The new PlayStation Vita is a desirable device to a wide demographic of hardcore gamers, and young kids are just as dazzled by new technology as adults are. The software response to this is Little Deviants, meant to appeal to those younger gamers while also putting all of the system’s new capabilities front and center. If that makes it sound like a tech demo…well, that’s because it pretty much is.
It seems that the developers of Little Deviants were tasked with creating a game that demonstrates everything new about the Vita, and the way they went about accomplishing that is via a minigame compilation. There’s a light story behind the format: the titular Deviants were being chased through space by the evil Botz until they crash-landed on a planet of little square people. You need new parts to restore their crashed ship, and to earn one new part you must beat one of the thirty minigames.
The gameplay mechanics in Little Deviants are highly varied, but many great ideas are often marred by sloppy execution. The most glaring examples are the minigames that require the rear touchpad. Some levels task you with rolling a spherical Deviant by deforming the ground underneath him, and it’s super-cool when you try it for the very first time. Soon, though, you realize how inexact it is, and profanity starts to fly as you try to round a corner without hitting an enemy or electrified gate.
Games that require you to “pinch” the Vita and use both touch inputs at once are the very worst, though — at best, they’re unresponsive, and at worst the game just does whatever it wants, your intentions be damned. Manic Melter, one of the very last minigames, had me ready to fling my Vita at the wall before I remembered that I wasn’t holding a DualShock. You move your two fingers in opposite directions, as if snapping your fingers, to move a turntable. I’m still not sure which way to rub your fingers to turn it clockwise, because it would move in either direction, and sometimes not at all. If your kid plays that minigame and tells you that the game is broken…it is.
There are a few games that offer some legitimate fun, though, and they’re definitely worth pointing out. There are a few augmented reality shooter levels where you protect Deviants from attacking Botz, and children should have fun shooting them down with their room as a backdrop. A lot of personal movement is involved in these games, though, so they’re not well-suited for play in a car. Motion control is responsive throughout the entirety of Little Deviants, and all of the minigames that used it were consistently the most entertaining.
You’re encouraged to achieve silver- and gold-level high scores to unlock gallery items, but the process is exhaustive and requires expert play. Even achieving a bronze-level score to unlock the next level can be difficult, either because the tedium of playing an OK-at-best game for 7 minutes grates you or because the controls are often hit-or-miss. I don’t know who the developers thought would be capable of achieving a gold score in any of the games, but that person doesn’t exist outside of the former Bigbig Studios.
I’m mostly disappointed by Little Deviants because a lot of care was obviously put into it. The character designs are charmingly goofy, the music is catchy (although abrasive if you have to hear it loop over and over and over…), and each minigame is backed by a fun idea for using the Vita’s tech. It’s the inability to follow-through on these ideas that muddies the experience, and many of the minigames end up falling flat on their face.
Your kid might enjoy Little Deviants more than you would, but not by much.
FINAL GRADE: D