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Vitastic: Hands-on with first-party Vita titles at Sony event

Straight after the Sony press conference tonight, Johnny Cullen went hands-on with three first-party titles for Vita. One in particular, while obvious, may be its biggest software seller.

Straight after Sony's press conference tonight, we went into a room downstairs from the main hall to find everyone immediately heading for one thing: Vita. At the event, I went hands-on for a long period with Uncharted: Golden Abyss. But we kick off with stuff we got to see for a short time, and one game in particular that's key as a potential launch seller: LittleBigPlanet.

Sackboy & The Bubble
We're introduced to several levels by the demonstrator with the handheld attached to him, but we got to try two levels with the game, being developed by Double Eleven Studios and Tarsier Studios. In the first level you control Sackboy in a vehicle, where you have to try and avoid oncoming traffic, but at the same time, hit marked targets to get points.

LittleBigPlanet on Vita from E3.

The level had a very Tron-esque feeling to it, being controlled by analog stick, although you start the level by touching the screen. After about two-to-three minutes of ducking in and out of avoiding traffic, I got to the end and finished it no problem.

The second level had Sackboy in a bubble. You had to make sure it didn't burst and navigate it through the level using Vita's touchscreen. Trying to figure out how to properly control Sack with the screen, I started by tapping the screen, but you have to hold your finger in front of the bubble and direct it to where you want it to go. By about midway through, I kinda came undone: this bit had thorns that burst Sackboy's bubble every time I tried to guide it. I gave up after that, admittedly.

But from what I played of it tonight, LittleBigPlanet seems to suit Vita very well. SCE WWS Europe SVP Michael Denny said that Vita and LBP was "a perfect match." He might be right.

ModNation Racers
It's very hard to give a proper opinion on ModNation Racers based on a brief look at it tonight. Being developed by Sony San Diego, we literally got just a taster of how it worked in terms of controls. The right trigger was to accelerate, the left trigger to handbrake and sticks to steer.

We got to try a user-made track that had been whipped up earlier, but we had no weapons or any other rivals to race against. We think this was just a controls taster; not much else than that. Still, it's there for those who like both versions of the racer on PS3 or PSP. Or both.

Drake strikes gold on Vita
The title I was looking forward to the most was Uncharted: Golden Abyss. Found in the far side of the Vita lounge, it was surrounded by various games and massive queues - including its own. For the record, the group of games Uncharted was in also included Resistance: Burning Skies and Wipeout 2048; the former I wanted to play personally as a Resistance fan.

Make no mistake, though: Uncharted could be the console's killer app. After spending 15-20 minutes with it, it seems clear this might be Sony's golden goose if it can get it as a launch game, or at least in the launch period.

The level I played, while there was no gunplay involved, had a mostly similar look to that of the earlier levels of Uncharted 1: Drake's Fortune, with Drake and an unnamed companion hunting for a small treasure (either a precious stone or diamond, it didn't look clear enough to determine what it was by the end of it). It's pretty much your standard Uncharted game, you climb among things, your swing among things and your solve puzzles. But obviously, there is a Vita touch to it.

For example, you can aim towards where you going to climb next with the left stick and X, like in the console games, or you could use the touch-screen to determine where to go. It seemed a bit automatic and easy to me when using the screen, but otherwise, the touch screen is used brilliantly in the game.

Uncharted on Vita. This'll be amazing.
No two ways.

You use the SIXAXIS controls to balance Drake on a tree plank across a gap between yourself and your friend. You can use the screen to slide up and down among vines to help Drake slide down or climb up.

The screen can also be used to help Drake get across rivers: you could tap rocks one-by-one to help jump across the river, as well as tap it to get to nearby planks whilst crossing a very shoddy looking bridge. But the coolest part was where you rub your finger along the screen to help determine some of the puzzles in the game.

It probably didn't do Golden Abyss any favours that literally 15-20 minutes before we got to go on Vita - and half an hour before playing Golden Abyss - we had seen a knockout demo of Uncharted 3 from Naughty Dog community manager Arne Meyer, but Sony Bend Studio has seemingly able to take full advantage of the handheld's graphical capabilities because Uncharted on Vita looks amazing. Properly amazing, I mean.

So those are just three first-party titles coming to Vita from early next year. These will almost certainly be big titles for its launch, but Uncharted: Golden Abyss is likely to be the main headliner. Don't be too surprised if that does well.

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