants becoming a full-price release. From what is being shown it’s difficult to doubt that the finished game will have the content to warrant consumers’ money – the only question is whether the steady drip-feed of App Store games have conditioned them against large upfront prices. One only has to look to the release of the 3DS to prove that customers will buy sub-par release titles to justify their console purchase, so perhaps Little Deviants stands a chance. At the very least, based on current evidence it must prove a worthier investment than Steel Diver.