Everybody knows it’s not the size, but what you do with it, that counts. As such, I’ve always had a soft spot for Sony’s ambitious portables. Whether it’s killing a few hours (and aliens) in cars, or snuggling up in an armchair at home, there’s something magical about holding a universe within your hands.
Tilt-a-world platformer LocoRoco is so special, for example, that I recently spent several lunch breaks hunting a charger for my ten-year-old PSP after re-purchasing it from a second-hand bargain bin. Using those shoulder buttons to move the entire environment like an all-powerful god is a uniquely palpable, intimate experience that just isn't the same on a distant screen.
The same is true of PS Vita efforts Gravity Rush and Tearaway – they’re games to handle. Using the gyroscope for Kat’s gravity-defying combat feels second-nature on PS Vita – while it, er, functions on PS4. Poking up platforms (your digi-fingers appearing in-game) for Iota to hop on? Genius. Tickling the undercarriage of your PS4? Not gonna happen.
When devs celebrate this tactile tech, we’re treated to truly memorable games. Studios seeing handhelds as an afterthought, something to cram console-native mechanics into, produces sub-par efforts.
Sony boss Shuhei Yoshida has been open about his reluctance to create a PS Vita sequel, citing the success of mobile. But the way to make handheld gaming essential again is to take advantage of its singular qualities – to craft more of the unparalleled, the innovative, the must-play. No-one’s clamouring for Candy Crush copycats and compromised big-budget IPs. We need console-defining originals that could only be played on handheld.
And PS VR? If it wants to become essential, it should adopt a similar philosophy. Accepting the unique tech’s limitations while weaving unmissable experiences from its strengths will surely have those headsets selling fast. As for PS Vi-Two, I live in hope. Perhaps it could prompt a game that’ll have me pestering the robo-cashiers of Holo-CeX in ten years’ time.
This article originally appeared in Official PlayStation Magazine. For more great PlayStation coverage, you can subscribe here.