I’m not going to beat around the bush about it, PlayStation Mobile represents a huge amount of potential for Sony, at least if the initial offerings are anything to go by. The essential rebrand of the PlayStation Suite is set to launch later this month – after it’s reveal at E3 in June – and will let fans “enjoy quality games on PlayStation Certified mobile devices” which now includes the PlayStation Vita. So why is this such a big deal? Well, having a unified location to purchase cheap and polished games for your Vita will provide competition and an alternate to the likes of the App Store and Android Marketplace.
Of course, this means nothing if the games aren’t there, both in the quality and volume. This is something we really won’t know until further down the line, but from what I’ve seen the quality will certainly be there. Beats Slider from FuturLab is a classic slider puzzle game with a musical zing that oozes polish. It works perfectly on the Vita’s touchscreen and is the perfect pick-up-and-play title with most puzzles lasting for a couple of minutes.
Then there’s FuturLab’s second PSM title, Fuel Tiracas.
Jovially described by the developer as ((Coconut Dodge + Velocity) / (Core Essence + Aliens) * Bishop) = Fuel Tiracas, the game is at heart a touchscreen version of whack-a-mole. Using the scene in hand stabbing scene with Bishop in the hit film Alien as inspiration, the core gameplay mechanic is to hit the mesmerising spinning circles in the correct order and as quickly as you can. However, FuturLab don’t just do simple games – there’s a beautiful twist to it. You have to fill up fuel gauges and keep between two and five of them filled between certain parameters to complete that level. Throw in some clever different circles and combinations and it goes from a very simplistic idea to one of immense and addictive enjoyment.
But why release a game like this for PlayStation Mobile? Why not the App Store or PSN? “PlayStation Mobile is a great channel for indie developers to publish small games for PlayStation Vita. The Vita needs lots of great games to succeed, and we want it to succeed, so… we’re making some great games for it!” said James Marsden, Owner and Director at FuturLab. “Fuel Tiracas took eight weeks from concept to completion, it was good fun to develop as the turnaround time was so quick – we had things up and running on the first day and iteration cycles were very rapid.”
So it seems that the speed at developing games could be key to getting games on the PlayStation Mobile platform, and having them available for both Vita and PlayStation Certified mobile devices provides an excellent market for would-be developers. It will certainly help that the game will have leaderboards for score hunting (which it excels at) and will retail for the dirt-cheap price of 40p!
Ricky Haggett, Designer & Co-Founder at Honeyslug, voiced similar praise on developing for the system. “Passing Time took about 9 months of solid work to make: from the original Flash prototype to finished game. The porting process was pretty smooth.”
When asked if he’d be interested in making another PSM game he replied, “We’re definitely interested in doing more Playstation Mobile games if the right opportunities come up.”
And for gamers it provides a platform for quicker and cheaper games to be released. Both Beats Slider and Fuel Tiracas will likely cost around the price of a chocolate bar according to Marsden – although pricing has yet to be confirmed. If more developers can start creating titles for PSM, or even by porting over existing titles from other platforms, it could provide a truly great and exciting time for an aspect of the PlayStation Vita that has perhaps been overlooked. There are plenty of triple-A titles and big and impressive downloadable titles already on the handheld, but a dedicated area for quick, cheap and regularly updated content could be just what it needs.