NGP Hands On • Page 2

So does it do everything?

The NGP's networking capabilities open this up into a world of possibilities, and one which Sony intends to explore fully. Tracks and levels can be downloaded, remixed and uploaded once again, taking the play/create/share ethos of LittleBigPlanet and giving it a brilliantly hip makeover.

Sound Shapes makes modest but smart use of the NGP's many unique features. Elsewhere the myriad control options collide together in surprising, delightful and often eccentric ways.

Little Deviants has a crack at utilising every single one of them throughout the three mini-games on display. It's at its most effective in Hole Roll Control, a game that throws some real-time terraforming at Marble Madness's simple format. There are few surprises when it comes to basic play – rolling a hole into a ball is, as the name suggests, the order of the day – but the terraforming itself is a revelation.

Here the rear touch pad comes into play, with strokes of the NGP's smooth rear deforming the landscape. It's joyfully malleable and gives a good account of the accuracy of the pad. This goes to show how tactile the NGP can be and suggests the potential for the rear touch pad to add a new level of connection to game worlds.

Elsewhere, Little Deviants is a little less inspired as it ticks through the rest of the handheld's feature set. Depth Charge uses the tilt controls to guide an avatar through a mine-filled maze. While this is painfully simplistic it does at least show that the tilt works with an impressive level of accuracy.

Bots Blast is the last of Little Deviant's mini-games currently on show. It's an augmented reality shooting game that uses the NGP's rear-facing camera. Throw in some motion controls and you've got an experience that flies close to that of the 3DS's built-in Face Raiders, but any similarities illustrate how Sony's tech is several steps ahead of Nintendo's.

That fact is driven home by Reality Fighters, the new project from Invizimals developer Novorama. It's another augmented reality game, this time projecting two virtual fighters into the player's environment. The characters themselves are detailed and fully customisable, and one of the first options presented gives you the ability to map your own face onto an avatar.

Reality Fighters does an incredible job of incorporating its combatants into the backdrops, and it's a feature that's disarmingly charming: it's possible to project a 30- foot version of yourself onto the horizon and fight against a similarly proportioned astronaut. The camera and motion controls do well to keep the action steady.

The actual sparring runs surprisingly deep, with 16 fighting styles that take in everything from capoeira to zombie, ballet and breakdance, each sporting 80 moves and all pulled off with the traditional method of quarter circles and button combinations. It's a solid 2D brawler with a deft AR flourish, and the real sting is tucked away in one of its menus.

There's an option to fight using pre-captured backdrops, excusing the need to prance about in the sunlight. There are pre-loaded examples, although it's possible to upload 360-degree photos of your own. These can work in tandem with the Near app, allowing photos to be tagged with locations and possibly stored for other players to pick up.

It's another smart feature that has potentially far-reaching consequences – with the right application backed up by the NGP's networking, the sharing of 360-degree photos could be another hook for those wary of picking up what looks like, in some lights, merely a beefed-up PSP.

Sony has piled enough into the NGP to guarantee that such a dim impression doesn't last for long. After an afternoon in the company of the handheld it's hard not to marvel how much has been fitted into the device. It's a Swiss army knife of a handheld which can lay claim to best-in-class visuals, augmented reality features that go above and beyond the competition and networking capabilities in line with contemporary expectations.

To borrow Sony's own phrase, it only does everything. The question of cost still hangs over the NGP's head, however. In this brave new world of portable gaming, the price will have to be appealing enough to attract consumers already juggling several devices on their person. Being able to do everything may not be enough.

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