PlayStation Vita © Sony

In this week’s Power Up! Gaming Blog, Glen Ferris gets his eager mitts on Sony’s latest and greatest handheld device, the PlayStation Vita…

PlayStation Vita – Review

Ahead of the launch of its much-heralded PS Vita, Sony executives could be forgiven for getting the jitters.

You see, we’re living in an era when you can play great games, listen to music, watch videos, surf the web and make a call on a single smart phone device; and most everybody’s got one. The only other recent major handheld gaming device to get a widespread release, the Nintendo 3DS, was hampered by poor sales figures - so you have to consider, has the time of the console-in-your-pocket been and gone?

Sony are taking a gamble (albeit a rather educated one) that there are plenty of people out there for whom Angry Birds and iTunes simply isn’t good enough. Their Vita - the glorious piece of kit that it is - aims to give gamers their first proper third-generation handheld device, a machine that is ostensibly a PS3 shrunk down to pocket size with some very cool added extras to make it doubly worth your while shelling out on.

Whether the Vita will break the stranglehold that Apple and Co have over the mobile gaming market remains to be seen, but we can tell you without any shadow of a doubt that Sony’s latest is a portable marvel.

Similar in size to the PSP but benefiting from infinitely better design both inside and out, it comes complete with dual Analog sticks (an addition which happily staves off the ‘lobster-claw’ cramp that would set in after prolonged play on the PSP), the now-familiar Triangle, Circle, Square and X buttons, a pair of shoulder buttons and a D pad. Essentially, it’s a bit bigger than a regular PS3 controller and makes for some comfortably ergonomic playing.

Light, sturdy and, depending on the tightness of your trousers, nicely pocket-sized (even at roughly double the size of an iPhone), the Vita manages to pack a hell of a lot into a small packet.

One particularly impressive addition is the new OLED touch screen (one of two touch screens, front and back, that gives you a choice of playing styles). Simply put, it’s bloody gorgeous - 16 million colours really do make the games absolutely sing and the touch elements bring a whole new dimension to interactivity.

This perfectly pitched screen also comes in useful when playing PSP games. Thanks to the handy Emulator, you can play old titles and have them visually upscaled while also being able to reconfigure the controls to take advantage of the dual Analogs.

More fun gadgets come in the shape of front and back cameras (no video capability yet, unfortunately) and Sixaxis motion sensing to give you yet another game control option, while Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and a decent battery life (three-five hours of playing, five hours of video and nine hours of music) will keep you happily connected and running.

Getting introduced to the device’s functionality is made a doddle with the Welcome Park feature – a series of mini-games that smartly let introduce you to how things work. You’ve also got instant access to the PS Store for easy downloading of digital-only games, a net browser, a handy friend finder called Near, a content manager, camera and album, video and music player and the nifty Remote Play option for hooking up to your PS3. In fact, just about all it doesn’t have is a phone.

Costing around £229 (275 Euro/$365 US) for the Wi-Fi version and £279 (335 Euro/$445 US) for the 3G, it’s admittedly not a cheap investment, but such is the extraordinary level of quality that it’s well worth anybody’s moolah.

A brilliant combination of design, user friendliness and next-gen hardware, it’s everything you expected and more. Our advice? Downgrade your smartphone and invest in one of these. You won’t regret it.

The PlayStation Vita is released on February 22

Come back next week to check out our reviews of the launch titles…

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