It came as a shock to me, to be playing Uncharted on Sony's new handheld, and feeling like it wasn't at all long ago that I had just taken my new PS3 out of the box, plugged it into my new HDTV, and popped Uncharted: Drake's Fortune into the disc tray and being wowed by my first taste of the HD generation. But that was in 2007, and now it's 2012 and Uncharted is on it's fourth game and now on the PS Vita.
For a start, anyone familiar with Uncharted on PS3 will be right at home with Uncharted on Vita. Do not fret that a different developer is at the helm (from a technical point of view anyhow) because the game's mechanics work as they do on PS3. Drake moves fluidly and is well animated, the cover system works almost the same, and aside from a few technical 'downgrades', you'll notice all the little things that make this an Uncharted game. The game is also a full Uncharted experience, and not downsized attempt. I wasn't keeping count of the hours of how long it took me, but it's as long as any of the other Uncharted games, and the scale is definitely there, especially in the later levels.
Speaking of things that make Uncharted, well, Uncharted, you can't go on without mentioning the graphics. Simply put they're great for a handheld device. Now I've seen people compare the graphics of Golden Abyss to Drakes Fortune, and I can tell you while the Vita version doesn't really hold up as an exact comparison, what it nails is the look. Environments pop, lighting looks natural and character models are great. Some environments look better than others though, but there definitely are times where you'll stop playing to gaze around, just like on the game's console counterparts. You can't really complain about these graphics, because your playing on a handheld, and I've played some PS3 games that look worse- but 1:1 comparisons between PS3 and the VIta aren't there yet (if possible). I think those who'll get the most kick out of these graphics will be PSP gamers like myself, who's last great portable graphical outing was Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker.
Also note you'll want to play this game with headphones on, because the sound work is really top quality, and I loved the music (as I did in all the Uncharted games).
Story is usually Uncharted's strong point, but Golden Abyss has the weakest story of the franchise. It's not to say that it's a bad story. The game presents it well, and as usual the voice acting is top notch, but I didn't find it nearly as compelling or as well written as the franchises' other entries. I can't quite put it down to one thing, but weaker performances from the game's villains are one reason. Nevertheless, you won't be disappointed but series' fans will notice.
What Golden Abyss does add to the table are a mix of clever and gimmicky use of the Vita's motion and touchscreen controls. You'll notice the clever uses particularly as they relate to SixAxis aiming. The Vita may have dual analogue sticks, but don't mistake this for holding a Dual Shock controller, as you'll find your aim is all over the place. It takes adjustment, but once you've got it nailed the sticks work great, but your aim will be even better on Golden Abyss with the help of the SixAxis, which allows for minute adjustments by moving the screen, which makes aiming extremely accurate when the technique is perfected. Halfway through the game I was taking virtually every enemy down with a headshot using this technique, and it was very satisfying.
The touchscreen is also perfect for solving some of the games puzzles, where instead of moving Drake around to the right 'spots', or pushing things into place, you simply have a top down view where you physically move things into place with your hands, and it works well. With some puzzles though, this implementation becomes annoying, such as when your pulled out of the action to piece together torn up bits of paper.
I also didn't like the use of touchscreen swiping to perform tasks such as chopping bamboo or lifting my lady friend up a ledge. Sure they might sound good on paper, but to me their implementation seemed disjointed and I feel this could easily have been solved by utilising the rear touchpad for gesture control as opposed to making me take my grip of the machine with one hand to dodge an enemy in combat.
However, these gripes are minor when you look at the game as a whole. It represents a brilliant technical achievement from Sony Bend, and great first outing of the franchise on the Vita. I think the importance of Golden Abyss isn't that its simply a great game, but its an earmark of what the Vita is capable of, and has me salivating for the next Vita entry from the talented team at Sony Bend.
Buy it, play it and enjoy it.