Thursday, 19 April 2012

Paint Park [PS Vita] Review - The Game That Gives A Whole New Meaning To Finger Painting

Paint Park is the latest free game to grace the PS Store. As its name suggests, Paint Park is a drawing and painting application, which allows users to engage with the PS Vita touchscreen in order to create some interesting works of art.

Paint park is relatively simple to use. Users can choose from four different paintbrushes, which vary in shape and size, and a nice pallette of twelve colours, including the usual shades of white, black and grey, a way that gamers can use photographs as a background for their artistic creations and a magnifying glass so that gamers can perfect those finer details.

Nevertheless, whilst Paint Park will probably thrill most users who are looking for five minutes of fun, it does have some minor bad points too. For example, although the game does allow users to share their creations with others and take part in drawing competitions with friends, there is no online mode, so pictures can only be shared via Ad hoc mode.

Also,  this game does not feature an eraser tool, which is rather strange for a drawing application, but  users do have the option of using the white paint tool to correct any mistakes on the standard canvas, so this needn't be too much of a problem.

Despite its obvious minor flaws, Paint Park is a lot of fun and, as it is a totally free application, it is easy to overlook its bad points. This game is perfect for some hands-on drawing when you are out and about. If you are budding artist, this might well be the perfect game for you. Overall rating; 8/10.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Treasure Of Montezuma Blitz - A Gem of a Freebie, Or A Crystal Clear Rip Off?

Treasure of Montezuma Blitz is a gem-matching game which recently became available on the PSN store exclusively for the PS Vita, and best of all, the game is completely FREE - or is it?

The game itself is excellent, featuring a number of unlockable items including special Totems, and various items to give players an advantage during the game. 

Nevertheless, whilst the game itself is completely free for users to download, it does contain a number of small, hidden optional costs, which have the potential to make this game one of the most expensive PS Vita  titles you could own.

First of all, the in-game currency is called Crystals, and this currency can be used to purchase various totems or gem-bursting items etc, but up 1100 'Crystals' are also extracted at the start of each  of the game's five rounds as well.

The game starts with a good amount of Crystals, and there is a chance to win some Crystals back during the game,  but it is surprising how quickly the required number of crystals needed to even start a game seem to disappear. So how can you play the game now?

Well, players can win bonus Crystals by playing a daily scratch-card mini-game, which takes place once per day and features random amounts of Crystals (from 200-100,000), but even then, it could take a few days before players have one enough currency for even one round of the game.

The only other option is for players to purchase more Crystals via their online PlayStation Network accounts. There are different price packages available from the PSN store, the cheapest of which is just £2.99 for 1000 gems  or up to £15.99 for 100,000 gems.

Nevertheless, although the game does feature a 'free' way to win new Crystals, it is more likely that players will be tempted to choose the easier and faster option of buying more Crystals, and as the game uses a high proportion of Crystals per round, this apparently 'free' game suddenly becomes circuitously expensive.

Worst still, this game only allows the user five lives, which means that after five rounds the game is over, and users cannot play the game until the lives have been replenished. Again, there are two ways that players can replenish these lives. The free way is to wait fifteen minutes before starting the next five rounds, during which time, all five of your lives will be atomatically restarted.

Nevertheless, players are once again given the opportunity to purchase another five lives immediately. This time for 79p. Although this might sound like a small amount, the cost can quickly mount up.

 Furthermore, there does not seem to be any valid ezplanation as to why players' crystals are being extracted at the start of each round, but the more cynical amongst us might reason that the game has been specifically designed to encourage gamers to splash their cash.

The sheer brilliance of this game is not in question, but the fact that it includes potential expenses does raise a serious challenge to the notion that Treasure Of Montezuma Blitz is  a 'free' game just because it costs nothing to download. When it comes to this game, the old adage of 'you don't get something for nothing' is only too apparent.


Have you downloaded this game yet?

What are your thoughts on the potential hidden costs involved?

Should this game be described as a 'FREE' game?

Whatever your  thoughts on this issue, please leave your comments in the comments box below. Mini Gamers looks forward to hearing from you.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Game of the Week: Rhythm Thief and the Emperor's Treasure [3DS]

Have you ever fancied trying a Professsor Layton game but worry that you might get stuck on some of  the more difficult puzzles? Well, this might just be the game for you.

