I love my PS Vita, but sometimes it feels more like an expensive drawer gnome than a portable game system. It had a great launch lineup, but since then it hasn’t done much and tends to get left behind when I leave the apartment; it feels less secure in the pocket than a 3DS and requires a much larger one, too. However, I love the hardware and jump at any excuse to play it, so Escape Plan’s recent 25 cent DLC pack, The Asylum, was an excellent chance to reintroduce my ignored little handheld to the light of day.
There were a lot of little issues I had with it around launch: the controls forced the front/back touch controls on the user, you had to rotate the device during floaty portions, the buttons really didn’t serve a purpose… and perhaps worst of all, it felt more like an app than a full-fledged game. I was nitpicking. The controls work great and except for a few parts where you need an extra hand to hold the system while you swipe, there isn’t much to complain about; but when you have a fancy new handheld and your new game ignores a dozen possible input methods to go with touchscreen schenanery, it’s a bit irritating. Or, in my case, a lot irritating.
Along with those little frustrations, the pressure of work and school was on me at the time, and if I wasn’t fully obsessed with something (like Fez, which destroyed a four-day weekend), it wasn’t able to catch and hold my stressed out attention span for long enough to finish. Probably because of the nitpicking bullshit I was steeped in at the time, Escape Plan couldn’t manage to hold my attention for long, and so it was shelved so I could focus on other things.
Before jumping in this time, I took a deep breath and decided I was going to have fun, despite how much I didn’t want to. I would accept the controls without calling them gimmicks, enjoy the style and puzzles, and just plain have fun: and it worked. I found myself really having a blast with the controls, cracking up at the different ways I accidentally killed Lil and Laarg, and loving the style and atmosphere of the bite-sized puzzles.
The game didn’t last very long, but I already had the first DLC pack, Bakuki’s Lair, which was a nice little prologue to the game, adding a couple levels and rounding out the story a bit. Next was the 25cent DLC pack, The Asylum, which was actually the size of a few overall worlds in the game, beefing the entire thing up to a pretty respectable length.
It isn’t a hard game by any means, in fact, the only sticking points I remember were because the stupid back touchpad didn’t recognizing a tap in the place I thought I tapped; and it doesn’t take a ton of time, I picked up around the halfway point and beat that and both DLC packs over a weekend (~5 hours of playtime, according to the settings); but Escape Plan works well as a downloadable game. It took up more time than a typical app on my phone without eating into my life like a full console release. It had a lot more production value and game content than most apps, which have started to feel more like a business strategy with a game-like front-end, and even has some replay value in terms of finding all the signs and getting better times.
With the new content, Escape Plan has really started to become what I believe a Vita downloadable should be: bite-sized, stylish fun, that’s easy to pick-up and play in your spare time and then put on standby to continue later. More than an app, less than a console experience. A nice in-between that hopefully has extra content in the pipeline for a while to keep people coming back like they do to CoD map packs or Angry Bird updates.
Now, if we could only get a few more of them, and on a regular basis, the Vita would be heads and shoulders above any other portable gaming experience on the market… and maybe then, my 3DS, which may as well just have its 3D slider ripped off at the 2D position, could take some well deserved shifts as drawer gnome.
Single Player Summer game count: 4