Review: Little Deviants (Sony Playstation Vita)

Little Deviants
Genre: Mini-Game Collection
Developer: BigBig Studios
Publisher: SCEA
Release Date: 02/15/12

First party tech demos to celebrate the capabilities of a new console are nothing new. When a new console comes out, the parent company always wants to show off what the console is capable of, visually and mechanically, and tries to put their best foot forward with the demonstration games. This has been happening more recently as game mechanics have advanced outside of the standard controller input, with games like Wii Sports, Kinect Sports and… uh, Sports Champions showing off the capabilities of the Wii, Kinect and Move, respectively, for example. As such, it’s no surprise that the Playstation Vita would see such a game launch alongside the console, to the extent that it would even come with one version of the console as a pack-in, and Little Deviants certainly fills that spot on all fronts. The game is essentially a mini-game collection designed to showcase the technical capabilities of the console’s mechanics, allowing the player to see how the touch screen, rear touch screen, internal gyroscope and microphone work, which is an admirable goal if nothing else. The problem, however, is that even considering its budget price and the intended end goal, Little Deviants is a mess on such a level that it actually inspires a sort of buyer’s remorse; it’s a game that literally makes it seem like the mechanical novelties of the console are actually bad, and that’s not a good thing.

So, such as one exists in the game, the plot of Little Deviants is basically the plot of Toejam and Earl, with evil aliens. The titular Little Deviants are sailing around in outer space, trying to escape the evil alien Botz, when their ship is shot down, stranding them on a square planet full of square headed people called Whomans, who they proceed to harass almost immediately. The Botz follow them down to the planet and reanimate the dead, which are now dubbed Dead’Uns (yep), on said planet in a direct attempt to hunt the Little Deviants to extinction, leaving you as the player to try and save them, rebuild their spaceship, and send them home. The plot is basically never really touched upon except in a couple minor cutscenes, mind you, and that explanation is basically everything the game gives you to work with, so said plot is basically “wafer thin”, and that’s all that is to be said about it. Insofar as game modes go, there’s not a lot to see here either. You can jump into the “Story Mode”, which is in quotes as a sarcastic observation because there is virtually no plot, and try to complete all of the different stages and find all of the parts for the Little Deviants’ ship. You can jump into the Games mode if you want to play the mini-games… though, in point of fact, you can ALSO do this from the Story mode, so the Games mode really only functions as a front-end that allows you to see what scores your friends have, if you’re online and your friends have played the game. You can check the Player Record to see what your play stats look like, as well as review the unlocked items in the Gallery or the Moggers you find. This is the sum total of your options, outside of an Options menu that lets you change your dominant hand and the audio levels. The game is basically based entirely around the mini-games to the extent that it has nothing else interesting to offer outside of them, which is a bad way to start things off, though in this case, it’s rather appropriate.

The visuals in Little Deviants are meant to be more stylistic than anything else, and in that regard, they carry their weight fairly acceptably. The Deviants look cute enough, in a weird sort of way, and the blocky enemies and environments are clearly designed as such on purpose, and as such, generally look perfectly fine. Special effects like texture warping and lighting effects are also solid here, though the game isn’t any kind of technical powerhouse on the console and isn’t really showcasing the system’s visual potential or anything. Aurally, the music is a cute and upbeat inoffensive mix that gives the game enough personality to work with, though for the most part it’s largely not very notable and you likely won’t retain any impressions of it beyond the time you spend playing the game. There’s no voice acting in the game so to say, as everything that “speaks” does so in a sort of gibberish that’s cute, but does nothing exciting one way or the other. The sound effects emulate an arcade sort of feel, and are often over the top in most cases, but they work fine for what they’re attempting to convey and, overall, seem to have been assembled and set well.

There’s no one control style for Little Deviants, though if there’s anything you can almost definitely be sure of, it’s that you’ll be spending your time playing the game in unconventional ways. The game is based almost entirely around making use of everything but the main controls, so you’ll find yourself in the middle of a crash course on how to use both touchscreens, the gyroscope, the cameras and the microphone that are built into the device in order to succeed. There are the odd instances where the triggers come into play during shooting or racing games, but these are also attached to other odd mechanics like using the gyroscope or the cameras on the device, so you can pretty much assume you’ll be doing something crazy at all times. The game throws several different types of mini-games at you in order to test your skills, and while the game types eventually repeat as you play, the different games themselves generally play different from one another enough to give you a challenge. You’ll find games that task you to use the rear touch screen to deform the landscape so as to roll your Deviant through the level, games that emulate the old marble maze game Labyrinth by way of the gyroscope, games that ask you to use both touch screens to tap monsters out of the screen or slingshot your Deviant around, and more as you play through the game. Regardless of what you can say about the game, there’s a good bit of ingenuity in how the games themselves are played and the concepts that drive them, and if nothing else, that’s something to be proud of.

