Sony's new portable, the Vita, is taking on a world of smartphone games that can be bought on one app store or another for a fraction of the price.
Motor Storm RC - a spin-off from the PlayStation 3 games - is a top-down (viewed from above) radio controlled car racing game that's covering very similar ground to some smartphone titles. And the glaringly obvious difference is that smartphones lack the gaming experience.
Virtual joysticks are okay for casual gamers - but there's no substitute when it comes to precision control and intuitive design, and that's where Motor Storm RC and the Vita itself win.
You're racing RC off-roaders, buggies and monster trucks, which is a pretty tame concept compared to the fire and brimstone that comes with the PS3 Motor Storm titles. There's a small variety of tracks, and beating opponents (or your own times) becomes a genuine obsession as you stack up gold medals for good performances.
Though it hasn't got the depth of some of the other Vita launch games, RC does actually take itself quite seriously. The vehicles are easy to drive, but if you want to start setting records, you'll quickly notice just how accurate and well-developed the handling model is. This is one for racing fans - even though top-down racing does seem a bit played out, and we're on a diet of 1080p, surround sound-toting next gen racing simulators - but it's engaging enough to make it tough to put down.
Whether that will last long-term remains to be seen - I suspect games like the Vita version of Mod Nation Racers, with a high amount of community involvement, will have a bit more lasting power.
The control system takes advantage of the dual analogue joysticks - a la radio control - and does away with the superfluous touchscreen controls that simply aren't necessary on some of the new games. As you'd expect from the franchise, graphics are slick, audio is excellent (provided you use headphones and not the built-in speakers) and the only real complaint is that the load times are slow. When you stuff up one corner and wreck your chances of that perfect lap, a quick restart is not on offer.
Stars: 41/2 / 5
Just a reminder to enter the giveaway to win a PS Vita - the newest gadget on the market made for proper gamers who like proper games. To win go to nzherald.co.nz/vita and fill out the form before March 9. The winner will be announced in TimeOut on March 15.