If you love independent games, then you should be giving a second look at the PS Vita. While many are wondering if the world needs a dedicated mobile gaming device, considering how advanced smartphones have become, Sony has been fighting to justify its sexy but awkward portable gaming system. However, in the last year and in the next year to come, the PS Vita has found a new compelling reason to exist. And, if this year's E3 promises come true, the PS Vita is going to a virtual utopia for indie gamers.
The PS Vita Indie Market So Far
Many of the most popular indie titles which you may have seen on Steam or GoG.com are already out on the PlayStation Network for PS Vita, PS3, and PS4. Some of them even started on PSN, and some are ONLY on PSN. I am only going to highlight a few, so for a full list go here.
This award-winning 2D "metroidvania" style game is a bit hit and has given us a great example of "the best of new and old." The game-play is both familiar and fresh, and the art is vibrant and original.
Official Site: http://guacamelee.com/
This innovative 2D platformer with fully destructible levels which are randomly generated. It has a reputation for being both addictive and infuriating. Like Guacamelee, Spelunky has that "familiar yet new" approach to visual design and game-play. Some have argued that the multiplayer feels a lot like the classic "Bomberman."
Official Site: http://spelunkyworld.com/
Terraria is Minecraft meets "metroidvania" style game-play. Many people labeled Terraria as a Minecraft "knock-off" when it first came out, and they are probably right. But Notch says he doesn't mind, and people wanting one less dimension in their crafting got their wish. The combat, epic loot, and gradual severity of foes is what makes Terraria stand out all the more as an action game, and not just a sandbox.
Official Site: http://www.terraria.org/
This endearingly cute game is a platform puzzler with retro-style pixel art. It could often feel like interactive art, if it weren't for the challenge. As your little cute fez-wearing avatar navigates a vibrant world, you have the "power" to rotate the whole environment like a cube. Even better, after rotated, you can interact with all objects as if they only exist in a 2D plane.
Official Site: http://fezgame.com/
Also, Sony Plays Well With Others
While it is well documented that Microsoft has been almost adversarial to independent developers (see Microsoft vs. Polytron), and Nintendo was a little late to the idea altogether, Sony has been creating an active, hospitable, and thriving environment for gaming entrepreneurs. Not only is the ecosystem relatively easy to enter, but Sony goes the extra step of executing a competent social media presence which promotes developers and gives them conversational access to the PlayStation fan-base.
PS Vita, Smartphone Gaming Accessories, and the Best “Other Device”
While smartphones are certainly powerful enough to simulate the console gaming experience, gamers have begun to realize that touch controls just can’t compensate for the almighty controller. While many independent developers publish on smartphone platforms, gamers often find the experience lacking compared to PC or console. To compensate for this, third-party controllers, such as the Moga, have been flooding the market.
So this comes full circle to the main criticism of mobile gaming devices: That people are only going to want to carry one device. Well, the cracks have started to form because the desire for a “full gaming experience” is now motivating gamers to carry a smartphone and a bulky gaming accessory. So if you are already thinking of pocketing a smartphone and a controller, why not a smartphone and a PS Vita?
PlayStation Plus - A Robust Mobile Gaming Experience
More than just bringing you back the comfort and enjoyment of a full controller, the PS Vita brings you the PlayStation Network. With PlayStation Plus, you can backup your games on the PSN cloud, while smartphones are notorious for taking your saved games away when you switch devices. Many games offer cross-play and cross-save with their PS3 and PS4 counterparts. Lastly, adding those achievements to your profile while playing on-the-go is a bonus to gamers wanting to rack up the trophies.
PlayStation Plus also gives away free games every month to its subscribers. Specifically, the PS Vita will be getting two free games every month starting this month. As of June 2014, when I am writing this, the free games are the previously mentioned Terraria and Mutant Mudds Deluxe, two well-loved indie games. As an added note, most indie games receive bonus content as they make the transition from PC markets to the PlayStation Network, note the “Deluxe” at the end of Mutant Mudds.
What About The Cost?
It is true, the average cost of a quality indie game on PSN is about $9.99 compared to $1.99 on smartphones. I think for many gamers, the experience is worth the cost. What good is saving money on the smartphone if you still have to use the touchscreen and don't actually enjoy playing the game? Besides, I know I personally don’t mind knowing I am supporting small developers and entrepreneurs. Also, if you have a PlayStation Plus account, your Vita fills up with games pretty quick.
Kids Enjoy, Mother's Approve: Why My Kids Prefer the PS Vita Over the Nintendo 3DS
When I got my two son's their first handheld's, it was my instinct to get the Nintendo 3DS. The Gameboy, Mario, and Zelda were big parts of my own childhood. Therefore, I figured my kids would enjoy Nintendo more than PlayStation. I was wrong.
Yes, Mario and Pokemon have been enjoyable for sure, but truth be told they would rather play Minecraft and Terraria on their computers. Even LittleBigPlanet on our PS3 got more time than any 3DS games. I had to face reality: Nintendo is living on nostalgia, and that means nothing to a new generation of gamers. Indie games aren't just fun for old-school folks like myself, their innovation makes them more desirable the new gamers as well.
E3 and an Exciting Year Ahead
This year's E3 announcements have brought an even greater promise of indie gaming awesomeness. Let’s wrap this article up by talking about some of the amazing indie games coming to the PS Vita in 2014.
OMG! OMG! OMG! I screamed like a twelve-year-old groupie when Sony announced they were bringing Tim Shaffer's legendary adventure game to PS Vita and PS4. The art, story, and atmosphere in Grim Fandango has put it on many gamers "Top 10" lists.
Official Site: http://www.doublefine.com/
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
This disturbing "rogue like" top-down action RPG is loosely based on the Old Testament story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac. In this story, Isaac's mother has gone crazy and thinks God wants her to kill him. As unsettling as this game is, the compelling art and game-play has made it a hit, and now a "deluxe" version (remember what I said earlier) is coming out for PS Vita this year.
Official Site: http://bindingofisaac.com/
Don't Starve: Giant Edition
Again with the "deluxe," or in this case: Giant Edition! Don't Starve is hard to explain. The most common description is Minecraft survival mixed with "rogue like." The Burton-esque art and ambiance make the game feel immersive.
Official Site: http://www.dontstarvegame.com/
Of course, we can't forget that Minecraft is also coming out for PS Vita later this year. Minecraft is the rock-star of the indie game world. (Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say Notch, the creator of Minecraft, is the rock-star.) Minecraft is a giant sand-box game that let's you build just about anything you can imagine as well as being a decent survival game. Many have likened it to "Digital Legos," and, if my kids have anything to say about it, it is an accurate comparison.
Official Site: http://minecraft.net/
And It Continues....
There are a LOT of indie games coming to Vita. To see even more, I have included the following links:
- 25 Upcoming PlayStation Vita Games for 2014 and Beyond
- A Ton of Indie Games Are Coming to PS4 and Vita
- Playstation goes indie – more than 100 titles lined up for PS3, PS4 and Vita
If all that hasn't convinced you to run out and buy a Vita, I can only guess you don't like indie games. But then, why did you read this far? The PS Vita has certainly become my "other device" for mobile gaming. Keep up the good work, Sony!