A Prequel Worthy Of It's Name
With any new console, it's good to have at least one launch title that makes people look up and take notice. Uncharted: Golden Abyss was definitely that game for the PS Vita. Sure, you had Wipeout, Lumines, Ridge Racer, and a few other more niche titles, but at the end of day, most PS3 owners who have ventured into the world of Nathan Drake are going to be salivating at the idea of another adventure, and for good reason, Golden Abyss is an enjoyable, lengthy romp with our favorite digital adventurer.
Golden Abyss starts off much like Uncharted 2, with a fast forwarded scene from later in the title that you spend around 10 minutes on, only to be snapped back to the beginning of the story. It's a trope to be sure, for TV, movies, and now games it would seem. While it worked great in Uncharted 2, here it just feels like a way to retread a concept from a previous game, and they chose an, at best, questionable part of the game to use. Luckily it doesn't last too long, queue opening credit, and you're back on track.
The big pull of Golden Abyss is no doubt the graphical power behind the game. The Vita really shines with this title, and it's rare that it doesn't just look like a small screen PS3 game. There were a few times that I noticed some downgraded textures that would have looked a bit better on the Vita's big brother, but overall, the game looks amazing from beginning to end. The audio is also excellent, especially with a good pair of earbuds. All of the directional work is spot on, the background music is non-obtrusive to the dialogue, and the environmental sounds definitely add to the experience traversing through the South American jungle, giant pyramids, and deep underground.
I've heard a lot of people, paid reviewers mostly, complain about the touchscreen aspects of the game, cleaning off artifacts, putting together ripped up pictures, jumping and climbing using the front and rear touchscreens. I rarely used the touchscreen for actual movement, and while I could have done without the touch based stuff completely, none of it lasted long enough to make me genuinely dislike it. Sometimes it would break up a more monotonous section of the game for 30 seconds or so, and it was a good way to have a high quality launch title show off the power of the Vita, which I'm sure Sony was looking for.
The game itself is lengthy, taking me around 10-11 hours to complete the story line on Normal, and I missed a lot of the hidden artifacts and such in the game, so I could in theory go back and play through it again on hard to try and get those. I don't know that I will, at least not right away, but the story is good enough that I would probably go back at some point in the future and play it again. Story wise, I would probably put it somewhere between Uncharted 1 and 2 quality-wise. It's a good story without a lot of the continent jumping you see in the last 2 PS3 versions of the franchise, which is a shame, but not really a surprise. The entire game takes place in South America in the same general area, but there's enough changes in environments so that it doesn't really matter.
In the end, I had a great time with Golden Abyss. Sony Bend made a quality Uncharted title, not quite up to the latest offerings from Naughty Dog, but no slouch by any means. There's enough content to warrant a $50 price tag, and apparently there are 1 or 2 nice Easter Eggs for playing through a 2nd time. It's a promising launch game that comes as close as I've seen to having the current home console experience in the palm of your hand.