Rhythm Thief and the Emperor's Treasure features a gripping Layton-esque storyline, but replaces the usual brainteasers and conundrums with some truly stunning rhythm and dancing minigames.

The main story is set in Paris, and follows the life of Raphael, an infamous thief known for stealing famous works of art only to return them days later. A few years ago, his father disappeared, leaving behind a coin, which contained a mysterious symbol.

Upon discovering that a bracelet on display at The Louvre bears the same symbol, Raphael goes to investigate the mystery behind this symbol, and soon encounters a girl named Marie, and an elusive enemy who seems intent on impersonating Napoleon.

The gameplay is varied. Each of the rhythm minigames utilises different aspects of the 3DS, including swiping the stylus to match up with other dancers, tapping the touch screen to hide behind statues, pressing buttons to fight off groups of enemies and tilting the console to dodge attacks.

The game also features parodies of past Sega rhythm games such as Space Channel 5 and Samba de Amigo. Throughout the story, players will visit various locations where they will solve puzzles and earn coins used to unlock special bonuses such as extra chapters.

This game is beautifully animated and is truly engrossing from start to finish, but the main storyline can be completed within a relatively short period of time, which is its only major flaw as far as we could see.

If you love puzzle RPGs or if you want a 3DS title to rival Rhythm Paradise, then this is definitely the perfect game for you. Overall rating: 8/10.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Google Creates Augmented Reality Glasses...

There have been some truly futuristic advancements in recent years, but now Google have taken things one step further, with their new Augmented Reality glasses

The development, which has so far been codenamed as Project Glass, will allow users to access current weather, date and time information, route planners, and even appointment and event reminders as well as send SMS messages to friends and much more. The glasses feaature a pop-up-head display, and the main functions can also be voice-activated.

Google has recently released this video trailer which showcases the glasses' main abilities:

These glasses really do seem like something that we would expect to see in a science-fiction film, and the fact that something like this is possible in reality is truly a cause for celebration.

There is currently some debate over when the glasses will actually be released to the public, but some experts claim that the final product could be available for purchase by the end of 2012, although this is yet to be proven.

It is also unclear how much the glasses will eventually cost, although a price range of around £250-£500 is thought to be realistic at this stage.

Augmented Reality has proven popular in recent years through handheld gaming devices such as the 3DS and PS Vita, and it is good to see that the technology can now be utilised in wider applications. Nevetheless, the high price of the technology may serve to dampen its popularity when the glasses finally hit the shelves. Only time will tell...

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Internet Privacy Challenged?

The Government could soon make a serious challenge to the United Kingdom's right to Internet privacy, it has emerged. 

The Government wants access ts to all emails, text messages and Internet use and will propose new legislation in order to give permission for the police, MI5 and other intelligence agencies to monitor personal communications throughout the UK.

The Home Office claims that the legislation is necessary to "obtain communications data in certain circumstances to investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public." [sourced from:]

Nevertheless, the decision has been heavily criticised by groups such as Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties organisation, who consider the govement plans to be an open attack on civil rights:
"This is an absolute attack on privacy online and it is far from clear this will actually improve public safety, while adding significant costs to internet businesses," said Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch.
The new bill is a highly controversial piece of legislation and is likely to have a direct impact on how people now choose to access Internet applications such as Social Media sites like Twitter or Facebook or Skype.

So, what do you think of the Government plan? Why not vote on our latest poll and let us know your opinion.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

GAME closes 277 stores...

Retail giant, GAME has gone into administration today, closing around 277 of its videogame stores across the country. The once popular retail chain had been struggling to compete with online purchases and various Downloadable Content sites, it has emerged.

Over 2000 jobs are now thought to be at risk in the wake of the closures. Another 333 stores are to remain open while a suitable buyer is sought.

Administrators, PwC, have confirmed that the business had been rocked by: "heavy competition from online retailers and ambitious international expansion..." [sourced from:]

 All gift card transactions from both GAME and Gamestation stores have since been suspended, and no cash alternative is currently being offered, leaving many customers disappointed.

Game Group plc has commented on the closures:"This decision [to enter administration] is taken after careful consideration and ceaseless interrogation of every possible alternative." [ibid.]

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Help! My Vita Won't Turn On/Off...

