PlayStation’s VitaL Platformers

PlayStation’s VitaL Platformers

There is no denying that Sony is in the process of leaving its handheld device out in the cold, with a remark from Sony Computer Entertainment president Andrew House earlier this year stating that the Vita is a ‘legacy device’. Sony defended this comment by saying that House was referring to older models of the hardware. Throw in the recent remarks about the likelihood of there being a successor to the Vita being about as high as Tony Abbott becoming PM again, plus the fact that Sony hid the Vita in a short video at this year’s E3, announcing only minor titles for the console, including Severed, Super Time Force Ultra, Might No. 9 and Persona 4: Dancing All Night and it becomes obvious that there simply isn’t enough money in the Vita to create massive AAA titles like the Pokemon series on Nintendo’s hugely successful DS consoles.

Handheld devices, above all else, need to be comfortable to hold. They can provide the greatest looking graphics, the most impressive games and wonderful sound, but if they are not comfortable to use over extended periods of time, they will fall by the wayside. My gaming genre of choice has always been platformers, and the Playstation Vita has, for years, been my device of choice to play them on. The Nintendo 3DS does many things wonderfully, however I find that it’s an uncomfortable choice for playing platformers for extended periods of time.

At 2014’s E3 the quiet announcement was made that after years of patiently waiting, the platforming masterpiece that is Super Meat Boy would be making its way to Playstation devices. So whilst the Vita rumbles along to its eventual demise, I feel it is time to look back at what the Vita does best – provide a comfortable platform for great platformers. There are many who would say that the Vita has also found another life as a place for JRPGs, but that is not a genre I am familiar enough with to write up a list of great examples of the genre. Full disclosure, many of these games are available on many other devices, however I feel the Vita is the platform that suits these six games best.

Shovel Knight Shovel Knight is the homage to retro gaming that fans have been waiting for. Making fantastic use of the 16-bit aesthetic, Shovel Knight is a visual wonder, matching great artwork with intuitive and enjoyable gameplay. It’s addictive stuff – so addictive, in fact, that it made me miss a few bus stops. If you happen to have already played Shovel Knight on different platforms, you’ll find something new in each level with the Playstation Vita version even featuring God of War’s Kratos in a level.

But really, don’t take my word for it… read Dave’s review for a more in depth look at why Shovel Knight is worth a play through.


Rogue Legacy – just like Shovel Knight, Rogue Legacy is an homage to 16-bit gaming. In this title you play as a knight who has to conquer a castle. There are mysterious forces at play, making each death spawn a new member in your humble knight’s lineage. With each death, the castle itself resets and you’re up for a whole new challenge. One of my pet peeves with the platforming genre nowadays raises its ugly head here: procedurally generated levels. Yet like Spelunky, Rogue Legacy uses this feature perfectly.

Unlike other procedurally generated games, Rogue Legacy’s levels make sense and you always feel prepared for the challenge at hand. And boy, Rogue Legacy can be difficult! Have a read of our review if you would like to know more.


Kick & Fennick Kick & Fennick is not a perfect platformer that’s for sure, but for the most part, it’s a really enjoyable title. The sense of scale is fully realised in this post-apocalyptic world where a boy and his gun try to escape from a rampaging robot. The simple jumping mechanics are a true joy to play with using the Vita’s touch screen or simple control system. Kick & Fennick is a game that simply couldn’t exist on any other platform, making it one of the very few platform exclusives on this list.

Read my review to ,learn a bit more about it

Screenshot-KickFennick- (15)

LittleBigPlanet Vita – In the PS1 and PS2 era, Sony relied on Crash Bandicoot and Ratchet & Clank as their platform figureheads. With the arrival of the PS3 came LittleBigPlanet, and a new face – Sackboy – became Sony’s platforming mascot. Yet, whilst LBP 1, 2 and the PSP version are all fun, the Vita’s entry into the DIY level creator series is easily the best.

The levels bundled with the game are stupidly enjoyable and have a mildly interesting story attached. Mini-games are used intelligently, with the Vita’s under-utilised touch controls implemented here to great success. Yet, the real joy here is the level creator. LittleBigPlanet‘s level creator on console is good, but always felt fiddly to navigate with a controller. Bring in the Vita’s underutilised touch screen and levels have never been easier to create.


Sound Shapes – Music games have been oddly successful on handheld devices. PSP fans will attest to the countless hours wasted playing the addictive Patapon series. Sound Shapes is a game that is as unique as it is fun to play. Taking the idea that each ‘world’ is like an album, in Sound Shapes you take on the role of a little eyeball-like sphere who navigates beautifully realised pastel coloured levels. Music by artists like Deadmau5 and Beck provide the backing for each album which makes up the levels of each ‘world’. The beats of these songs make each world a soothing journey to go through and add to the somewhat effortless nature of the levels.

On top of the great core game are some exceptionally difficult Death Mode challenge levels which will really test your platforming skills. It’s great the Vita is so comfortable to hold as sometimes with these levels you’ll be bringing out the whites of your knuckles as you hold on in frustration. Throw in an extensive level creation system and continued support via worthwhile DLC and Sound Shapes is a must have on the Vita.

