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.

Friday, 17 February 2012

PS Vita Launch Titles: What titles will be available from Day One?

It is now less than a week until the official European launch of the PS Vita, which should hit the shop shelves on the 22nd of February 2012. However, if you haven't decided which PS Vita title you should choose first, our exploration of some of the initial launch titles should help you.

The official UK launch titles are as follows:

Asphalt: Injection

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II Plus

Dynasty Warriors Next

FIFA Soccer

Little Deviants

Lumines:Electronic Symphony

ModNation Racers: Road Trip

Michael Jackson: The Experience

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus

Reality Fighters

Rayman Origins

Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen


Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3

Uncharted: Golden Abyss

Virtua Tennis 4

WipEout 2048

There does seem to be a good mix of different gaming genres across the seventeen different core launch titles, with a further five titles said to be exclusively available for download from the Playstation Network Store on day one of the launch.

The five exclusive downloads are:

Escape Plan

Hustle Kings

Plants VS. Zombies

Super Stardust Delta

Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack
(*may be subject to change) 

Many of the launch games - Everybody's Golf, Modnation Racers: Road Trip, Wipeout 2048, (to name but a few) are sequels of prior PSP titles, which means that they are likely to have a big fan base when they hit the shelves, depending on whether or not the PS Vita console itself happens to sell the required units that Sony has predicted.

Moreover, many of these games feature new controls which are designed to demonstrate the PS Vita's new abilities. For example, in Everybody's Golf, whose previous versions have always proved extremely popular, the rear touchpad of the console is used to measure the distance of the ball to the next hole, and the front touchscreen can be used to reposition the ball before 'teeing off', or even rustle the leaves on the trees, or even make your character speak to you.

There are also exciting rumours concerning the game's multiplayer abilities, which suggest that as many as up to thirty competitors will be able to compete against each other during online play,  claim that a daily tournament will be available, and even hint that there will be a social forum available online for those players who wish to discuss the game, however, these details are still largely unconfirmed at present.

Nevertheless, with the PS Vita continuing to perform badly in the current Japanese gaming charts it is clear that Sony will have its work cut out to make its new handheld as popular as the original PSP console.

Some members of the gaming community are citing the high price of the console and its memory sticks as the main reason for its lack of popularity, whereas others say that ceasing the production of UMDs in favour of a new NVG cartridge format makes the PS Vita incompatible with existing PSP games, which has thus led to less interest from current PSP owners.

Whatever the good or bad points of the PS Vita console, it is an interesting addition to the handheld gaming scene and represents an important move away from handheld gaming as a solo activity and towards a more social handheld gaming experience.

Please remember to check out our PS Vita hands-on review once the console launches in Europe on Wednesday.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

PS Vita UK Trailer Launched

Sony have launched the official European PS Vita trailer. The trailer features the brand new slogan: 'The World is in Play,' and features people in almost every walk of life (from beauticians to train commuters etc,) taking part in movie-style scenes that seem to show them in a variety of videogame genres, all claiming to be part of a world which merges the boundaries of gaming and real-life.

The expensive one-minute trailer shows a definite move towards a more cinematic form of videogames marketing, as first seen in the early nineties, and also shows Sony's commitment to advertising their latest handheld.

The trailer is part of a multi-million pound advertising campaign, which Sony hopes will help to promote the PS Vita throughout Europe. In America, Sony is reportedly spending over $50 million to promote the console.

The PS Vita is focused not only on ordinary videogaming, but on Social Networking and social gaming, which is very strongly implied in the trailer. It is only a few days before the PS Vita's release in Europe on the 22nd of February, but it is already shaping up to be an interesting gaming device, even though there is no way of knowing whether the handheld device will be successful in the current gaming market. Only time will tell...

Don't forget to check in with Mini Gamers after the 22nd of February for our full hands-on review of the PS Vita!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

3DS Playable Demos: Have You Tried Them Yet?

It has been a few weeks since Nintendo released the first of their 3DS playable demo for Resident Evil Revelations in the Nintendo eShop, and since that time, two more demos for CRUSH 3D and Cooking Mama 4 have emerged.

Each demo showcases a particular level or aspect of the featured game. These demos can be downloaded for free, and can be used for 30 plays each, which gives players plenty of time to decide whether they like the game or not.

Crush 3D: Test out the various game mechanics and get a feel for the game.
Although the demos which are currently available are all of currently available shop titles, it is hoped that the eShop demos will soon feature games before their release date, allowing players to experience the latest 3DS titles way before they hit the shop shelves.

This not only avoids the disappointment of buying a game that one is not satisfied with, it also offers a good opportunity to explore the game mechanics and environments that will appear in the full version of the game.

Resident Evil Revelations: Check out the zombie hoardes in this game.
Future playable demos are thought to include games such as Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Metal Gear Solid: Snake 3D and Rayman's Origins, amongst others.