Imagine the following scenario:

You have just purchased, downloaded and installed a copy of the full (£29.99) version of the Unit 13 game onto your lovely new PS Vita. You have almost completed your 'basic training' in the game, and are looking forward to undertaking a co-op mission with friends, when suddenly, your Vita screen goes  completely black.

To your delight, you notice that the PS button is still glowing, so you know that the console must still have power somewhere, right? Panicked, you try to press the on/off switch, but nothing happens...

It sounds like the stuff of nightmares, doesn't it? Nevertheless, this is the very scenario which we were confronted with at Mini Gamers HQ recently, and it took our best research to get the console right again, so we thought that we would write this post just in case any of our fellow PS Vita owners experience the same thing.

Now, we should be completely clear in stating that Mini Gamers is still unsure as to what exactly prompted the console to suddenly cut out. We certainly don't want to imply that the Unit 13 download contributed to the failure in any way - at least not without firm proof.

However, it is true that many PS Vita forums have been awash with complaints that the Unit 13 demo version, (not the FULL version which Mini Gamers was playing,) has indeed contributed to some pretty nasty PS Vita failures recently.

Nevertheless, as yet, there is very little evidence at this stage to suggest that the full version of the game is capable of this kind of glitch, and most gamers who purchased the full version seem incredibly happy with it - as well they should, because the little that we did experience of the game, was simply awesome!

As always, the most important thing to do in any crisis is to remain calm. After searching online for answers, Mini Gamers discovered that there is a quick and easy way to get your PS Vita working again after this type of crash. Of course, we cannot guarantee that this will work for every situation, but here goes:

1) if your PS button is still glowing, you need to perform a HARD RESTART. To do this, simply hold down the power button for approximately thirty seconds, until you see the PS button stop glowing.

2) The console should now restart in the normal way. The following Safe-Mode screen will be displayed:

3) Select Option 1 to restart your console. The PS Vita should now operate normally.

Please note, if you feel that your PS Vita database may have become corrupted in some way, then it may be easier to select Option 2 instead. This will restore the PS Vita database before restarting - this is NOT the same as 'resetting' the console, and won't affect things like messages, camera images, or saved data, but may take several hours to complete.

It may also be worth noting that Safe Mode can also be started manually by holding down the Power button, R button and the PS button at the same time until the Safe Mode screen appears. Then select the option you require.


Have you ever experienced a PS Vita console crash before?

Do you know why it occured?

If you have any comments to make about the PS Vita's performance or wish to give or seek advice from other blog readers about this issue, please leave a comment in our comments box below. We'd love to hear from you...

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Apple iPad 3 renamed as 'New iPad'?

Here at Mini Gamers, we sometimes like to look at new handheld gadgets, as well as all the latest video game technology, so after our current PS Vita fest, we felt it was the ideal time to take a look at the new Apple iPad 3, which has now been  officially named 'New iPad'.

So, what has the iPad's newest member got to offer us (apart from a slightly mundane  product name)? We have done our best to find out. Firstly, the specifications for the New ipad are as follows:

The processor is an Apple A5X ARM-based unit, which has been designed with quad-core graphics but is still a dual-core based unit, which Apple claims is very fast. The New iPad also has a retina display, which allows you to view apps and photos with wonderful clarity.

As with previous models, there is the trusty  fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating, to help safeguard against any mucky fingerprints when using the touchscreen,  as well as support for display of multiple languages and characters simultaneously, making it the perfect tool for business people.

You can now record full HD videos on the iPad 3 with an iSight camera . The rear camera is set at 5 megapixels and has a 5-element lens plus auto face-detection, an automatic focus lock and image stabilisation for video. Once again there's tap-to-focus included as well.

 A new Dictation app is now included within iOS 5.1 on the new iPad. Instead of typing, tap the microphone icon on the keyboard, then give the iPad your instructions and then simply tap  the 'DONE' tab, and iPad converts your words into text. You can use dictation to write messages, take notes, search the web, which means a lot less use of the touchscreen.

New ipad

Apple has also announced iPhoto for the iPad, which offers some pretty nifty professional photo editing tools. Furthermore, iMovie can now deal with full HD video. iOS 5.1 and iTunes 10.6 are available today as free software updates.  

There will be separate US models for both the AT&T and Verizon networks. Both CDMA and GSM iPads can now easily roam internationally.

