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Hands-On: PlayStation Vita Points Sony In New Directions

Hands-On: PlayStation Vita Points Sony In New Directions  (photo)

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Sony’s been getting its glossy plastic behind handed to it in the handheld gaming market for a while now. The PlayStation people launched the PSP a few years back with the hopes of breaking Nintendo’s decades-long hegemony in the portable gaming space but, almost from the very beginning, the device faced an uphill battle. While powerful enough to render graphics quite well, the lack of a second analog stick made developers have to invent bizarre workarounds for camera control in 3D games.

Over the lifespan of the device, publishers stop seeing the PSP as a destination for their AAA content and even Sony started putting only experimental titles out for it. Nintendo, meanwhile, continued to dominate with the DS handhelds. Soon, the only reason to have a PSP was to play pirated arcade classics on the go, thanks to some enterprising hacking. Then, both Sony and Nintendo got blindsided by the sudden rise of games on the iPhone and later Android devices. Suddenly, players had other on-the-go options chock full of cheap and attractive games. Nintendo’s bet big on the appeal of 3D with their new 3DS portable but Sony’s taking a different approach to winning over gamers’ thumbs.

Announced as the NGP (Next-Gen Portable), Sony revealed that their new handheld will be called PlayStation Vita and will retail for $250. Despite the absolutely terrible name, the gadget offers up an interesting mix of technologies for developers to take advantage of. With a touchscreen on the front and a touch panel on the back, two analog sticks, a gyroscope/accelerometer combo and front and rear cameras, the PS Vita harbors a smorgasbord of input methods for games. At E3 last week, I played a bunch of games in progress for the device and came away impressed.

The biggest Sony franchise comes to the PSV in the form of Uncharted: Golden Abyss. The lush landscapes that fans are used to seeing Nathan Drake appear undiminished on the device and you can play pretty well with the touchscreen. Using swipes and taps to guide Drake, you can navigate the jumps and platform challenges that bedevil his every adventure in a new way.

Reality Fighters presented a funny twist to typical martial-arts action by using the camera in two novel ways. First, you can create an avatar with your face as captured by the front camera, further customizing it with a fighting style and outlandish garb. Second, you can fight in front of a background that’s a real-time image of whatever you’re standing on top of. So, “you” can fight a plethora of opponents

But, the best looking (and sounding) PSV game at E3 was Sound Shapes. Developed by wunderkind indie dev Jonathan Mak, the title presents platforming action in a new synaesthetic light. There’s no backing musical track while playing but each quirky shape in the game makes a sound. Successfully, moving through the levels fleshes out the song even more until you get a complete melody. The joy of discovering just where the songs are going to go next propels you through the game. Better still is the capability to build and sahre your own levels, made especially easy by the touchscreen.

Despite these and other promising titles in the works, Sony will have a challenging time carving a slice of the portable gaming market in a post-iOS world. The PSV will have wifi and a 3G option with AT&T (an announcement that elicited groans from people at Sony’s press conference last week) but the PlayStation Network isn’t yet a home for impulse-priced content like the App Store or Android Market. That can change, though, with healthy injections of indie games at launch and over the first few months. Right now, the PlayStation Vita looks like it’s going to fulfill the unmet promise of the PSP: being a hi-def handheld where you can play Sony exclusives without having to compromise on graphics or controls.

How about that name, huh? Are you going to pre-order a PlayStation Vita? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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Draught Pick

Sam Adams “Keeps It Brockmire”

All New Brockmire airs Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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From baseball to beer, Jim Brockmire calls ’em like he sees ’em.

via GIPHY

It’s no wonder at all, then, that Sam Adams would reach out to Brockmire to be their shockingly-honest (and inevitably short-term) new spokesperson. Unscripted and unrestrained, he’ll talk straight about Sam—and we’ll take his word. Check out this new testimonial for proof:

See more Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC, presented by Samuel Adams. Good f***** beer.

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