I can't deny that Little Deviants was one of the PlayStation Vita games I was most interested in getting my hands on. As a seemingly clever mini-game collection from the recently shuttered Sony first party studio BigBig, Little Deviants appeared to be more than just software designed to showcase all of the PlayStation Vita's alternate control functionality. In some ways, it certainly is, but in other ways, Little Deviants proved to be inconsistent and redundant, significantly lowering its worthiness as a PlayStation Vita launch title that demands your attention.
Little Deviants' story is nonsensical, virtually non-existent, and not at all important to your enjoyment of the game. The general structure of the experience relies not on plot-driven intricacies, but rather on the completion of Little Deviants' mini-games, which always find the cute Deviant characters in some sort of predicament directed by their devious foils, the Botz. By completing mini-games while achieving certain point totals, players will unlock in-game medals that in turn unlock new mini-games and various extras to round out the experience.
If you're hesitant to use the PlayStation Vita's front and rear touch pads, SixAxis motion controls, camera and microphone, then needless to say Little Deviants isn't for you. BigBig's game relies entirely on those control schemes to move you through its various activities. The Vita's analog sticks, face buttons and directional pad are never used, though you'll occasionally use the L and R buttons.
Then again, if you're interested in all of the things the PlayStation Vita can do that the PlayStation Portable couldn't, then Little Deviants may be worth a look. Most of the activities tote functional controls, though some are admittedly more fun than others. Of course, Little Deviants also has a few mini-games that don't work well or are outright frustrating. A great example of one such mini-game is the singular activity I was actually most interested in, the one that uses the back touch pad to create hills on the screen that move your Deviant around enemies and obstacles. While great in premise, this mini-game constitutes perhaps the weakest and most frustrating foray into alternate controls I ran into.
Such a poor activity brings up the sad truth about Little Deviants: the good things it does become weighed down by inconsistencies. For all of the fun mini-games -- some that use SixAxis with considerable precision or others that require you to hold the Vita sideways -- there are ones that frustrate, annoy and stymie your advance not due to low player skill, but rather as a result of poor design. In the aforementioned rolling game, for instance, it's not that the idea of using the back touch pad is a poor one, but rather that the control scheme just doesn't translate easily or fluidly into the game.
Something very telling also struck me about Little Deviants as I played through it, something I never really thought of or realized until I had the game in my hands. The PlayStation Vita's designed for you to take on the go, but playing Little Deviants on the go proved to be problematic.
When playing on my commute to and from work one day, I realized I would never play the game in a crowded public space again as I would, say, my Nintendo DS or PSP. Whether speeding a spaceship along with SixAxis controls, using camera-controlled augmented reality functionality to blast enemies in seemingly real space, or frantically tapping the touch pad to kill evil robots, I looked crazy, and not like I was playing a game. That's not a problem per se, but it becomes one when you're playing a game on the device made to be used during on-the-go situations.
Gamers are also likely to make the correlation between Little Deviants' purpose and the PlayStation Vita's built-in application Welcome Park's purpose. Welcome Park's design introduces gamers to the things PlayStation Vita can do that PSP couldn't, and it's free. Thus, to enjoy Little Deviants, you'd need to want to play it as a game and not as a tech showcase. I'm not entirely convinced that it will appeal to many people in that context. It certainly didn't appeal to me for longer than short, sporadic bursts.
It’s not to say that Little Deviants is a poor game, because it isn’t. It’s a decent piece of (admittedly overpriced) software. And its pretty, vivid graphics and surprisingly catchy old-school inspired soundtrack certainly please aesthetically. But a strong hook doesn’t exist. To earn gold medals in any activity, you have to be virtually flawless in your execution, something that’s frustrating to accomplish on any motion-based control scheme, nonetheless ones that don’t work as well as others. Without that to draw you in, you could conceivably earn bronze medals to unlock new mini-games and see them all in no more than a few hours. What you have to ask yourself is whether that’s worth Little Deviants’ high asking price of $30 or not.