Review: Little Deviants

LittleDeviants

Every new platform needs a tech demo, a game that’s designed to showcase everything new and gee-whiz it has to offer. The Nintendo DS had Yoshi Touch ‘n Go. The Nintendo Wii had Wii Sports. And for better and worse, the PlayStation Vita has Little Deviants.

Little Deviants’ development process is fairly easy to imagine. I suspect it went sorta like WarioWare: Smooth Moves on the Wii: A group of designers at the now-defunct Bigbig Studios crammed into a room, tossing ideas against the wall like a Little Deviant bouncing ball. What could we do with the Vita’s back touch screen, camera, microphone and tilt controls? Great—let’s make a mini-game based on that. Add in these cute little critters that are ten times more adorable than your average Pokemon, and we’re golden.

And sometimes, they actually are. In several of the 30 mini-games that comprise this tech tour, Little Deviants works and is fun—pinching the front and backscreen to slingshot your gap-mawed Gopher off the ropes in a wrestling ring to take out zombies is hilarious, as is tilt-rolling your Deviants around Labyrinth-esque obstacle courses. Other mini-games that use the Vita’s SixAxis function like a steering wheel to pilot crafts, both in the air and under the water, control far better than expected.

Unfortunately, some of the other, tap-based games feel awfully short and shallow, and they pop up again in more complex forms as you advance and unlock new areas. Running your finger along the back touch screen to deform the environment and roll Little Deviant balls around looked and sounded cool when we first saw it in those original Vita commercials. How ironic, then, that it turns out to be an unresponsive disaster, easily the game’s most annoying control scheme. Ending up constantly trapped in a corner while enemies drain your life meter with a goop bath, sending you back to the start, isn’t anyone’s definition of fun.

New mini-games and areas don’t unlock unless you earn at least a bronze medal score on the game preceding it, so running into a game where the controls (or your skill level) happens to be lacking, means you’re stuck until you can find a way to solve it. For a game ostensibly aimed at casual gamers anxious for their first taste of the Vita’s touch-control goodness, that’s a frustrating flaw.

Little Deviants’ challenges might have felt more compelling if there were some semblance of story tying them together. No such luck—in a nutshell, the Deviants are trying to escape a pack of malevolent Botz that have somehow resuscitated green-skinned zombie DeadUns to aid their cause. Kinda sounds like the designers bounced a few too many plot balls off the wall as well.

As a tour of the Vita’s new gameplay virtues, Little Deviants carries plenty of charm, but the frustrating design and control shortcomings nearly overwhelm the cute factor. Tilt and roll with caution.

SkipIt

Pros:
+ Cutesy, often fun tour of the new Vita controls and features
+ Steering-wheel mini-games use the SixAxis feature surprisingly well

Cons:
– Rear touch screen terrain deforming is disastrous and frustrating
– Mini-game unlock system is an obstacle to fun
– Changing the environment doesn’t make it a new game

Game Info:
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Bigbig Studios
Release Date: 2/14/2012
Genre: Mini-Games
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

Aaron R. Conklin has been writing about games and games culture for more than 15 years. A former contributor to Computer Games Magazine and Massive Magazine, his writing has appeared on IGN.com and in newspapers and alt-weeklies across the country. Conklin's an unapologetic Minnesota sports fan living in Madison, Wisconsin, home of the Midwest's most underrated gaming vibe.