The new iPad delivers the same battery life as the iPad - that's 10 hours - with around 9 hours if you're using LITE (North America only).  Furthermore, all models feature Bluetooth 4.0.

It certainly sounds impressive! There is no way of knowing exactly how successful New iPad will be in the tablet and smartphone market, however, especially as Apple has taken the unusual step of still manufactering  the Apple iPad 2, allbeit at a lower price than the third-generation model, which will put the iPads in competition with one another, but is guaranteed to earn Apple a tidy profit in the bargain.

The iPad 2 price reduction means that the older model is expected to retail at around around £329 in the UK, and the price changes are expected to take effect from the 16th of March 2012, when the New iPad is finally released to the general public.

So, have you pre-ordered your New iPad yet? Let us know what you think of it. Mini Gamers welcomes your comments.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Playstation Network Maintenance Causes Chaos For PS Vita Users

A routine maintainance schedule for the Playstation Network yesterday, caused chaos for several PS Vita users. Although Playstation had done its best to warn users to expect a period of about fourteen hours maintenance, during which, all of its online services including the PSN store, would be unavailable, it appears that many PS Vita fans were left confused after worrying 'NW' and 'NP' error codes began to appear in various applications on their new console.

The maintenance took place between 8pm last night, and 10am this morning. However, PS Vita users were dismayed and worried when they suddenly found that the majority of applications on their console stopped working. This is because the majority of social functions on the PS Vita, including Group Messaging, Party, Online Play, Near, Google Maps and of course, the PSN store all  need to access the Playstation Network.

Within hours of the maintenance getting underway, various online forums featured threads about the error codes, which were preventing users from accessing their favourite PS Vita content. In some extreme cases, users even described how they had restarted their routers several times, or even set up new wi-fi settings for their home network in order to try and get access.

Although many forum users did realise that the the sudden loss of access to the Playstation Network was due to maintenance, it was around 5am before the PS Vita displayed an NP error message which actually stated that the network was currently undergoing maintenance. Things have since returned to normal and Playstation Network access has been restored to most users.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Uncharted: Golden Abyss Review [PS Vita]

There is little wonder why Uncharted: Golden Abyss has become one of the two leading PS Vita titles in the UK to date. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Uncharted series, the game is an Action-Adventure, similar to the Tomb Raider series, but this time featuring the rather ruggedly handsome Nathan Drake as the main protaganist.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss is the series' first ever handheld version, and it is has therefore been designed as a prequel, which is set some time before the events of the original PS3 game, entitled: Uncharted: Drake's Fortune.

This is helpful, as it allows new gamers (who may not have had the chance to play the other three PS3-only games) to familiarise themselves with the in-game mechanics and main characters of the series, and also provides extra background information for existing fans.

The game has been specifically designed for the PS Vita, by a company called Sony Bend, in association with Naughty Dog, who were the company that first bought the Uncharted series to life on the PS3.

Nevertheless, it is clear that Sony Bend has been careful to preserve the core elements of the original games, and in doing so, have helped to create a portable version of the game, which is every bit as engrossing, exciting and graphically beautiful as the home console versions, which is really quite an achievement for a console of this size.

Moreover, Nathan Drake can now move, fight enemies and explore the in-game enviroments in a whole new way thanks to the PS Vita's touchscreen capabilities. For example, when Drake is climbing up ledges, gamers simply have to tap the next ledge and Drake will climb up to it, which makes those annoying accidental falls and missed jumps a thing of the past.

When fighting enemies, a quick swipe across the touchscreen in the direction of the on-screen arrow allows our main character the chance to use some brand new stealth attack patterns. If you are a traditionalist, however, you still have the option of using the button-controls like in the previous three games, but we found it more fun to use the touchscreen. It's just a matter of preference.

Other traditional elements of the Uncharted series have also been altered for the portable version. For example, treasure items are now organised into sets rather than appearing in list form, and there seems to be more of an emphasis on exploration than with the other games.  Puzzles are also plentiful, so there is lots of lovely replay action to be had.

In conclusion, it is difficult to explain how magnificent this game is to anyone who has not yet experienced it for themselves, but one thing is certain - if you are considering a brand new PS Vita, then this title is a must-have. Overall rating: 10/10.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Modnation Racers: Road Trip Review [PS Vita]

Yes, those cute little Mods have returned to the race track. This time however, they are racing on a whole new handheld system, so how does the new PS Vita version of Modnation Racers, called Modnation Racers: Road Trip, compare to the original game?

