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Little Deviants – hands-on preview

As the lights came up from Sony's pre-E3 presser in Santa Monica, you could sense how eager they were to thrust an NGP – or whatever the hell they're gonna call it – into as many people's hands as possible and spread the word. Connectivity options like 3G and wi-fi, possible carriers and price plans were not the focus. Rather, Sony made a wise move in focusing on how games will rule the ray. Case in point: Little Deviants, a collection of 30 minigames all designed to highlight different portions of the NGP's functionality.

The titular Deviants are goofy-looking creatures that seem to be cut from the same cloth as the Raving Rabbids characters. In other words, they're a bunch of cute designs that have no bearing on any grand story. On hand were demos of four of the minigames; Hole Roll Control, Bota Blast, Depth Charge, and House of Whacks.

Hole Roll Control has you manipulate terrain using the NGP's back-mounted touchscreen in order to sink a rotund Deviant in a hole. By sliding your finger along the touchscreen, the ground pops up behind the Deviant. Dragging your finger pushes up more ground and sends him – we're designating this one as a male, deal with it – towards your destination. Along the way you can collect stars and the faster you go, the better your score. However, we ran into a bit of a problem that is in no way indicative of how the game plays. You see, our fingers are a bit dry and the NGP has trouble reading dry fingers resulting in us getting our Deviant stuck behind objects. The developer remarked that they had never seen anything like this in product testing and to be fair, our iPhones have a hard time reading our unusually dry fingers.

After testing our pulse to make sure we weren't dead, we tried the next game, Bota Blast. Using the NGP's new Augmented Reality feature and camera, our playing field became the world around us. In Bota Blast, Deviants fly little biplanes ALL AROUND YOU (hello future!). At the same time, baddies like robots and uh...bigger robots swarm in and try to pull the Deviant towards a Black Hole. Certainly the robots couldn't be sentient or they'd know that would spell doom for them as well, but that's besides the point. Basically, this is a FPS where you actually move in 360 degrees around, tapping the Right Trigger to shoot the bad guys down. It was fun and if it weren't for the AC plug we were tethered to, our scores would like, totally be better.

Next was Depth Charge, which is basically a tilt/sixaxis demo. Your deviant – a pinkish jellyfish – is hurtling down a mine shaft and you must tilt the NGP to navigate the caves. Collect stars, avoid traps and hit the bottom. Each round is pretty short and is nothing too spectacular. However, you can always progress in the challenges and you do get a feel for how sensitive the NGP is to slight movements.

Lastly, we get House of Whacks, which utilizes both the front and back touchscreens. Essentially, Whacks resembles old, old game show Hollywood Squares, with a Whack a Mole twist. One section of the Tic Tac Toe grid will open revealing either a Deviant or a child. Tap the Deviant and rack up points. The twist is that sometimes the door opens and you see the back of the Deviant, meaning you have to tap the back-mounted touchscreen. It never felt particularly accurate or intuitive as we fumbled for just where on the back touchscreen our finger placement would match up with where the Deviant was, but maybe spending more time with the device would make us experts at this minigame. Last word of advice: don't touch the children. Always good words to live by, but in this case you'll lose points, not just your family. Kidding!

We're excited to see what else Little Deviants has in store. There's no release date yet, but we're betting it'll be in NGP's launch window. Check back for more info.

Jun 2, 2011