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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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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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