Ah, rugby games. Until October 2011, they were those things local All Blacks fans used as a kind of emotional sticking plaster to cover over the persistent psychological wounds left by years of World Cup failures.

This one is the PlayStation Vita port of last year's All Blacks Rugby Challenge and it bears the endorsement of Jonah Lomu, who is still the world's biggest rugby star despite having hung up his boots years ago.

If you're confused, think of Hulk Hogan for casual wrestling fans and Michael Jordan for basketball. That's our Jonah.

The game is largely unchanged from its console version, meaning it's still a fast-paced, quite arcadey form of rah-rah, which is great fun for players who like cut-out passes, quick stepping, powerful linebreaks, and all the other things that are hallmarks of, er, rugby league. That's the other game.


Place kicking is reminiscent of coin rugby, one of the great desktop sports. Of course by this, I don't mean a computer, I literally mean a desktop.

You choose the direction in which you wish to punt the ball, and then send it on its way with a flick of your finger. It sounds simple, but it takes a bit of work to get right. I've made my little virtual Dan Carter do some terrible things with his record-breaking boot.

I'm not against innovation, but after several months of experiencing developers' efforts to make the most of the Vita's rear touch panel, I'm seriously beginning to wish they'd all just leave it alone.

In Rugby Challenge, the principal function for the fun-free zone at the back of the console is as a sprint activator. The trouble is that it can be difficult to tell when your player is actually sprinting, particularly if the field of view is congested. So, always then. When there are 30 dinky little players milling about a matchbox-sized Eden Park, it is a common annoyance.

For a handheld device, the Vita has quite a large screen. Unfortunately modern rugby, especially when played in a free-flowing style as this game encourages you to play, is better suited to screens that are very large when compared to other televisions.

Rugby Challenge is a very good game for consoles, but it could have had a few more high-performance training sessions on the number two field before running out for the Vita team.

Stars: 3/5
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Rated: G