I’ve recently ventured into the Vita’s free-to-play section of the PlayStation Store, and there I’ve found my new addiction.
Sure, the current selection is fairly sparse, but there are a few absolute gems there. For example, the Vita version of Zen Pinball now lets you import any tables you bought on the PS3. And since there was a free Marvel pack back in December for us PlayStation Plus members, that means I was able to install four tables and get my handheld pinball fix without spending a cent. (I’m really enjoying the Spiderman table.)
But the real thing killing my time is Treasures of Montezuma Blitz, a Bejeweled clone that allows you to use the touchscreen to line up tokens of various colors. I may have scoffed at the premise at first, but two and a half weeks later, I’ve somehow managed to rack up almost 30 hours of game time. In that time, I’ve managed to bump my high score above sixteen million. Now, to the unfamiliar, that may not sound impressive, but anyone who’s actually played the thing will assure you that that’s no easy task.
The other game steering me away from a healthy sleep schedule is Jetpack Joyride, which is simply incredible. (I know it came out for smartphones and tablets a while back, but I tend to miss those sorts of games. My introduction to Jetpack Joyride was on the Vita.) It’s a one-button (or no-button, if you prefer to use the touchscreen) game where you steal a jetpack and dodge randomly placed obstacles while progressively moving faster and faster. Since the game doesn’t clock your total play time, I can’t say for sure how much time I’ve spent with it so far, but I have a sneaking suspicion it’s stolen at least ten hours over the past week.
Now, I’ve said this several times before, but I love my Vita. It’s a fantastic piece of hardware with a lot of cool potential. The downside, though, is its lack of real engaging content. So when I discovered that some of the free titles were actually good, I got pretty excited. In fact, that’s probably the main reason I’ve spent so much time with these games; I’ve just missed the little handheld so much, and now that I have an excuse to play the thing again, I’m putting in as much time as I possibly can.
But I have to admit that portability is a huge factor in these games’ appeal. I mean, I doubt I’d ever play Jetpack Joyride for more than a half hour on a PS3. But when I’m waiting for a beverage at a coffee shop, or lying in bed in that weird state of insomnia that strikes me every now and again, Jetpack Joyride becomes a phenomenal little thing.
So I’m willing to admit here that Sony made a smart move by implementing these casual-type games in free-to-play form for the Vita. They are perfectly suited to the Vita’s portable nature, after all. And while these aren’t really anything you can’t get (or at least a passable equivalent) on a smartphone, they have Vita owners taking the little thing out for some fresh air.
Of course, all of this has me questioning my manhood a little. I mean, I would definitely consider myself a hardcore gamer on most days. I even tried to feel better about myself by replaying the tormentuously difficult Super Meat Boy and spending time chainsawing Locust in half in Gears of War 3 and Gears of War: Judgment. But Treasures of Montezuma Blitz keeps pulling me back. Jetpack Joyride doesn’t let me forget about its short-burst nature while I’m sitting on the train. Zen Pinball calls to me late in the night, when I have the urge for a few rounds of pinball but don’t feel like driving twenty minutes out of town to the nearest pinball bar (yes, we have one of those, and it’s incredible).
And I shouldn’t feel bad about this. As our own Austin Wood pointed out, the terms “hardcore” and “casual” are fairly meaningless, except for the people trying to market games to specific demographics.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that Sony made an excellent move by bringing free-to-play gaming to the Vita. It may not be the sort of triple-A, PS3-quality content we were promised back in the early days, but it’s something. And considering how much time I’ve spent on casual Vita games in the past few weeks, that’s one hell of a something.
Editor / Social Media
Date: March 28, 2013