Those of you who are familiar with the original game will know that it was heavily-centred around content customisation, meaning that everything from Mod characters, Tracks and even Karts could be upgraded and customised with various outlandish and wacky designs.

The content customisation is still a huge feature of this game, but has been given the typical PS Vita overhaul that one would expect, so that the rear touchpad and front touchscreen are used in order to complete the desired effects.

Now even your karts can be customised with either a quick tap, or a gentle swipe of the finger across the screen, which seems to make the whole thing a lot less time-consuming than in the original game. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? We'll let you decide that for yourselves.

Tracks can be created simply by drawing the desired shape on the front touchscreen, which definitely enhances the ease with which new designs can be brought to life in the game.

Weapons have also been given an upgrade in this sequel, and can be upgraded to a maximum of three levels to make them even more powerful. Moreover, there are a total of seven different controls layouts to try. If the button combination you are currently using seems a little awkward, try using a different layout - you won't be disappointed.

As with the PSP game, there are Quick Race, Multiplayer and a Single Player Career Mode to complete, all with various challenges to test your racing skills. However, whilst the Quick Race mode works well on the PS Vita, the Career and Multiplayer Modes do seem a tad disappointing.

For a start, the Multiplayer in this game seems to be focused on time trial races instead of the ability to compete against friends in an actual, non-timed race. This is disappointing given Sony's plans that the PS Vita be viewed as a socially-centred handheld (a feature which has already been strongly utilised by other launch games).

Furthermore, the Career Mode does not seem to feature an actual playable storyline at all, but instead consists of different racing challenges designed to improve player's skill and accuracy on the race track, which is quite frankly a hollow and tiresome exercise, which it is necessary to complete if players which to unlock all of the customisable items on offer.

In conclusion, Modnation Racers: Road Trip on the PS Vita did not turn out to be everything we had hoped it would be. The customisation features are definitely brilliant, and the touch controls really do make the process a lot easier than in the previous game, especially when designing new race tracks.

However, if this game featured a better Multiplayer campaign and a proper storyline in Career Mode, it would have been an undisputable winner.

If you fancy a casual racing game with quirky characters, and no complicated campaigns, then this is definitely the game for you. If, on the other hand, you want a racing game with a solid Career Mode and good storyline, this game will most likely leave you feeling empty. Overall rating: 7/10.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Everybody's Golf Playstation Vita Review

With so many good titles appearing on the PS Vita since its launch a couple of days ago, Mini Gamers had a little bit of difficulty deciding which of the UK launch games to review first, so we have chosen that 'oldie but goodie' of a franchise - Everybody's Golf (also known as Hot Shots Golf in North America).

The original Everybody's Golf series has proved incredibly popular amongst casual sports fans on the PSP in the past, and we couldn't wait to get our hands on the latest (Vita) version to see what had changed...

Well, it seems that the brainy guys at Clap Hanz have subscribed to the old adage of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' with this title, as very little in the main gameplay seems to have changed. Players can still set shot power and distance via the 'X' button, take part in various Single Player or Multiplayer tournaments, and unlock various upgrades and customisable options for their on-screen avatar.

However, the main game does have some new features, courtesy of the PS Vita's front touchscreen capabilities: Touch the ball at the beginning of the game to reposition it on the tee, touch your character to have him or her speak to you, or even rustle the leaves on nearby trees.

The graphics are also greatly improved from the original handheld versions of the game, and now look sharper and more realistic than ever before, making the graphics seem closer to Home Console quality,whilst still retaining their rather colourful look.

Nevertheless, it has to be said that the real beauty of Everybody's Golf on the PS Vita exists mostly in its online abilities and features. For example, the Online Club House acts as the central hub. From here, players can enter any one of the floors or lobbies available.

Once in their chosen lobby, players can chat to other virtual golfers from around the world. This is done via text-based speech bubbles, and is fairly easy to master after the first attempt.

 Players can select from a set of well chosen phrases by pressing the L button, or if they are feeling adventurous, they can try to type a message on the Vita's touchscreen keyboard, by pressing the R button but this only allows for a minimum of characters and can prove difficult sometimes.

