February 23, 2012 1:00 AM | John Polson
The PlayStation Vita launches today in both wifi and 3G models in the US and EU territories. Digital titles Super Stardust Delta, Escape Plan, and Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack!!! have hit the US PlayStation Network, and Frobisher Says is a free preorder incentive to those in Europe.
Independent studio Housemarque brings Super Stardust Delta, a spherical arena shooter that uses the dual analog sticks to handle the core mechanics. It also makes use of Vita's touchscreen to create black holes and fire missiles and tilt mechanics to view what's on the other side of the planet. The action looks pretty frantic and fun below:
Fun Bits Interactive (whose producers worked on Fat Princess) made touch-intensive puzzle platformer Escape Plan for the Vita. Players swipe, squeeze, poke, slap, and tilt to manipulate the characters and interact with the environments. Escape Plan also has pretty slick gray-scale visuals:
The final US indie launch title is DrinkBox Studio's Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack!!!, a follow-up to its 2011 PSN puzzle platformer About a Blob. The charming retro sci-fi '50s vibe is felt throughout the trailer. The music, visuals, and 2D platforming seem all to be rock solid in this title, too. Finally there's a load of indie puns plastered in the game (And Yet it Moos!).
I took to Metacritic to see how these indie titles fared against their AAA counterparts. The currently EU-only Frobisher Says hadn't been reviewed yet. In the developer's defense, Honeyslug only got review codes to email IndieGames (and I assume the rest of the press) two days ago. However, Pocket Gamer gave it a generally favorable preview.
DrinkBox Studios' Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack!!!, the only independently published PSN title, was reviewed the least of all US launch titles with 4 times (edit: and a 90/100 from Vox Games). However, it currently has a high 87/100 average. Super Stardust Delta had 10 reviews and averages 83/100, and Escape Plan had 8 reviews and a 76/100 average.
To give an idea of how many reviews exist for the AAA titles, Uncharted: Golden Abyss has 50 reviews and averages at 80/100. Modnation Racers had 28 reviews and an average of 62/100. Little Deviants, the title Sony chose to bundle with the PS Vita's First Edition pack, averages out at 58/100 from 37 reviews. Sony later gave away the stronger Super Stardust Delta to pre-purchasers of the $299 3G-model.
Currently, the indie titles have a review average of 81.3/100 collectively, whereas the AAA titles bring up the rear with 70.2/100.
Not only do indies average better overall, they so far avoid lower-tiered review scores individually:
games reviewed below 80/100:
80% of AAA launch titles and 33% of indie launch titles
games reviewed below 70/100:
45% of AAA launch titles and 0% of indie launch titles
games reviewed below 60/100:
30% of AAA launch titles and 0% of indie launch titles
In Leigh Alexander's intriguing opinion piece on Gamasutra, she asks if the Vita casts too wide a net. In the case of Sony's $50 million marketing strategy, I hope Sony figures out how to cast a wider "net" with all that money to get its hardware and indie software in the right hands to review. Promoting and ensuring a strong digital library (filled with indie and AAA games) may help make the Vita more relevant as it competes for portable gamers' time and money.