PlayBack: Uncharted: Golden Abyss

With three critically acclaimed blockbusters under its belt, the Uncharted series took a step into the unknown last year. Announced during the PlayStation Vita’s big reveal, Golden Abyss marked the first handheld outing for Nathan Drake and co. Not only that, it was the first game in the series not developed by creators, Naughty Dog.

Instead it was passed onto SCE Bend Studio. Having only worked on a smattering of secondary PS2/PSP titles, there was a slight worry that anything produced by the Oregon-based dev would discredit Naughty Dog’s hard work to build such an amazing franchise.

Best Bit



This was not the case, however. Not by a long shot. When Golden Abyss finally launched it emulated just about everything that makes Uncharted great, albeit without the online multiplayer portion.

Bend took the exact button layout from previous entries in the series, stripping out the L2/R2 functionality and adding a number of Vita-specific tweaks. Grenade-tossing and reloading, for instance, became non-intrusive touch-screen icons. This feature was also used in puzzle-solving, whether it was picking up pieces of a map and rotating them or dusting off an ancient relic. Even platforming which, let’s be honest, is mostly on auto-pilot, was streamlined thanks to a simplified gesture system.

Tweaks aside, the core experience was exactly what fans had come to expect. For what seemed like an era players had been pining for a handheld system with dual analog sticks in order to handle movement and camera orientation seamlessly. Due to this the first few minutes of Golden Abyss, to me, felt like a mini-revolution; Sony had finally crafted a portable device apt to run fleshy, console-style games.

Though it’s not something everyone will have explored, the treasure system in Golden Abyss also had its merits. Instead of shaking down each level to find hidden, glowing relics, other treasures would be awarded for completing sets of secondary puzzles as well as felling enemies. Not only did these make subsequent playthroughs more interesting, they also fed into Bend’s Uncharted card game, Fight for Fortune, which was actually pretty fun.

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The only stand-out flaw with Golden Abyss was its unambitious story. Set across parts of Panama and colonised America, it depicted a slightly younger Nathan Drake who, as always, is on the lookout for ancient treasure. Along with new companions Dante and Marisa, he starts to uncover a trail, only to cross paths with militia general, Roberto Guerro. What ensues is a cat and mouse affair as both parties go in search of the Quivirans, a lost civilization perched upon a sea of gold.

It’s a sound enough adventure yet one that never as captivating or dramatic as those in Drake’s Deception, Among Thieves, or even Drake’s Fortune. Characters, though fairly fleshed out, also did little to fill the void, despite a lengthy stint from series favourite, Victor Sullivan.

For many this didn’t come as a surprise, however. Even Naughty Dog itself would struggle to top its previous work, let alone a fairly untested first-party developer.

It may not be the perfect transition from home console to handheld but Golden Abyss is still a stalwart title and essential for anyone with a PlayStation Vita.

It handles fluidly, looks the part, and even has a decent amount of replay value. Unless you’re absolutely hung up about the sub-par story, it’s a no-brainer really.



  1. I disagree about the story, the story was way better than the first UC & I even dare to say better than 3.

    I enjoyed the length of the game, I remember hating that sniper thing you do with the vita (can’t remember the name) but after a while it became the best thing in the whole game.

    The only negative for me is to do with the jewels grinding if you was chasing the plat

  2. I’m still in 2 minds whether to get a Vita or not, but if I do I’ll definitely give this a go.
    Meanwhile… I can’t believe I just failed to log-in because I got ‘? – 7 = 2’ incorrect. What a plonker!

    • But that’s a tough one, I usually get 2x – x = x, guess I’ve been lucky.

      On topic: Believe it or not, I’m still like 12% through this game, the Uncharted series just doesn’t pique my interest so I kind of have to push myself to play it. Yeah, that’s fun.

    • I had that exact same sum, but got it right lol :p

      I thought this game was incredible, and the shorter levels were perfect for a hand-held. The aiming was quite awkward and sensitive to get used to, but once you did it wasn’t a problem. I’d love to see another Uncharted on Vita which surely wouldn’t be impossible since the infrastructure is already there.

      The story wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad either, but I think I prefer Unchartered for it’s banter rather than story.

      My only real gripe was probably that the QTE with the touch screen (last boss) were pretty bad, in that your gestures didn’t always seem to register correctly.

      • I thought the ate events were terrible, especially the boss battles

  3. Uncharted 1 – plat done. Uncharted 2 – plat done. Uncharted 3 – in progress.
    Uncharted: GA – in queue :P Loved the VITA version of Nathan Drakes adventure.
    I recommend this to anyone who wants to buy a VITA. This game shows the potential of the PSV.

  4. Really enjoyed golden abyss. I really hope there is another vita Uncharted game in the pipeline.

  5. My problem with it was the charcoal rubbing, it felt so forced. The framerate wasn’t always up to scratch and the jaggies and low-res fire effects was a sore sight after UC3. But it still was the best looking handheld game at the time and the animations were great.

    I’d rank it as the least best Uncharted overall, but it’s still a great game and a milestone in handheld gaming.

  6. I’m still working my way through this, but the gameplay and Drakes chatter certainly delivers on the Uncharted feel. Yes it’s not perfect, but its damn good for a mobile game with a lot of content.

  7. PLaying this at the mo. Not quite up to the PS3 games, but pretty damn good!

  8. One of the few vita games that kept me interested, still available on psplus for free too :) having not owned a ps3 I have no frame of reference but looking forward to ps4 version too.

  9. loved this game on vita..
    literally just finished it and now going back over it to find the treasures etc.
    my only criticisms would be the pace of the game.
    starts slow with a lot of climbing ramps up in the middle tons of shooting,then tails off again.
    some wonky camera angles meant i fell into the abyss on more than one occasion.
    and the puzzles were few and far between and too easy.
    still a cracking game.if you’ve not played it then you must!

  10. Really enjoyed this, needed a guide to get all the treasures etc but was more varied in that department than the console games.

    Also felt there was a bit more focus in platforming in this one too? The only negative was the boss fights (whole 2 of them) which are just touchscreen. And finding the bounties. But this became my first Vita platinum!

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