The Online Clubhouse is also a great way to make new 'friends'. Simply tap on any of the avatars in the online lobby and you will see a summary of their online profile, including their screen name, age range (if given), gender (if given) and country of residence. Press the Triangle button to send them a 'friend request' message.

If you decide that you want to add them to your Vita's Friends List, you will then be notified everytime your new 'friend' is online. Plus, if your 'friend' happens to be in the Online Clubhouse at the same time as you, a little yellow square with a smiley face will appear by the side of their chosen lobby.

Furthermore, the same little yellow square symbol will also appear in any Online Tournament Booking Lists, so you can always make sure of booking the same tournaments as your online 'friends'. Incidentally, players' lobby avatars are shown as tiny dots in the on-screen map. Lobby colours are as follows:

*Blue: Male Players
*Red: Female Players
Yellow: Friends
Disclaimer: *This is just an approximation. Although we found both red and blue dots in the lobby, we often found that players had chosen to disguise their real gender by choosing avatars of opposite genders. Please remember that there are some strange people out there in the real world and online, and choose your virtual 'friends' as carefully as you would choose your real ones...

Once you have added friends to your list, you can also use the triangle button whilst in the lobby to communicate to any friend who is also playing the game at the same time as you, and you can use the Group Messaging or Party Chat functions of your PS Vita to send private messages or even speak to them live over the internet.

There are two types of Online Tournament: The Daily International Tournament, and Unofficial Tournaments.

In the Daily International Tournament, players can choose to take part in three separate tournaments, all with different rules and regulations to test the skill of even the most professional of golfers.
The scores from these tournaments are then uploaded via the PSN store, and can be viewed by other Everybody's Golf users. Rankings change daily, so this is a good way of measuring your golfing prowess.

Meanwhile, Unofficial Tournaments are small online golf matches between various players. The tournaments run every half an hour throughout the day or night, in order to cater for various world time zones, but must be booked by the allotted time. Press triangle whilst in the online lobby to view tournament details.

Scores from the Unofficial Tournaments are NOT uploaded, but are a fun way to play golf. Players can also use the L or R buttons between rounds to communicate via text with other players in the tournaments.

Pre-selected text phrases include things about various scores, general chit-chat and congratulations for winners. Furthermore, all phrases which apply to that particular round (such as I scored a bogey) appear at the top of the phrase list, so they are easy to find. This helps to give the game a much more realistic feel to it.

Winning tournaments or achieving high scores during the game may also help to unlock new trophies, which also adds that extra incentive to play.

In conclusion, whilst the main gameplay of Everybody's Golf hasn't really changed too much on the PS Vita, this is not such a bad thing, as it gives the game that kind of cosy, familiar feeling for fans of the original series, and also serves as a brilliant introduction to the franchise for new players.

The online features are what really make this game a good launch title though and is where the game manages to impress us the most. If you are looking for a fun and quirky game with loads of online interactivity, then this is definitely the best PS Vita game for you to own. Overall rating: 10/10.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

PS Vita Review: What's So Good about the Playstation Vita?

It has been a bit of a sombre launch for Sony's latest console, with only two of GAME's stores choosing to open at midnight last night for those a hundred or so gamers who were desperate to get their hands on a PS Vita before the official UK launch.

Nevertheless, despite an apparent lack of interest,  Mini Gamers was determined to get to grips with, what could potentially be a very interesting piece of gaming technology. So, what's so good about the PS Vita?

First Impressions:

The PS Vita is definitely a lot thinner and lighter than its predecessor, with a sleek finish on the outside. We immediately notice several new additions to the usual PSP-type design. Small, round silver power and volume buttons at the top of the console, add to the stylish feel of the console, and a lit up 'Home' button, featuring the Playstation logo is found on the left hand side.

Furthermore, the usual UMD-slot has now been replaced by a nifty cartridge slot. However, unlike the 3DS, whose cartridge slot is open and easily accessible, the PSV's new slot is covered (a bit like a mobile phone's charge slot) and proved quite tricky when we eventually placed our first game cartridge into it. However, after a bit of practice, we were fine.

The initial menu screen seems a lot sharper and brighter than ever before, and features many items which were not available on the PSP. Many of these new features (such as 'Near' and 'Party') are to do with the concept of multiplayer and social online interactions, which is also a heavily-promoted feature in many of the PSV's software titles.

