Golden Abyss for the PlayStation Vita, developer Bend Studio's contribution to the Uncharted franchise, has pretty much everything you'd expect from the series: platforming; guy-punching; and plenty of lovable snark from platforming, guy-punching hero Nathan Drake.
It is, however, missing one major component of the console releases, an element so deeply engrained in the series that when I see it in other games, I immediately think, "That's what they do in Uncharted." Naughty Dog wasn't the first developer to include this feature, and it won't be the last, but its absence in Golden Abyss is so jarring that I actually notice that I'm not doing it.
What is this glaring omission? Bullshit item collecting.
If I have one problem with Uncharted as a whole, it's that the collectibles feel like a side-job wholly unrelated to anything else I'm doing. I'll be wandering through a temple trying to figure out how to get up to a ledge when something shiny catches my eye. So, I stop what I'm doing, go stand on the thing, and press the Triangle button, and Drake will pick up a figurine or a plate or something.
"Yes," I'll say. "That is definitely a plate or something." And then I'll forget about it because it doesn't mean anything.
OK, maybe it's not completely meaningless; if you pick up enough plates or whatevers, the game will award you with a Trophy. And while that does carry some weight for crazy completionists like myself — although maybe not as much weight as Drake must surely be lugging around by the time he picks them all up — even I can admit that it's shallow and pointless.
The problem with these collectibles is that they break immersion, casting Drake as a cousin to the raccoon: an obsessive scavenger with a fascination for anything that catches the light just so. Also, I'm pretty sure the museums in the second and third games had plates and shit lying around, which means that Drake is also a goddamned thief.
Golden Abyss solves this problem with folders.
See those photos, charcoal rubbings, and that ancient cricket bat? Every one of those is something Drake picks up. Some of them are shiny, sure, but picking one up opens a screen like this, which shows you how close you are to completing the set. And completing the set will tell you something about the area you're exploring or the mysteries Drake is trying to uncover.
And, yes, it also gets you a Trophy, but that's not really my point right now.
The collectibles go together; this mask goes with this shrine goes with that urn. It's a painfully simple change, but that little bit of context lends more weight to these items than a line on a menu that says something like, "15 out of 62 useless fucking doodads."
I picked up the "treasures" in the first three Uncharted games because they were there. I'm picking up the things in Golden Abyss because I want to. I can't believe it took four games for this to happen.
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