Sky high? How PS Vita performs on long haul

Wednesday, 29 February 2012 02:36 GMT By Patrick Garratt

Patrick Garratt’s suffering is just an opportunity to us. We had the boss put the Vita through its portable paces on a torturous flight to the US.

“I played a lot of stuff. I was very glad of having my Vita with me. Have you bought one yet?

Yesterday was only the second time I’ve taken my Vita on a plane trip, and the first time I’ve used it for long haul. I wanted to see how much I used it over the (enormous) flight, what I played on it and whether there were any niggles when it’s in the field. In the sky. In the sky field. In a plane.

The flight was from Paris to San Francisco, an 11 hour 45 minutes beast. I added full versions to some of the demos I’d been playing, so I had Super Stardust, Escape Plan and Motorstorm RC to keep me happy as well as Wipeout, Uncharted and a few others.

Once in the air, one thing struck me straight away: the buttons aren’t backlit. I know this is probably obvious to those of you who’ve bought them, but I’d never specifically noticed it while I was using my Vita at home in a well-lit environment. The first flight I took it on was a small trip from France to England during the day.

This time, though, soon after take-off and food, the cabin was dimmed. Lack of light actually makes Vita tricky to use, especially if you’re getting to grips with a new game’s controls. I had to keep my reading light on to see the buttons – especially the weeny Start and Select keys – so I’m hoping there’s room for improvement in future hardware iterations here.

This was a pretty long flight, and I was keen to see which games held my attention. I was interested by the fact I played mainly bite-sized games compared to the console-esque titles I’ve been playing a lot at home. I guess it’s not so surprising, as when you’re in an open environment like a plane you’re being constantly distracted, but I was naturally drawn to Motorstorm and Escape Plan and ended up playing them by far the most.

Motorstorm RC: Pure pocket fun.

I played a few games of Super Stardust and Wipeout, but the relative length of each session meant I was wary about starting again. This differs from the way I play at home, where Wipeout’s been taking up most of my Vita time. I didn’t boot up Uncharted once.

Motorstorm is a proper gem. The controls took a little bit of clicking, but once you’re there it’s perfect for the system. Because each event’s so short it meant I could do a few races, turn it off, watch a bit of video or read, boot it up again when I was bored and do a few more races. It’s perfect for a trip like that, where you’re basically uncomfortable and being constantly distracted by other passengers, attendants, food, drinks and all the rest of it.

At £4.79 this should be on your Vita, without any question.

Escape Plan was another good one for flying. The Sony Santa Monica game is a short puzzler in which you have to guide two beautifully animated freedom-seekers through stylish monochrome deathtraps. You swipe and tap on both the front and back touchpads here, as well as doing some tilting for guiding helium-filled men. It gets tricky, but the levels are so short it’s playable even when you’re packed into a mile-high tin can.

It’s a tenner. You should own it.

I had a few games of Stardust, but I was playing that more in my hotel room last night. As you get better at it, the sessions start to get longer and more demanding. When you’re very tired, especially, it starts to get naturally left to one side. That’s not to say it isn’t bloody amazing when you’re not tired and not in an airplane. Very impressive game. At £6.49 it’s essential.

Wipeout was difficult to play. I love 2048, but now I’m in the later stages they require a lot of concentration and practice, and it was much harder to get into than at home. I’ve been playing this sitting around in the evening or over lunch, and you really do need to focus to get anywhere in the last league. I was still playing it; I just wasn’t winning anything.

Escape Plan: Charmingly puzzling.

As you can see, I played a lot of stuff. I barely read over the flight. I watched three films and a few TV shows, and I did some writing. The rest of the time got soaked up with games, which I conveniently didn’t have to switch because they were all on one stick. I was very glad of having my Vita with me.

Another great positive was the battery. I went through about half of it, and certainly came nowhere near to killing it. I reckon I played games for around two hours, maybe a bit more.

In summary, then, having a Vita with a bunch of games on a long flight was a perfect addition to other bits of entertainment, but the “bigger games” didn’t make as much sense in that sort of situation. Luckily, Vita’s got a great spread of launch software with games to keep you happy at home or abroad.

Have you got one yet?

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