PlayStation Mobile brings a range of small-scale downloadable games to the Vita and PlayStation-certified devices, like tablets and smartphones. It's integrated smartly into the PSN store, and it launched on Wednesday to little obvious fanfare.
Tablets and smartphone owners already have plenty of decent pocket-sized games to play, of course, so it's the Vita audience who should probably be most excited about this. Filling a gap just below the PS mini - although the pricing frequently confuses things - is Mobile going to turn Vita's fortunes around in any meaningful way?
I don't know, really, but I suspect Sony would actually have to advertise the service for it to help very much with that sort of thing. No matter: if the idea of some quirky App-like games with the option to have buttons and triggers and thumbsticks attached from the word go sounds good, you're probably going to find something you'll like. Here are a few stars of the early line-up of 21 games.
Super Crate Box
Just as any good PS Vita library begins with Lumines: Electronic Symphony, so Super Crate Box should be the cornerstone of your PlayStation Mobile collection. Or maybe you should think of Vlambeer's much-loved arcade blaster as more of a base camp. Warm and familiar, it's the place from which you venture out when you try new games, and retreat to when they exhaust their pleasures.
You'll never exhaust Super Crate Box, though: with a range of tried-and-tested single screen arenas, it's your job to shoot the enemies that drop in from the top of the screen and collect as many crates as you can while you dash back and forth. The only problem is that the crates swap out your current weapon, meaning you're romping around with the revolver one minute and then you're stuck with the sodding duelling pistols the next.
Cripes, the arsenal's brilliant, each gun bringing its own magnificent strengths and miserable weaknesses, and while there doesn't seem to be any new content here - although there might be a few treats tucked away in the unlocks - the addition of proper clicky face buttons and d-pad support instantly makes it the best version of this wonderful modern classic yet seen. Art, soundtrack, fidelity of control? All brilliant. Do not let this one pass you by.
Super Crate Box isn't the only essential purchase lurking within PlayStation Mobile's launch slate, though. The team at PomPom, the delightful arcade weirdoes behind legendary blasters like Mutant Storm, are also pitching up their stall, and Rebel is one of their most interesting games yet.
It's wonderfully direct, too: a top-down survive-'em-up in which your dinky little prisoner of war must stay alive in some cramped single-screen environments while avoiding cannon fire, roving tanks and choppers. Movement's handled with the left thumbstick, and it will take a few minutes for you to acclimatise to the fact that that is pretty much it for controls: you take out your enemies by kiting them into friendly fire. Luckily, this turns out to make for a design that's far more satisfying and interesting than your standard twin-stick set-up.
There are a handful of maps and game variants to unlock, and there's also a neat load-out system that lets you pick a series of perks to take into battle with you. Bullet-time turns out to be far more useful and exciting than it should be, while chucking a decoy down reminds you that you're meant to be screwing with the enemy as much as possible. On top of that, the whole thing's rendered in the handicraft art style the team's bringing to Wildfire Worlds, and the collectables give off a tinkling sound that will put you in mind of the date and time titles at the start of the Back to the Future films. Gosh, Rebel is good stuff.
Aqua Kitty - Milk Mine Defender
Tikipod Limited, £2.79
Tikipod's offering is a very competent Defender clone that copies the template down to the mid-screen mini-map, the smart about-turn move, and the focus on making the explosions look really nice. With sheeny Amiga-era graphics, your task is to pilot a sub back and forth across a range of 2D seascapes, protecting a series of kitten miners who are drilling for milk at the bottom of the ocean. I think I saw a Dispatches about this kind of thing a while back.
Enemy waves are pleasantly varied, there's an excellent endless mode to unlock, and while the power-ups aren't that inspired, your limited-use secondary cannon chews through foes with a lovely ferocity. Also, if you're a cat owner, you're going to struggle not to panic during some of the more plaintive audio cues.
Ignore the 15 screen tutorial and the wonderfully elaborate sci-fi fiction about booting up futuristic nuclear reactors: this is - to quote the advertising copy - a mixture of whack-a-mole and plate spinning.
In other words, it's a nerve-frazzlingly tense action game that sees you tapping specific spots on the touchscreen to keep a coloured fuel gauge within certain boundaries. Go too high and you'll need to drain the gauge, but let it drop too low and you won't be making any progress. Oh cripes, there's more than one gauge, too, and they all seem to have their own rhythms. Panic.
Just when you think, "Ooh, I could probably just spam this game blindly by tapping away at the screen," it introduces contaminated fuel buttons, and suddenly you have to work with real precision. Throw in a handful of additional complications, a time-based leaderboard, and a stylishly spare aesthetic and you have a game put together with real class. It's the kind of game that makes you ask who made it, in fact, and when you find out it's FuturLab, the team behind the glorious PS Mini Velocity, everything suddenly makes a lot of sense.
Zener Works, £4.49
I'm a sperm in a 2D petri dish, I have to knock geometrical shapes against the wall to score points, and the gravity's weird? Sensational! You'll likely prod your way through your first few minutes of Nyoqix in a state of cheery confusion, after which you'll start hunting for a tutorial. Long story short, there, um, doesn't seem to be one, although I'm willing to believe it's tucked away somewhere and I just missed it. Regardless, the objective's pretty straightforward, the churn of victory and failure is suitably swift, and the whole thing is endearingly loopy. We're getting a new level every day, too.
And the rest
An acceptable - if rather basic - anagram game, let down by iffy touchscreen controls.
SYNC Inc., £1.19
Finally! That table-cleaning action game we'd all wanted. (This is actually far better than it sounds.)
Laughing Jackal, £2.39
Laughing Jackal's gobble-'em-up is a fairly entertaining arcade fix.
A freemium collection of quietly unexciting mini-games.
Crash Lab, £2.79
A wonky Kuru Kuru Kururin knock-off.
Frederic - Resurrection of Music
Forever Entertainment, £3.19
A wonderfully personable musical game that you may recognise from iOS.
Beatnik Games, £0.79
An auto-runner with a musical twist. Still not as good as it could be, sadly.
Loot the Land
Playthree Ltd. £3.19
A strangely satisfying matching puzzler with very cute Vikings.
HAMSTER Corporation, £3.99
This colour-matching game rises above its rather functional aesthetics with some clever directional twists on the formula.
Albino Pixel, £2.19
If you're after a PlayStation Mobile anagrams game, this one is slightly better - and prettier - than Word Blocked.
Sony's lovely number-based puzzle game gets another outing.
Origin8 Technologies, £2.59
A bucolic action-puzzler to play while the Archers is on the wireless. It's had a bit of a price mark-up from the standard smartphone SKU, though.
A simple but stylish tile-sliding game from the Velocity gang.
SYNC Inc, £5.89
Tower defence with viruses. Not computer viruses, thankfully.
Spinning Head Software, £1.79
Air hockey! Typically effective.
A lovely soundtoy at a knockdown price.