Sky high? How PS Vita performs on long haul

Wednesday, 29th 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?



  1. Len

    Yes, it’s great. :)

    #1 3 years ago

    Hmm… Seems strange that a lack of backlighting would be an issue.

    I don’t generally look at the controller when I’m playing, but I suppose others do.

    I’d probably only get a Vita to play CoD, anyway.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. Razor

    12hrs on a plane. Ouch. And you got the return journey yet… :P

    #3 3 years ago
  4. Brenna Hillier

    Between Australia and Europe, a trip I do sometimes, it’s about 20 hours all up. 13 to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, then about seven to Amsterdam. Happily, you can recharge your portable console during the stop over.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. Patrick Garratt

    I love my Vita. What year is it?


    #5 3 years ago
  6. KrazyKraut

    VG247 = Jet Set fellas^^

    #6 3 years ago
  7. tenthousandgothsonacid

    Would the battery have been an issue if you had got into something like Uncharted? I used to fly to America constantly with work but haven’t been on a plane in ten years. Do they have recharge points like on trains these days? I’m guessing not from Brenna’s comment…

    #7 3 years ago
  8. Dannybuoy

    Also an essential purchase is Tales from Space: Mutant blobs attack. This came in under my radar but is essential playing. Great fun, inventive and clever. The 1950s style visuals are charming and funny. Looking forward to my flight to Austria on Sunday so I’ll have plenty of time to play it.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. Eregol

    How did you make the battery last the whole flight? How much charge was left when you landed?
    I take it you broke the journey up in other ways?
    I play my Vita for half an hour on the train to work and over an hour on the train home, I play it a bit after I get home too and the battery lasts all day, but constant use will drain it pretty sharpish.

    I love my Vita, the battery on the PSP was about the same really, but I’m worried my trip to Mexico next month will be too long for my Vita to keep me entertained the whole way…

    #9 3 years ago
  10. silkvg247

    “Have you got one yet?”

    “Have they given the rest of the world the UMD pass like they have Japan”?

    Same answer. I’m glad you’re so happy with it, but it’s a shame you are being so biased and turning a blind eye to the unfair pricing and the whole UMD situation. Clearly they’re hoping they can milk people further by hoping they re-purchase PSP games on the store. Just like how they decided to drop BC for the PS2, then later, sell PS2 games on the market. Coincidence?

    #10 3 years ago
  11. Gekidami

    Its odd that you’d need a backlight for the buttons. I mean, i’d find it pretty worrying if a games journo had trouble finding a button on a layout thats been around for nearly 20 years. :S

    #11 3 years ago
  12. frostquake

    @ #10

    Most of those in the “Video Game Business” forget about “The Cost” because they either got the Vita for “free” or their business “bought them one.”

    So in this World Economic Collapse, the “price” and “value” to the consumer is a HUGE deal, and you are quite correct to point it out.

    So while the Industry Insiders my “rave” about the Vita, because it didn’t actually cost them a thing, price point is always the number one hurdle the average consumer deals with, once deciding they may actually like to get the Vita.

    And your “Average Consumer” is not a VG247 Boss who takes 12 hour flights, no offense Patrick or others in the “biz”.

    This is typical at this early stage in the game, only those “Hard Core” and “Video Game Insiders” are relating information to the masses, and it can be quite useful information, to that 40 hour average Joe, that barely makes an earning wage, and has an extremely limited entertainment budget in deciding if he/she should set aside several parts of paychecks to invest in the Vita, which at this time I would say, “Wait and See!”

    Stay Frosty My Friends!

    #12 3 years ago
  13. DrDamn

    I think Pat made several points about cost and value in this very article on an individual game basis didn’t he? That’s all he can do. When it comes to it all they can do is tell you what is good, what is bad. It’s up to the consumer to judge what value they will get from the machine and how that balances with their disposable income.

    It’s right that a journalist should make a judgement on game pricing because there is a measure there for content vs cost. I agree this isn’t always taken into account by journalists. The variable game pricing models introduced with Vita might help highlight this.

    With the actual console itself there are too many variables and the consumer should take a bit more responsibility and weigh up their own pros and cons.

    Couple of answers to your questions are in the article. He played for about 2 hours total in short bursts and had ~50% charge left at the end. Worth noting that on a flight you would have both wifi and 3G turned off and due to the dark conditions could get away with a fairly low brightness setting too.

    #13 3 years ago
  14. Christopher Jack

    I seem to do fine with finding buttons without backlights, I do it on my laptop all the time, also have little trouble finding those capacitive buttons on smartphones. The only controller that I’ve had issues with, other than certain television remotes, are the original Xbox controller, found I had to warp my right hand in an unnatural way to reach them in the dark, don’t know if my large hands shoulda’ made it harder or easier but still hated it regardless.

    #14 3 years ago
  15. polygem

    i´m with 10,12 here. i think atm it´s not so great to support sony just because of their pricing strategy. only thing i can do as a consumer is not buying it. that´s the main reason i haven´t bought one yet. it is not that i couldn´t afford it. i got an alright income, no kids. wouldn´t be a problem. but i do not want to because i don´t want to support what sony does right now. i am also critical about this “having a real console on the go” stuff. i love games to death but i don´t know if i want that. i actually like having a real life and a gaming life. portables soften this. do i want to have a console for me to play with all the time even when i´m on vacation with friends – no, i don´t think that´s a good thing, i think it´s great to have gamesfree times too. why not finally take your time listening to music, reading the news or a good book on a plane? i rareley play games on the go. handhelds i use at home and i use them for the unique games that are only on those systems and made for this system. maybe that´s the main reason too why i can´t see a real must buy in the vita yet and enjoy ´the 3ds so much.
    i got no problem with the article though. he obviously enjoys the vita a lot and wants to spread the word. nothing wrong with that – would have tried to skip those …have you got one yet?…stuff though. sounds a bit too much like a pr guy/ salesman.

    #15 3 years ago
  16. Psychotext

    On the bright side, battery life doesn’t really have to be an issue even without charge points on flights. ~10,000 mah battery packs (which act as chargers) are cheap and relatively small now… which should easily be enough to get you through a very long flight.

    #16 3 years ago
  17. frostquake


    That is why I said “No Offense to Pat or the others.” I did not accuse them of that, and this article clearly pointed that out.

    I was just pointing out that several gaming journalists forget about the actual consumer cost, the first real major hurdle of anything Tech Entertainment.

    Several of my friends in the Industry who got Free Kinects right when they came out, gave raves, but when I asked them if they would shell out the money for it out of their own pockets, they said, “Oh Hell No, it is way over-priced!”

    If a consumer can’t get past the cost barrier to actually buy the product, then all “Greats” and “Hates” make almost no difference in the product.

    So to Pat and the Others, if you feel like I was singling you out and accusing you of forgetting Cost to Consumer, I was not, and sorry for the miss communication on my part!

    IMHO, the Vita looks great and has great potential, but for me it is a, “Wait and See.”

    #17 3 years ago

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