Since the Vita’s launch a year ago, Sony have strived to link up the Vita and the PS3 in as many ways as possible. Cross-Save, Cross-Play and plenty other Cross-based initiatives which I’m forgetting the name of. However, one which I always thought would be interesting to play around with was Cross-Controller.
Think of the potential of the Wii U’s second screen functionality coming to the PS3 and Vita combination, and you’ve got the right idea.
With this pack, we’re seeing one of the first real attempts of using this functionality and it works really quite well. I never noticed any lag in control, and everything worked exactly as expected.
Included are a handful story levels and minigames, created to demonstrate what the tech can do. Ideally you’ll be playing this with a friend, as there’s a definite lead and follow aspect to the level design, with the two minigames a co-operative effort across both screens.
The Vita’s extra screen very naturally fits into what they’ve created, giving you a little holographic sack head when not in use, before chirping at you when you come into range of some interactive elements.
These range from touching on the screen to create a spy glass and reveal hidden objects on the TV, so that your friends can see where dangers lie, to pushing blocks in and out of the screen and little puzzles which only the Vita can see and interact with.
The only downside to all these gewgaws for the Vita is that you can only really focus on one screen at a time, and without carefully handling the pacing, a second player can easily tire of always having to wait on the other player.
However, things get much more interesting for everyone when the Vita player heads via a portal to a dedicated section of level. Here you can platform and interact with the world almost as though it were LBP Vita, but with your actions able to influence and tie back into the main level. Meanwhile, the other players who can have their own bit of interplay and affect what occurs on the Vita, depending on what the level designer wants.
That thinking extends well to the two minigames in the pack, the best of which sees the Vita using tilt controls to move a spaceship back and forth, to fight waves of incoming enemy ships, whilst the PS3 player(s) have to try and navigate a platforming level inside the ship, with the grappling hook, whilst it spins around them via the Vita’s tilting.
It’s devilishly tricky to work together and look after your own skin at the same time, but I really relished the challenge, and for me it was a highlight which really showed off what you can create with this DLC pack.
Speaking of which, there are a smattering of new tools, so you can make your own levels. All of the creation for the Vita is done on the Vita itself using a creation system similar to that of LBP Vita, and for the PS3 on the PS3. Linking the two together you use a Remote Tag Sensor to detect when a Tag on the other system is activated.
You can also send various inputs across the aether with the Tag Radar letting you attach a Tag to an item and then have various interactions from LBP Vita translate across. Similarly, the Vitanator tool on the PS3 is able to receive the button inputs from a Vita based Controllinator, because you’re not actually in direct control of the main Sackboy on PS3, but instead controlling a Sackboy on the Vita which is in turn controlling the Sackboy on PS3.
Similar mental hoops are required for the Wormhole tool, which lets you teleport from one place to another. Except that it doesn’t jump Sackboys directly between consoles, making recreating some of the tricks from the bundled levels difficult to figure out. I’ve had a long hard look at it, but haven’t really been able to figure it out for myself yet.
The community will no doubt rally around with walkthroughs, but it feels like there are just these little idiosyncrasies which have come from bolting on yet another pack of features onto what was already a complicated set of creation tools.
Unfortunately the initial set up process is another of these oddities. You have to head through the Remote Play app to the Cross-Controller app on the Vita, before linking up to LBP 2 with the latest 1GB patch, and select the new Cross-Controller option from the Pod menu. Then it’s a 482MB install on your Vita, so make sure you have enough space, and patience for the 12-15 minutes it took to copy across the data and install.
Even with everything set up, you’ll always have to first navigate to the Cross-Controller sub-section in LBP2. If you leave the Pod menu, then the Vita loses control, so you need a designated controller connected for those moments of messing around in the Pod. It also needs to be turned on when playing levels, or the Vita can’t assume control of your character. So if you have an auto-sleep timer for your DS3, you’d best plug it in with a long USB cable to charge.
It’s a shame, because when you’re up and running it’s really very good. The levels included are great, and show off some of the neat tricks that the community will be able to build on for their own levels. Just be sure to pass the Vita around, so friends playing alongside you don’t get bored of you getting to do everything. Keep them happy, because co-op is really where this will shine.
The pack (which was publisher-supplied for the purpose of this article) is out tomorrow, with the update patch available now.