Sound Shapes

Limbo – I questioned whether to include Limbo on this list. As a white eyed nameless little boy, you really can’t jump that well or do a heck of a lot, you just have to make your way through a dark and depressing world to… where? Who knows? There are many theories out there. But what makes Limbo a must play on the Vita is the visuals. The striking contrast between black and white illuminate the Vita’s great screen perfectly. It’s simple gameplay for sure, but it’s rewarding with its creative puzzles and emotionally challenging story.

There’s something extra personal about playing with a handheld console that you just don’t get from playing on your home cinema. That personal aspect is perfect for Limbo, a game that deals with death in its many stark and brutal forms. It’s low on replay value for sure, but that doesn’t stop it from being a must play game regardless.


Guacamelee! Guacamelee is a game that I won’t ever delete off my Vita. It’s simply one of the best modern games and one of the finest homages to the Metroidvania genre that hasn’t really been perfected since Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (which is playable on the Vita thanks to the PSOne emulator). Visually, Guacamelee is ridiculously enjoyable to look at with sight gags and a beautiful array of colours. Combat is easy to learn and drip fed throughout the game in well-timed segments. The music is a real thrill to listen to as well.

Sure, the Super Championship Edition is possibly the better version to play, but that doesn’t stop the original being a must play title. The Vita’s nifty little thumbsticks get a good workout as you fling your luchadore hero around, fighting offthe skeletal enemies. There are not many games I would consider a ‘must play’ for every gamer out there, but Guacamelee is one that every gamer should play at least once.


Tearaway – when Tearaway first hit, I felt that it was going to be the title that revived the Vita. Tearaway was, and still is even with the arrival of the PS4 version, a must play game. Where the other games on this list are 2D platformers, Tearaway is the only 3D platformer I recommend playing on the Vita. I can’t comment on the PS4 version yet, but Tearaway utilises all the features of the Vita perfectly.

The great visuals of the paper crafted world are superbly realised with the OLED display (and of course, it still looks good on the subsequent LCD display too). The game encourages you to create your own designs for the world through the use of the touch screen, a feature that is greatly welcomed. The smart back touch pad is enjoyably put to work here as is the cameras and microphone. Tearaway is a game that encourages you to be creative, to get you out into the world and play it. It’s a game with heart and is an enjoyable portable 3D platformer. Get into it.


Rayman Origins Rayman Origins is my favourite game of all time, and my first experience of it was on the Vita. You know how you have fond memories of the place you first met the love of your life? Well, for me, that’s what the Playstation Vita was with Rayman Origins. I completed Rayman Origins within two days, and within a week I’d gotten the platinum for it. I’d then gone back and played it all the way through again. Part of what spurred on my love affair with Rayman Origins was the ease and comfort of the Vita in my hands. It provided a joyful experience where the Vita became an extension of myself. I was one with the game! (Not really.)

Given the speed-run aspect of Rayman Origins, it’s important that whatever device you’re playing it on is comfortable. When I went to replay Rayman Origins on my 3DS, I found that my hands became exceptionally tired quickly and very sore. The curved, sleek form of the Vita makes it a very comfortable device to hold onto for a long period of time when you’re trying to tackle the exceptionally addictive chest chase levels. One day I’ll write a longer article about why Rayman Origins is great, but for now, all you need to know is it’s a must play on the Playstation Vita (and one to avoid on 3DS).

Rayman Origins

Spelunky – now for the piece de resistance of the Vita’s platformers. There really is no finer game (well, until Super Meat Boy hits) than Spelunky for the Vita. It’s an addictive procedurally generated dungeon crawler where your goal is simple and death is frequent. Getting to the end of each level will challenge you in ways that many games dream of. It’s punishing, but every death is your fault, not the games’. However, the harsh gameplay means that every success feels like a true victory. Spelunky’s simple mechanics are superbly implemented with moving and fighting being very intuitive and easy to pick up quickly.

Given that levels can last anywhere from thirty seconds to five minutes, Spelunky is the perfect mobile platformer. I’ve spent countless hours playing it with the game never getting old and for that alone it’s quite possibly the most accessible and fun game to have on your Vita.


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Andrew was nameless for the first week of his life. His parents were too busy trying to figure out the character creation model that they forgot to name him. Unfortunately, they molded him into a bearded film loving idiot who runs The Last New Wave and AB Film Review with his wife as well as talks about games every so often. Sometimes he knows stuff, most of the time he’s an idiot.
  • Dave C Haldane

    Great article. Great platformers. I’d never really thought about it before but you’re right in that my favourite versions of these platformers are on the Vita. My only gripe with the system is that the face buttons are a hard causing my thumb to hurt after a short period. I also really dislike the rear touchpad as it just never feels properly utilised in a game… except maybe Escape Plan.

    • I was not a fan of Escape Plan – a game that didn’t get better on the PS4 either. The buttons don’t bother me – I think they’re just fine.

      A game like Tearaway used the rear touch pad brilliantly. It’s a problem with devices like this – if it’s not successful enough then what’s to encourage developers to include features in their games like touch controls?

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