PS Vita Home Screen: LiveArea

The main screen of the PS Vita interface is called: Live Area. From this menu, players can interact in online social forums, check the progress of any current downloads and access games and game information.

The best thing about this area is that it is entirely controlled via touch. For example, to select a game, players only need to tap on any icon with their fingers. To close an open Live Area application, simply peel the displayed 'page' away from the screen. This is both stylishly accomplished and very futuristic.

Welcome Park:

Our first introduction to the new features of the PSV were via the console's Welcome Park, this interactive tutorial proved very useful in showing us all the varied touchscreen or tilt aspects of the new console, and also gave us an opportunity to earn some interesting trophies.


For those of you who haven't got a PS3 console at home, the concept of trophies will be brand new to you. Basically, for every game that you play on the PSV, you will be awarded certain trophies for different achievements. For example, in Everybody's Golf, you can unlock a trophy by simply competing in the Daily International Tournament just once.

This gives added incentive to play PSV games, furthermore, the details of your latest Trophies can then be shared with your fellow PSV gamers via the 'Near' social interaction application if you wish.

AR Cards:

When the Nintendo 3DS first came bundled with its own set of Augmented Reality Cards, we were totally bowled over by the sheer quality of them, that was until we managed to have a look at Sony's PS Vita collection of wide-angled AR Cards.

Although the cards are quite plain in appearence and certainly less colourful then the yellow and black 3DS cards, they can be used with standard PS Vita games such as Reality Fighters (see screenshot above) and also come with its own set of AR Mini Games, which can be downloaded for FREE from the PSN Store.

The first set of  PS Vita AR games are Table Football, Cliff Diving and Fireworks, which is not actually an AR game in and of itself, but can utilise the AR technology to create stunning real-life backdrops for the virtual firework displays.

Sony also intends to create more free AR software for PSV users in the future. This brilliant Youtube trailer shows the range of AR Mini Games which should become available over the next few months:


Our next stop was to check out some PS Vita goodies from the PSN store. Here we also noticed that Sony's promise to have EVERY PS Vita core title available for download was being fulfilled. Every launch title was definitely available for download, as well as some PSN exclusive PS Vita titles like Escape Plan, which was available for download at the stunning price of £9.99!

Nevertheless, Mini Gamers wanted to really test the PS Vita's downloading prowess, so we opted to download a couple of films instead. Normally this would have taken around two hours on a standard
PSP console, so we were pleasantly surprised that it only took around twenty minutes on the PS Vita!

The best thing about the PS Vita's downloading process though, was that we could check the progress of the download in the main LiveArea, but were able to continue playing our new games and exploring the console while the download was taking place. This was never possible on the original PSP console as was a really refreshing aspect of the new handheld.


Mini Gamers will be looking at some of games available for the PS Vita more closely in the coming days, so we won't dwell on any specifics here, but we do feel the need to mention how sharp and clear the graphics were in the games which we tried. The games appeared to be of Home Console quality rather than that of a mere handheld.

Furthermore, some of the finely-tuned Vita only controls really led to some quality gameplay, such as the ability to trace a pathway for Nathan Drake with our fingers in Uncharted: Golden Abyss, but that's another story...


The debate over whether the PS Vita is a good or bad console continues, but our first impressions of the device is that it is both gaming-centred and socially-orientated meaning that it creates its own exclusive community where people can now play their favourite handheld games not in isolation, or with a sparse collection of friends,  but together, through a solid worldwide network, online.

The PSV has a lot of good aspects to it, such as a touch screen interface, sharp, quality graphics, fast downloads and multimedia functionality, which are all fantastic qualities for such a tiny handheld to possess, but which are somewhat shared by other handhelds (3DS) and gaming tablets (iPad 3) in the current entertainment market, which may help explain why the PS Vita has not yet managed to achieve dominance in this field.

However, the PSV has been able to offer some great gaming titles during its initial launch, and this has also been enhanced by a fully-working download service and Internet Browser, which was something that the Nintendo 3DS was unable to do for several months after its initial launch.

All in all, the PS Vita is most definitely a next-generation handheld, and it offers a range of fun and interactive ways for PSP fans to play the latest range of top-quality Sony games, without needing to fork out for an expensive PS3 console.  This handheld definitely deserves some respect. Overall rating: 10/10.