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Little Deviants Review: Raving Rabbids meets the Tango man

A game to play with rose-tinted launch goggles firmly on your face

With the launch of every new platform comes a novel application that justifies your excessive purchase as instantly as it gets discarded in your sock drawer. For the PS2 it was mind-blowing (for a few seconds) firework puzzler FantaVision. The 3DS had Face Raiders. And the PS Vita has Little Deviants.

It uses everything you bought a PS Vita for: touch controls both rear and near, augmented reality, and internal gyro. The pin-sharp OLED screen is put to an early test too, giving clarity and colourful appeal to the demented Deviants (think the disembodied heads of Rayman's Rabbids but coloured orange and with the ears lopped off), electrically charged Botz and square-noggined Whomans. Make no mistake, these are some good-looking throwaway mini-games.

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It's got easy charm, stylised to the hilt and ridiculously simple to play. Essentially a compilation of bite-sized games, the story constantly throws a fist full of fresh mechanics at you. Score the bare minimum to scrape through and you'll unlock the next one. Trouble is, they're as easy to pick up as they are to put down. There's real variety here, but it's shallow stuff - a kid's bag of Revels compared to Wii Sports' adult funbag.

DEVIANT ART

These are games designed for quick bursts of play, or to show your mate who has no inclination or interest in gaming. Of course, they're as polished as you'd expect from a Sony-published launch title aiming to show why the PS Vita is this season's must-have. And, to be fair, some do manage it.

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Rotten Rumble, for instance, is a delight, and no better demonstration of the rear touch panel. You control your Deviant in a boxing ring, pinching the screen from the back and front and launching him as from a slingshot. It's completely intuitive. It's the same with Rolling Pastures. You'll use rear touch to manipulate the soft, felt fields, rolling your round Deviant to the goal like an inverted Super Monkey Ball.

These two games are the standout. They don't feel like using videogame controls to manipulate onscreen action; they feel like you're literally applying real world mechanics to affect a convincing outcome. Rotten Rumble convinces your PS Vita has elastic properties. Rolling Pastures fools your fingers the back of the PS Vita is soft cloth you can poke through. Once they've played their hand, though, there's less inclination to go back.

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Other mini games aren't as unique and fail to take advantage of the Vita's new and novel features. Botz Invasion has you cribbing the 3DS' best trick, using the rear camera to populate your play area with flying robots to shoot. They'll orbit your head, making 360 degrees of movement (and a swivel chair) a must. You shoot with the triggers, can freeze everything on screen with a smart bomb, and fire homing rockets, all to protect your Deviants who fly in amongst the robo-throng and laugh manically. It's a better version of argumented reality, nicer looking and with more foes on screen. But, ultimately, just that: a version.

SUMMER OF SHOVE

Shack Shover asks you to get your thumbs dirty, prodding pop-up Botz in their backs or fronts with either the touchscreen or touchpad like a pokey shooting gallery. Points are deducted for knocking a Deviant or Whoman off their perch (they'll make life hard by inexplicably dressing as Botz and doing 'the robot'). Straightforward enough, but incredibly limited and increasingly dull.

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But at least Shack Shover utilizes a unique aspect of the PS Vita to give a Sony spin on a concept. Other mini-games shoehorn gimmicks that could have controlled easier and better without them. Death Speeder is a top-down escape from the jaws of a robot whale. Tilt the PS Vita to dodge buzzsaws and trees, dash with the right trigger to beat crushing boulders, and press start to quit and play something else.

Something else like Cloud Rush, where you look down into the screen and direct your sky-diving Deviant through rings. Or Corridor Calamity, where you angle your handheld to roll your Deviant through a Botz-filled maze. The problem is, these concepts have not only been done to death already on any Flash browser you care to mention - but they've been done better because they didn't have to use Little Deviants' control scheme.

The verdict

Well-meaning and well-executed to a point, but it swims at the shallow end of the pool. Little Deviants is a game to play with rose-tinted launch goggles firmly on your face

  • Takes advantage of the Vita's new control schemes
  • A real mix of mini-games
  • As hit-and-miss as a BBC1 sketch show
  • Nothing to come back to after the initial 'Wow!'
  • Recycled concepts aren't improved with Vita controls
6.3

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