I was prepared to dislike Little Deviants when tasked to review it. Packed in as part of the bundle for those that pre-ordered the Vita Early Edition, this game has seen its share of criticism and has been likened to nothing more than a tech demo for the Vita hardware. But you know what? I like it. And I’m here to tell you why.
I can understand why people call Little Deviants a tech demo. While it is wrapped up in a cute little package that will appeal to many, and there is no doubt that the game does make use of all of the features that the Vita brings to the table and that seems to be what people are focusing on. Rear touchpad support? Check. Camera/augmented reality? Check. Motion control? Check. It’s all here. At its worst, Little Deviants is simply a collection of mini-games, but its best, it is a set of new experiences when it comes to handheld gaming.
I’ve never been the biggest fan of motion control. I drank the Wii Kool-Aid, I see the potential in motion control for fitness and dance games, but too much of the motion control in games today seems forced and more of a novelty than a core gameplay experience. You are probably wondering what in the hell does motion control have to do with a Little Deviants review? Well, I liken my time with Little Deviants the same as my introduction to motion control in that I’ve been introduced to a new way to enjoy video games.
There is a story in Little Deviants, which is based around cute little alien creatures trying to reassemble their spaceship after being shot down by a race of evil robots. Little Deviants is simple a collection of 30 mini-games and completing each nabs you one part of the ship. Each mini game is scored on a medal system and you have to get at least a bronze in the mini-game you are playing in order to get a piece of your ship. You also unlock new mini games. Getting silver and gold medals earns you other rewards such as concept art and collectibles. The skill level required ramps up nicely as the learning curve is good. It might take you a few tries to get a bronze score after you learn the dynamic of each mini-game type and its controls. Gold scores won’t come easy though. If you are a completionist you are going to have to spend some time repeating each mini-game to get those gold medals. There is no online multiplayer to speak of, but Little Deviants does use a network connection to compare your scores against those of your friends via leaderboards.
Some of the mini-games and subsequent controls were real highlights for me. I know there’s plenty of “augmented reality” games already out there that use cameras on such devices as the iPad, smartphones, and the 3DS, but this is the first time I’ve played a game that used it. Seeing bad guys fly around my kitchen trying to abduct the Deviants was pretty cool in its own right. Quickly, I found myself having to physically get up out of my chair and look around the room as I searched for bad guys to shoot. My immediate thought was, “this is motion control” as I wasn’t just simply waggling a remote around or flailing in front of a camera. One of the more unique features of the Vita is the rear touchscreen that’s the same size as the front screen. While this presents several ideas of how it could be used it also presents a challenge in how the Vita is physically held. One example of the use of the rear touchscreen is a mini-game where you are tasked with having to move a Deviant around a map Marble Madness style. Instead of using the tilt function, you move your Deviant around the screen by pushing up into the rear touchscreen. This creates a little hill on the screen which your affects your Deviant’s movement. Speaking of tilt controls, they are used often in Little Deviants and are incredibly sensitive. I was impressed at just how direct the tilting controls were.
This brings me to my main complaint about Little Deviants. While 30 is a good number of mini-games, and the first impression of the various control schemes are good, there is not enough variability to keep things feeling fresh as you progress through the game. Control schemes are repeated often, especially games that have you tilting your Vita to roll or steer your particular Deviant around whatever level you are playing. While this isn’t a deal breaker, it does prevent Little Deviants from being a top tier title in my opinion. More creativity in this area would go a long ways. With this in mind, don’t expect a completely new means of control for each and every mini-game you play.
Little Deviants’ look can best described as crisp and cute as the graphics are sharp. Given the cartoony look to the game this probably isn’t much of a technical achievement but it does show off the sharpness of the Vita’s very nice 5” OLED screen. The same is said for the bright colour palette. Things really pop on screen. The Deviants themselves are stereotypical big-eyed little creatures that will surely endear themselves to the younger crowd. I could not help but think how they look to be designed with plush toys in mind (*cough* marketing *cough*). As I touched on earlier in this review, movement on screen is smooth and responsive, and this is critical in making many of the controls work.
I wouldn’t call Little Deviants a “sound intense” title by any means. The best way to describe how Little Deviants sounds is playful. This describes both the game’s soundtrack and in-game sounds well. There is no voice acting per se in the game. Characters speak in their own language of gibberish chatter and laughter. Sound actually becomes a part of the gameplay in some mini games by using the Vita’s built in microphone. This caused more than a few stares while getting some playtime in for this review while I was on a plane.
Little Deviants may exist to showcase the various elements of the Vita’s hardware, but it also showed me completely new ways a video game can be played, and on a handheld no less. Fitness titles notwithstanding, I am more impressed by what the Vita can do than what motion controls offer on consoles. Sure, some of the controls are used too often and get repetitive, but what is most important is that I had fun playing this game; and that is why we play games right, to have fun?