In my last blog I talked about the advantages and disadvantages of the iPad versus that of a regular Mac/Pc. As a lifelong gamer what interests me more however, is whether the iPad is a true handheld gaming device akin to the Nintendo 3DS and the Sony PlayStation Vita. The ‘hardcore’ gamer group will no doubt already be shouting “NO! You silly sausage. It doesn’t even have buttons!” and they’re right but only on two out of three accounts. 1: it does not indeed have buttons and 2: I am a silly sausage. But I must admit, I think it’s a proper handheld games console (*gasp*).
There are two kinds of games in my view. There’s the cinematic experiences that you will look for when playing a console game and there are the quick, fun portable games. The portable games are the sort of games that you will want to play whilst on the bus or just looking to kill a few minutes. Tetris would be an ideal example of this (and indeed was the killer app for the original GameBoy). The console games are games like the amazing ‘Uncharted’ series where you want to sit down on a comfy couch and immerse yourself in the experience.
The fact of the matter is that the iPad does these casual, portable games a lot better than the other two systems. Games like ‘World of Goo’ ‘Plants vs Zombies’ and, dare I admit it, ‘Angry Birds’ are amazing when you just want to kill a few quick minutes with a pop-in pop-out game. Where the Vita (and to a lesser degree, the 3DS) fail is that their games are console games. The Vita has its own Uncharted game (‘Golden Abyss’) and don’t get me wrong it’s a truly amazing game, but it’s not a portable game. When you play it you want to get lost in the gorgeous world that the developers have crafted and you’re gripped by the plot twists. It’s a game you play at home not whilst on the bus. It’s the same for Rayman: Origins, Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, Gravity Rush, LittleBigPlanet PS Vita, Mortal Kombat and Assassins Creed: Liberation. All amazing games, but they are really home console releases.
The other issue is carrying the dam things. With the Nintendo and Sony offerings you need to carry the device and all the games, thus meaning you need to buy some sort of carry pouch. Yuck. With the iPad and iPhone all of the games are stored in the systems storage and can literally carry your entire games collection around with you. Also because they’re loaded onto the systems storage it means that the loading times are super fast. Ever played Wipeout 2048 on the Vita? I highly recommend you do, its a fantastic racer and unfortunately the last release from, the now defunct, SCE Studio Liverpool (formerly known as ‘Psygnosis’). To get back to my point, WO 2048’s loading times are monstrous. Truly awful. I’ve counted 2 patches that have been released to address the loading times, and they’re still bloody awful. This isn’t pick up and play gaming. The story is the same for other games on the Vita. How Sony managed to make flash based cartridge games load so slowly is actually a marvel.
Another issue with the Vita is that many games are now ‘Cross Play’ enabled. This means that the Vita version can play online against it’s PS3 counterpart and if it’s ‘Cross Buy’ enabled that means when you buy the PS3 version you get the Vita version at no extra cost. Now I’ll admit that is an incredible achievement and amazing value for money, but it does sorta prove my point. These are console games played on a handheld. I don’t want console games on the go, I want bespoke time wasters that fill the minutes of tedium when I’m out and about. Save the console experiences for when I’m at home… on the console.
One thing worth noting is playing games in bed. I personally love a good game before I slip off into the land of dreams and this is a perfect example of when you want a console experience in a handheld form factor. So is my argument wrong? Not quite. Nintendo’s new Wii U makes this defunct. Most games can be transferred to the Game Pad and you can even pop headphones straight into the controller, thus eliminating the need for a TV. A complete console game on a portable screen so I can play games in bed without the need for an entirely new £200 device. Gotta love Nintendo.
So there’s my reasons for putting my neck out and saying that yes, the iPad is a true gaming device. It’s always with you, always has all your games on it and loads them quickly just to be nice. As long as the game was designed for touch and hasn’t had virtual buttons shoehorned in then the games can be truly remarkable and just as fun as its console counterparts. Please note though that I’m not saying the 3DS or Vita are bad, I own both consoles and play them all the time its just that i hardly ever play them whilst out and about thus why i wrote this article. If you do get an iPad and want to know what games to start you off on heres a few that I really love:
World of Goo,
Plants vs Zombies,
Rayman Jungle Run,
By Ian Dutton