The game gives you five different Deviants to work with; Goopher (normal), Pyruss (fire), Frostal (ice), Blobber (slimy), and Nucleor (atomic), and each have some vaguely different puzzles associated to them, though many of the puzzles repeat and you’ll spend most of your time playing as Goopher, but the effort is there, at least. Many of the different stages also feature various power-ups, such as stars that add points to your score, clocks that extend your time in timed stages, health power-ups that increase your health (of course), and the odd attack power-up that might blast flame across the screen or hit all Botz in the area with an EMP blast. Your objective in each stage is to earn the most possible points before you either fail, die, or complete the level, to earn one of three standard placements in the stage: Bronze, which unlocks the next stage, Silver, which unlocks a Gallery item, or Gold, which seems to be for nothing more than bragging rights. You’ll need to score at least a Bronze in each stage in order to progress through the different zones and unlock all the stages, but higher scores are better if you’re interested in unlocking everything.

You can mostly plow through the game in around five hours or so if you’re not looking to do anything but unlock all the mini-game stages, though if you’re looking to earn unlockables you might find yourself doubling your time to get all of the Silver Medals, at the very least. Each stage also contains a Mogger, a block-headed cat that you keep in a house under your Player Records screen, so you can aim to collect them as well if you wish. You can connect the game online to match up against friends if you’re looking to get the highest possible scores and compete with others, and there are also Trophies you can earn for the game if you’re connected to the Playstation Network and want to earn these things for yourself. The game might also be a cute and inoffensive diversion if you’re bored, as the mini-games themselves are often reasonably short, so if you’re just looking for something to use to waste a few minutes, there are worse ways you could spend your time than cranking out a stage or two of Little Deviants, one supposes.

Having said that, though, while there are worse ways to spend your time, on the console in question, there certainly aren’t many. Now, yes, the game is relatively budget priced, but even with that in mind the game is shallow and uninspired in a lot of ways. The game repeats mini-games more than it should given the circumstances, and when you’re taking the “new” Deviants you acquire through the same old stages you’ve already played with friggin’ Goopher, or worse, playing the same stage types again WITH Goopher, the game gets old in a hurry. It also doesn’t help that the game has some incredibly annoying mini-games stuffed into it. A singing mini-game? Further, a singing mini-game where the Vita mic can’t even discern pitch properly and grades the same pitch at two different scales depending on when it’s used? No, this is not a good idea. The rear touch screen also comes across as an especially bad idea in this game, as any time you’re forced to use it, you immediately feel like you have no idea if you’re about to touch where you actually want to touch, which often leaves you feeling like you’re about to make a big mistake or fooling around trying to adjust where you’re pressing, which is not at all fun. The game also has a funny idea of how to reward the player, as Gold rankings seem to do nothing of value unless one values Trophies, and the aforementioned Moggers seem to literally do nothing except exist in a house you’ll likely never visit. The fact that there is also an entire mode designed solely as a way to look at the mini-games you’ve unlocked and see the scores your friends have earned, something that 1.) could have been built into the Story mode, which makes it poor design, and 2.) useless if you have no friends playing the game or don’t care about their scores, also says a lot about how much effort was invested into the game.

The bottom line, frankly, is that Little Deviants, at its absolute best, is vaguely entertaining for a few minutes at a time, and at its absolute worst, makes you question your purchase of the console that houses it, which cannot even remotely be considered a good thing no matter who you are. The game is aesthetically pleasant, if not technically amazing, there are a wide variety of mini-games to discover and play, and there is a decent amount of unlockable content if you’re the sort of person who desires this, as well as the ability to challenge high scores and unlock Trophies. However, the virtually non-existent plot and absolute dearth of gameplay modes don’t help to keep things interesting, many of the mini-games are repetitive, poorly conceived and poorly executed, and there’s no real sense of variety or progression. Worse, the game makes bad use of the unique elements the Playstation Vita offers, has practically no interest in rewarding the player in any sort of practical fashion, and basically seems to have been created with little investment of interest from the developer. Even as a reduced price launch title Little Deviants does practically nothing to make it worth investing any time in, especially when so many other launch titles are notably better, and there’s basically no reason to play it unless you’re so desperate to see what the console can do that you’re willing to test this with a game that doesn’t showcase that very well.

The Scores:
Story/Game Modes: POOR
Control/Gameplay: POOR
Replayability: DREADFUL
Originality: ABOVE AVERAGE
Addictiveness: BAD
Appeal: BAD
Miscellaneous: WORTHLESS

Short Attention Span Summary:
Little Deviants, as a product, fails as a game because it lacks any sort of consistent enjoyment, and fails as a tech demo because it makes poor use of the tech available, making it basically undesirable in most respects. In fairness, the game is generally pleasant in an aesthetic sense, if not in a technical one, and some of the mini-games on display are amusing enough that they might be able to keep your interest for a while. There’s also a decent amount of unlockable content and Trophies for the player who enjoys earning these sorts of things, and you can compete with your friends over high scores if you find that interesting. However, the game shows its lack of any real variety or depth early on, and many of the mini-games in the package are simply badly designed and don’t lend themselves to ONE play, let alone repeat plays. Further, the game makes poor use of the Vita hardware to a level that leaves the console looking bad as a result, the game has a poor idea of how to reward the player properly, if at all, and the game just feels like it was an afterthought with no long term investment or value within. Even at its lower price point, Little Deviants does nothing to set itself apart in a positive fashion from its launch competitors, and unless you’re absolutely desperate to see what the Playstation Vita can do to a level where you’d accept a gamer that shows this poorly, there’s no reason to give the game a second look.



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One response to “Review: Little Deviants (Sony Playstation Vita)”

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