Little Deviants fell into a trap. The release of Sony’s new hardware has triggered an influx of games that feel compelled to overuse the PlayStation Vita’s features. Bigbig Studio’s offering is the worst example of such forced design. As one of the cheapest PS Vita launch titles, this game is proof that you pay for quality.
Like many other minigame collections, Little Deviants tries to do too much. The product fails to introduce a set of well-produced and quality challenges. This amounts to a throwaway experience that doesn’t advertise Vita’s capabilities well.
As with LittleBigPlanet, Sony tried to establish a cutesy race of characters to rival the ever-popular Sackboy. While the deviants are expressive and worthy of a quick “Awww”, they lack the personality to have lasting appeal. Instead, the chirpy first impressions soon turn to annoyance, a description that fits the entire product.
Attempts at a narrative are made, but the emphasis is very much on showcasing what Sony’s handheld can do. An army of evil “Botz” have struck, forcing the deviants into sudden action. Yes, “Botz”. If any hint is needed, this game is pitched towards the younger generation. Minors are sure to enjoy the various stages on offer, but even they will feel short-changed after a couple hours of play.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, Little Deviants forces you try out Vita’s touchscreen, rear touchpad and tilt functions. Sony are inclined to stick with safe design, a decision that dismisses any intrigue. You’ll get used to rolling pests through mazes, destroying enemies with a quick prod, and flying through constricted courses in order to evade the threat of a robotic whale. Each section throws up a number of frustrations, and never feel as if any of them were crafted with optimism. Hints litter each level, but often appear at the wrong time. Sony waits for you to make a mistake and then kills the flow of the game, producing a continuously stop-start affair.
One stage instructs you to caress the rear touchpad with a single finger tip. This manipulates the ground, pushing your character across an arena that houses extra-life, time, and even the odd weapon. Keys are your only hope of escape. Collect them and a portal provides sweet release from a combination of poor controls and terrible level design. If you’re going to succeed, a smooth, consistent motion is needed to keep your deviant away from trouble. Botz are not the main threat. Instead, hurling your Vita at the wall provides the most poignant danger.
Unfortunately, this kind of irritation is a persistent theme. The developer reveals all of its ideas far too soon and with little imagination. I’d be extremely surprised to find a player who squeezes worth out of each challenge more than once. Certain stages echo the essence of a “Whack-A-Mole” carnival stall, forcing you to poke Botz via both the touchscreen and rear touchpad. This kind of simplicity is insulting. Other levels use Vita’s tilt function in a race to the finish line. Obstacles and scenery slow you down in a section that strives to emulate Sony’s competitors.
At this point, a number of comparisons can be made. Lack of 3D makes the hazards of each location difficult to unearth, especially when you’re moving at speed. Similarly, stages that implement Augmented Reality are tiresome. Sony has included these just to highlight it can match Nintendo’s innovation, a notion that quickly dissipates. Even Apple will feel aggrieved, as Little Deviants traces over various templates for iPhone games and submits the result as something to be proud of. The copycat tactics fail every time.
“Touch, Tap and Tilt” is plastered onto the retail case. This moniker indicates what to expect, as Sony gets caught up in Vita’s potential. It would work nicely as a free gift for those who purchase the handheld, but such generosity is nowhere to be seen. Instead, Sony expects you to part with more cash for an investment that doesn’t have much to offer. Little Deviants imitates the experience of the iPhone App Store, repackaging age-old ideas into an expensive commodity. Devoid of originality and staying power, the only deviation this game provides is away from any sense of fun. Score: 40/100
Little Deviants was released for the PlayStation Vita on February 15, 2012. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of the review.