Mini Gamers has checked out the various demos ourselves, and was pleasantly surprised how good each demo was at portraying many aspects of the full games, including the stunning 3D graphics in most cases, although we do think that these demos should have been a feature of the Nintendo eShop from day one.

Whether you want to make pizza with Cooking Mama, enter Danny's mind in Crush 3D, or kill the zombies in Resident Evil Revelations, these demos should leave you feeling pretty satisfied and wanting to purchase the full title - if you haven't already. A very good addition to the Nintendo eShop's 3DS content.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games Review [3DS]

Gaming rivals Mario and Sonic are set to go head-to-head in another battle of Olympic proportions this week.

Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games (probably the longest 3DS title to date) sees the videogaming veterans take part in a variety of sporting events that we can expect to see at this year's Olympic Games.

This game also marks the Mario & Sonic series' debut on the Nintendo 3DS. As a result, some of the events contain elements that are designed to showcase the 3DS capabilities, including the Long Jump, which cleverly utilises the 3DS' Tilt System, and the Shot Put, which involves use of the microphone.

One of the things which becomes quickly apparent is that unlike the previous games in the series, Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games only focuses on a tiny portion of the event rather than allowing players to compete from the very beginning.

 Most games actually take place near the finish line and feature various simple tasks in order to decide a winner. For example, in the Weightlifting  competition, rather than being a button-pressing test of stamina, the player is only asked to shout into the microphone at the correct time.

Whilst this mini-game style will probably make the game more accessible to younger gamers than in past titles, it does take a large amount of the enjoyment out of the game and is our main criticism of the game.

That said, Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games does feature an impressive array of events, which should keep the average gamer happy for several days at least. However, those gamers who delight in testing their 'sporting prowess' within a videogame arena might feel a little let down by this particular game.

Rather surprisingly, this game also features no 'Dream Events', which have always been a staple of the previous Mario and Sonic games in the past, and have always provided a very entertaining alternative to the real Olympic Games.

There is a single-player storyline to entice gamers, although it does feature some lengthy cutscenes, but they are of good quality and the single-player campaign does add some much needed replay value to the game.

In conclusion, although Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games is a good debut title for the 3DS, its new mini-game style left us feeling slightly cheated as it did not feel as though we were taking part in an olympic sporting event. Nevertheless, the single player campaign does slightly make up for this. Good for younger gamers or casual gamers looking for a game to play in their spare time. Overall rating: 7/10.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

One Piece: Unlimited Cruise SP Review [3DS]

One Piece: Unlimited Cruise SP makes its 3DS debut this week. Whilst the animé-style game series is extremely popular franchise in Japan spanning not only videogames, but also manga comics and a cartoon series too, the One Piece games have failed to attract as large a following in the West. With this in mind, the release of this game on the 3DS came as a bit of a surprise.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this game or its characters, One Piece: Unlimited Cruise SP tells the story of  The Straw Hat Pirates and their Captain, Monkey D. Luffy, who all exhibit some form of supernatural power, and who are on a quest to find the so-called 'One Piece' treasure.

The 3DS version is supposed to be a port of two original Wii titles: Unlimited Cruise 1: Treasure Beneath The Waves, and Unlimited Cruise 2: Awakening of a Hero, which were released in Japan onto a single cartridge, under the title Unlimited Cruise: Special Edition. However, the second episode had to be dropped from the European version due to certain 'localisation issues'.

 So, (we hear you cry,) the European version has got only one game on it, but its still a pretty good game, right? The short answer to this is 'No.' Although the game starts well enough with some brilliantly animated cutscenes and some slightly witty dialogue between the main characters, the overall enjoyment factor soon wane the further one progresses through the gameplay.

One of the main reasons for this is that all nine of the game's playable characters (which each have their own special abilities,) have difficult and somewhat awkward moves for the player to perform during battles.

For example, Usopp, has a slingshot which can be used to fire all kinds of ammunition at his enemies, but the slingshot in the game barely seems to make a mark on the enemies and seems difficult to control, which soon becomes tiresome. What's worse, is that the same thing applies to each of the nine characters in turn regardless of their individual abilities.

In addition, progress through the game is slow (to the point of being mind-numbing) and centres around the idea of collecting every single item which has been scattered around the island in order to rid the characters of large, but pointless obstacles, such as a Giant Pillar, so that they can complete the game.
 This activity is then heavily hampered by the constant re-spawning of enemies, who, (despite being defeated the first time,) seem to reappear each time the character re-enters a previously played environment to search for the objects they need.

The game does try to redeem itself through its occasional Boss Battles, but even here, the game ends up being frustrating at best as the main protaganists find themselves at the mercy of several ultra-powerful enemy attacks, which usually results in a 'loss' for the playable character.

In conclusion, although fans of the One Piece franchise may find the sharp 3D environments and witty dialogue enjoyable for a short time, the gameplay leaves little to be desired and will quickly cause players to lose interest. Although we hate to say it, this really is a game to avoid. Overall rating: 3/10.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

PS Vita Minis: What's In Store?

