Sing, tilt, poke and prod your Vita in ways that WILL make you look stupid in public.
When the Playstation Vita was first announced with the swiss army knife of features, everyone knew that there would be a minigame collection to show what the handheld was capable of. Just as Wario games show what Nintendo systems are capable of, Little Deviants was clearly created with the main aim of getting people used to all of the features on offer. Developed by the now closed BigBig Studios, Little Deviants seemed in principle a good idea until Sony announced Welcome Park; a free app built into the Vita’s architecture that helps users to get to grips with the features and even includes trophies. Still, being a full release, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Little Deviants is a title that has a much greater longevity and depth. While the former is certainly true, it ends up being for the wrong reasons and as for depth, the 30 minigames sounds generous on paper. That is until you realise that many of the games are simply harder variations of the same ideas, meaning variety is considerably less than one would expect from a minigame title.
To the credit of BigBig Studios, they have managed to develop a launch title that has a lot to do. While the story is instantly forgettable (the Little Deviants have to go on a quest to collect parts for their ship which was destroyed by the Botz), things do start off positively. The best feature Little Deviants has to offer is helping the player become accustomed to the rear touch pad. Perhaps the most overlooked feature of the Vita (until Tearaway at least), the rear touch pad gave me a real “rub tummy and pat head” sense of confusion while playing. Rolling Pastures (pictured right) tasks you with using the rear touch pad to morph the terrain and push your rolling Deviant to collect items, keys and avoid Botz en route to the goal. At first I felt somewhat like a child learning to walk, but the more I played the more I got used to the controls. Eventually it clicked and I was having fun.
Elsewhere there is more enjoyment to be had in the classic ball rolling/maze games. These games utilise the gyroscopic controls of the Vita and involve guiding your Deviant through mazes, collecting clocks for time and items as well as powerups. For me, these were probably the best parts of the game (I’m a sucker for tilt maze games), and while unoriginal, once you get used to the inertia the controls hold up very well. These levels are also rich with colour and are probably the only area of the game that looks current-gen. The graphics as a whole are cute and colourful but a distinct lack of detail really makes this look like a title that would be more at home on a PS2.
Other minigames fare less well. The augmented reality shooting game uses the gyro sensors as well as the camera on the Vita, which is admittedly, terrible. You have to aim the Vita while Deviants and Botz fly around your grainy, low res looking living room/work place/train and shoot down the enemies. The problem with this game is the Botz and Deviants fly all around, including above, below and behind you. Ultimately you end up confused, frantically spinning the Vita around and if you are sat down, twisting into all sorts of strange angles. For a portable device, this seems both stupid to play in public and even more stupid to behold. Further worsening things, the ultimate turkey of the package has you singing or humming in one of three different pitches as notes head down a string towards your Deviant. Not only is this silly to play and behold, the microphone (or more likely the software) is so broken when playing you end up frantically making sounds like a dying cat while trying to find a pitch the game will recognise. It really is truly terrible and the worst experience I’ve had the displeasure of suffering since Chronovolt.
Luckily, the microphone based minigame is the least prominent in Little Deviants, and I can’t help but think BigBig Studios deliberately only put it in briefly in the hope that the player would forget all about it once passed. Other minigames include a whack-a-mole style variant that uses the touch screen and rear touch pad to poke and prod Botz off of buildings, and a minigame where the Deviant is being chased by a giant mechanical whale and it’s your job to steer through a pathway using gyro controls and picking up time clocks and boosters. These again with some tightening of controls could be good in principle, but the ridiculously over sensitive (and none configurable) controls mean that even the slightest movement sends your Deviant smashing into the nearest wall and eventually to your death. This is made even more frustrating by the fact that each minigame has a scoring system, and while some games are really easy to get a gold medal (required for trophies), this particular one is so difficult to even get a silver that I had to stop and calm down to avoid shaking and breaking my Vita in a fit of rage.
And yet, my feelings overall of Little Deviants are not all negative. There is fun to be had here, and given that the game is now available for around a tenner, you could be tempted to have a look. At full price when first released this really was a disgrace (and the score reflects this), though there is still a limited amount of fun to be had. It’s just a great shame the game isn’t more polished. It also serves as a piece of history as BigBig’s last game, but unfortunately it’s more a nail in a coffin than going out with a bang. I really can’t suggest picking this one up, even though the price has come down. But if you really love minigames, and want to use all the features the Vita has, then I’d advise wait until it (probably) becomes free on PSPlus. And then at least you can look like a crazy person in front of your friends for free.