Even when things are relatively silent on most consoles, the barrage of eclectic software for the Vita continues. Two stunning games that already debuted on other systems — the tight fighter BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma and the rave-drawing combat puzzler Child of Light — have snuck onto the system. There’s also the last-gen racer Grid Autosport, and the latest contender to the iPad throne in the stunning Samsung Galxy Tab S.
BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma
(Vita, $40, Teen)
Don’t let the cutesy, anime-style graphics and plotting make you overlook BlazBlue fighters. The character balance, move variety and straight-up thrilling combat intensity can hang with the Mortal Kombats, Street Fighters and SoulCaliburs of the world. In a pixel-perfect port of the PS3 version, which came out in March, the oddball cast of characters move with considerably more speed than those in past BlazBlue games, while retaining their precision and accuracy.
The ante is upped with an overdrive mode that gives fighters temporary attributes burst, letting them deal out more damage to lock down close matches or mount comebacks in blowouts. The Vita retains all the modes and characters of the PS3 version, but gets a beach-set side story and is compatible with downloaded characters you already bought from its big brother. It’s too bad the previously released DLC doesn’t come for free with the Vita version.
Child of Light
( Vita, $15, Everyone 10+)
Who says indie games have to be limited to indie publishers? Industry giant Ubisoft set aside a small, talented team and set them loose to create an ethereal, puzzle-and-battle gem echoes the likes of Zelda, Metroid and Trine. You play as a princess who rescues the heavens from an evil entity, taking on enemies in turn-based battles that unfold as meta-puzzles.
There’s nothing new in the Vita version, but it arguably works better as a portable than it does on home consoles because of it’s quick-hitting, pick-up-and-play nature. When playing the game on PS4, I found myself leaning close to the TV screen to make sure I wasn’t missing out on crucial details that could tip the scales of combat. On the Vita, I found it easier to focus on the task in the up-close-and-personal setting. A beautiful, compelling game on any platform, Child of Light continues to shine.
(360, PS3, $50, Everyone)
Symbolic of the dated, streched-to-the-limit systems on which Grid Autosport was released, the series has run out of room to roam and now finds itself stifled in a rut. While the latest Grid is as solid as any of the previous racers in the series — which innovated the handy rewind feature that’s since become ubiquitous — there’s not much here you haven’t seen before. The new game retains the series’ solid mix of real-life detail with arcade accessibility, letting you build your career with a steady stream of winnings you can cash in for unlocks.
This is one of the better racers in all of last-gen, but there’s so little to distinguish it from the pack that you wonder why it even exists. Credit the publisher for not pushing it to current-gen with sloppy ports, but it probably would have been better served to conserve its resources for a PS4 and Xbox One knockout. If you are digging a return to the Grid scene, pick up one of the older games from the $5 bin, or wait a few months until you can find this one there.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
Obsessed with not only hanging with the iPad, but surpassing it the same way the Galaxy S and Note phones have done to the iPhone, Samsung releases new tablets every few months. The Galaxy Tab S, with its mouthwatering speed, screen resolution, battery life and specs, does that and then some. Start with the AMOLED screen, which displays stunning images at resolutions that blow away 1080p HDTVs.
There’s a fingerprint scanner you can use to lock the device to your eyes alone, as well as authenticate purchases from places such as PayPal. Memory is expandable via microSD card, and 12-hour battery life. The tablet also boasts impressive sound, negating the need for headphones if you’re home alone. The system integrates flawlessly with the rest of your Google Play and Samsung apps, serving as a giant version of Galaxy freaks’ phones.
Despite the upsides, there are a few drawbacks to the Tab S. It’s disappointing that the tablet isn’t waterproof like the S5 phone and the Note 4 will surely be, and some of the apps — particularly games and streaming programs — stutter occasionally. Hopefully the latter problems are a function of developers not yet optimizing their creations for the Tab S’s quad-core processor and will be fixed with updates.