With only a few weeks to go until the launch of Sony's PS Vita console, Mini Gamers decided to take a sneaky little peak at the interesting collection of mini games that will come preloaded on the day of the PS Vita's launch.

The mini game selection has been carefully compiled under the rather sweet title of the PS Vita 'Welcome Park' [*translated from the Japanese, and may be subject to change] and is designed to show off and guide users through different aspects of the PS Vita, as well as challenge gamers in a variety of different tasks.

One of the first games in the Welcome Park, is called Digit Chase. The idea is that players use the PS Vita's rear touchpad, touch and multi-touch functions in order to pop virtual 'bubbles' that will appear on the screen.

This may sound simple, until the bubbles start overlapping and numbered bubbles with the same number start to appear, causing the player to work his/her fingers around the different touch sensors of the console at rapid speed. In addition, the game is timed and keeps track of the players best time.

Once they are through with the bubbles, players are treated to a moving carousel of numbers to try and defeat and another numbers game involving the Rear Touchpad, but we wouldn't want to spoil the surprise... All in all, quite a fun little game.

Sound Loop will appeal to the musicians amongst you - or at least it tries to. Record a sound-clip, using the console's in-built microphone and it will be placed as a little looping orb, which circles the centre of the screen.

Moving the orb around to a different position will affect how often the sound-clip is replayed, and with a bit of practise, the 'looping' effects can be used to create rhythmic beats, similar to those found on a DJ's mixing decks.

Players can choose to change the backing music with the simple tap of a button. We have to say though, this one will probably send even the most hardcore DJ Hero fan a bit 'loopy' by the end of the game. Not a particular favourite.

Snap + Slide is the first of two camera-themed games in the Welcome Park. The objective is simple: Snap an object using the PS Vita's in-built camera, and this game converts the image into a delightful little sliding titles game for players to complete.

Players can choose to use either the front camera or the rear camera in order to obtain a suitable image. Furthermore, the player can decide exactly how many tiled pieces the image will be broken into, thus altering the difficulty of the game. A good reinvention of a classic puzzle game.

Skate Axis helps to introduce the Tilt Sensors, which we predict are set to become an important component of many future PS Vita gaming titles.

Players must control a tiny skateboarding stick figure. The idea is that players must tilt the console to either the left or the right in order to successfully avoid several ball-shaped obstacles that appear to block the skater's path.

Each successful dodge is rewarded with a number of points. This is a fun mini game, and very innovative. Definitely worth a try (or even several tries) in our opinion.

 Hello Face is another game which uses the PS Vita camera functions to its advantage. In this game, players must snap a picture of anything that looks like a face (teddy bear,Smiley-based fridge magnet, etc) and the 'face' will appear on the screen in the shape of a transparent cube, and then the game will add slightly animated features to it, such as large cartoon eyes, and the face will appear with various phrases and quotes, depending on the picture it is based on.

This game is very creative, even if it does border on the 'slightly trippy' side of life. This is definitely another Welcome Park success.

In conclusion, the PS Vita Welcome Park is an interesting and varied collection of games, which will be very useful for all those cash-strapped gamers who cannot afford the main launch games at the moment.

Plus, all of the mini games featured in the Welcome Park have unlockable trophies and rewards, so there is even more reason to replay this set of interactive tutorials.

 So there you have it - details of the various PS Vita mini games that you can expect to find when the console launches in the UK on the 22nd of February 2012. We hope that you have found it useful.

Keep checking in with the Mini Gamers blog for more news of this handheld console in the weeks leading up to, and after, the UK launch. We promise you all an in-depth review of this apparent 'Next Generation' console.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Special DSi Feature Helps Japanese Hearing Impaired Schoolchildren...

Japanese schoolchildren with hearing impairments have been given a new way of learning thanks to the brainy guys at Nintendo. They have now developed some nifty software for use with their handheld DSi consoles, which helps to convert speech (from teachers and peers) into readable text.

According to Venturebeat, The new learning software is currently being pioneered throughout  Japanese schools in the Okinawa and Tottori Prefectures, with the help of a telecom company called NTT, and is part of a larger scheme to allow hard of hearing pupils, or even those with learning difficulties  access to speech-to-text services and other learning resources and materials in order to boost their chances of educational success. 

The software on the DSi means that teachers' speech is immediately translated into text and then it is saved to a cloud-based server, where it can be downloaded 'live' to the special DSi handhelds whilst in the classroom, so that children can read and keep track of what is being said during their lessons, or it can be saved so that it can be studied later.

A similar scheme has recently been highlighted by Microsoft's Imagine Cup, which featured a winning entry from Ecuador's 'Team Falcon' that was based on the concept of turning speech into sign language symbols via an on-screen device.

This latest development could be seen as a positive step in enhancing the educational experiences of children with difficulties and disabilities, and is a good example of how gaming technologies can be used outside of the main gaming community.