Great portable gaming experiences are not limited to cell phones and tablets. Nearly everyone owns one or both of these devices, both with their fare share of goodies to keep you busy on morning commutes. But there are some things they just can't provide. If you're looking for more complex experiences that fit in the palm of the your hand and offer you something truly beautiful to look at, the PlayStation Vita is your handheld of choice.
Sony's handheld packs a lot of power and its library has received significant additions. 2014 especially saw a ton of games spanning a wide variety of genres released for the system, making this little touchscreen device more of a must-have. Many of them are ports of titles available on consoles as well--popular games like Borderlands 2 and Fez found their footing on the handheld--but even more are original experiences crafted for your touchscreen pleasure. OlliOlli (literally) kicked off the Vita’s year with a strong start, offering a twist on the classic skateboard game with prioritization on score-chasing and completing outrageous, over-the-top tricks a la the Tony Hawk series. Whimsical role-playing game Child of Light also received a Vita version, bringing its Grandia II-inspired combat and fairytale world to handheld. The Vita’s Japanese-developed library added two heavy-hitters this year in the form of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair and Freedom Wars, one an eclectic murder mystery visual novel and another an excellent mix of JRPG mechanics and story-driven multiplayer.
But in terms of offering an experience that is not only well rounded and exciting but a must-have for the Vita, Velocity 2X is our personal pick. Velocity 2X is part platformer, part shoot 'em up wrapped in a sci-fi story. As cyborg Kai, you move through each level learning new mechanics--essentially making the entire game the tutorial. Later levels challenge you to use previously learned mechanics in ways you may not think. The game encourages you to attempt perfect runs of each level, and the level of challenge is deep enough that it’s easier to complete later levels with a few failures than it is to complete earlier ones perfectly. Death is treated as just a minor setback; failure is a brief blip, as you respawn close to where you left off and start up again. This leniency with death and push to return to earlier content makes Velocity 2X a game that always gives back, presenting an entertaining, ever-engaging experience that earned it our honor for Vita game of the year.