|System: PS Vita|
|Dev: Bigbig Studios|
|Release: February 22, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: N/A|
by Shelby Reiches
Where does one begin with Little Deviants? The bulk of the game is, at this stage, still an enigma, with only a few gameplay trailers and interviews to explain the theory behind it and Bigbig Studios' execution thereof. To start at the most basic level, however, Little Deviants is a minigame collection, drawing comparisons to Ubisoft's Raving Rabbids series.
Much like the Rabbids, Deviants are often the foci and the objectives in the title's varied challenges. They come in multiple varieties with distinct aesthetics, but all of them appear to share the oversized, human-like eyes and gaping maws that straddle the line between adorable and unsettling. The games these Deviants play are designed to take full advantage of the PlayStation Vita's suite of unique features, generally eschewing the buttons for gameplay that focuses on the touchscreen and back touchpad, the microphone, the motion sensor, or the camera. In this way, again, the game draws comparisons to Raving Rabbids, which demonstrated the Wii Remote's functionality during the dawn of the motion controller. Its status as a technological experiment, however, also puts it in the company of another title: Kirby's Canvas Curse, for the Nintendo DS.
In fact, one of the four stages demoed at E3 appears to owe much to Kirby's early DS adventure. Originally known as "Hole Roll Control," players are presented with a field filled with orange, limbless Deviants and obstacles around which they must be navigated, all in the name of plunging them into a waiting vortex. One has only limited control of the Deviants themselves, relying on manipulating the environment around and beneath them to roll them to their destination. Like Super Monkey Ball, perhaps? Not quite. Rather than simply tilting the level so that gravity does its work, players must use the back touch panel to elevate the terrain beneath the Deviants, rolling them down temporary hills to give them momentum and get them to their goal. As with Canvas Curse, players are using the touch screen to create a path that rolls characters to their destinations, taking advantage of what little direct control they have over the creatures to momentarily boost them out of danger or pop them over obstacles.
Similarly, "Depth Charge" requires one to guide a Deviant through an obstacle course, though this one is generally more vertical. In it, the Deviant careens down a twisting, turning chasm on its way to defuse a ticking time bomb. Adamantly avoiding the thumb-sticks and buttons, "Depth Charge" instead uses the tilt sensor for control, allowing one to guide the tumbling Deviant left or right—even up—as the situation demands. Alas, one's relationship with the Deviants appears to be ambivalent at best, as this is the last of the demoed games in which players fully cooperate with the creatures.
In contrast, "House of Whacks" tasks one with knocking the creatures from their perches in a house's windows. Throwing a wrench into one's typical whac-a-mole experience, however, is the caveat that Deviants must be struck in the face to be knocked down and, seeing as the house has two sides, they won't always face out at the player. In such situations, one must rely on the back touch panel, tapping it on the corresponding location of the back-facing Deviant. It's a unique take on a very familiar game type, and one that seems to adequately demonstrate Bigbig's devotion to fully utilizing the capabilities of the PlayStation Vita.
As such, it's almost disappointing that the last game demoed at E3, "Botz Blast," is so comparatively mundane. By far the most traditionally "game-like" of the challenges, "Botz Blast" puts one at the trigger of a bright yellow gun, projecting the action against a feed from the Vita's camera as players use the shoulder buttons to shoot down robots that are chasing the Deviants and kidnapping children. Or are the Deviants using robot suits to kidnap children? The intent isn't wholly clear, as there is, apparently, some sort of internal disagreement within the Deviant ranks.
And that might be the strangest part of Little Deviants. It's a minigame collection with a story thread strung through it, linking the games to each other. There will be a "reason" that the Deviants must be rolled up into vortexes or guided down cavernous tunnels to defuse bombs. There's a "why" to the seemingly random assortment of tech-infused minigames. And, truly, the games are all about the Vita's tech, both with regard to gameplay and presentation, treating players to vibrant graphics with rich, primary colors.
Little Deviants is still something of an enigma. Videos have shown at least two other games, including a cross between wrestling and bowling and a Pac-Man-inspired maze game. Bigbig Studios promises thirty games in all that might, they intimate, include a Deviant singing game using the microphone. The question remains, however: Will the title's apparent whimsy and madcap action be appealing enough to sell what is, at its core, an expanded collection of tech demoes?
As the Vita's release date is still somewhat shrouded in mystery, so too is Little Deviants', though it seems likely that North American gamers will get access to the title in early 2012.
Date: January 16, 2012