Uncharted: Golden Abyss is one of the best PS Vita launch titles. If you buy the system, you should probably consider buying this game.
It is, however, formulaic almost to a fault. This game feels safe, it feels predictable and it plays almost exactly as you’d expect. This is a straight-up, single player adventure in the Uncharted line.
But, hey, if you’re an Uncharted fan then that’s not really a bad thing. You’ll be able to buy into Golden Abyss knowing that you’ll like the product entirely. It won’t be your favorite in the franchise, but it will stand as a great way to dip your toes into the fresh new waters of the PS Vita.
Bend Studio and Naughty Dog (though the latter was in a more oversight role than contributor) have created a strong tale that works well from start to finish. The writing holds up, though it's a little trite at times, and you’ll enjoy the antics of Nate and, later, Sully as they embark on this portable adventure. It is a decent Uncharted experience.
It’s also one of the best looking portable games I’ve ever had the fortune of playing. That may be a product of being on a brand new system, and this may only be the tip of the PS Vita's graphical iceberg so far; but, Golden Abyss can be really pretty.
It’s too bad, then, that this adventure sticks primarily to one locale. You’ll be in a jungle almost the entire time you’re playing this game. If you’re not in a jungle, then you’ll be in a cave in a jungle. Get ready for jungle, just a whole lot of jungle.
Despite the fact that this Uncharted entry is well crafted, Sony and/or Bend Studio felt it necessary to use the launch title as a platform for “selling” the functions of the PS Vita. It can’t just be a good game. No. It has to be a game that shoehorns each and every control scheme and input gimmick into the experience. You’ll be forced to rub, touch, tilt and slide constantly. Instead of presenting you with multiple options to enjoy the experience, the way it’s done here feels like the PS Vita’s control methods are being crammed down your throat.
Occasionally, it’s great. In particular, when you come to a massive wall of handholds, you can just swipe out your path and watch Nate get to work scaling. It’s a nice, simple, easy way to traverse a given space on your portable.
There are points, however, when it seems the game designers felt it necessary to remind you that yes, you are in fact using a touchscreen to do things. In particular, you’re constantly asked to rub the screen in order to reveal images of ancient runes and markings. The whole time, the voice actors will not-so-subtly remind you of what the PS Vita can do with things like “A charcoal rubbing? Very cool,” and “Ugh, these take forever.”
Because of these touchscreen antics (rubbing, cutting and puzzle piece arranging), the act of collection in Golden Abyss feels more like a chore than it has in previous offerings. Collecting is boring, and towards the end of the game you’ll often avoid it specifically because you don’t want to engage in the touchscreen mechanics anymore.
Finally, major boss fights are all done with touchscreen quicktime events. You’ll swipe in a given direction when told to do so; if you miss, you get a strike. Three strikes and you lose. It’s honestly boring. And it makes climactic scenes a little tiresome.
The checkpoint system is the other major complaint I have with Golden Abyss. There is no save option in the game’s menu, so you’ll need to rely on the title’s auto-save option to keep your progress. It’s too bad that there’s no auto-save icon to tell you if and when this is happening. You’ll wind up quitting when you think the game has saved, only to fire it up for your next play session and find that you’re made to repeat areas again. It’s frustrating, and it screams of problems we shouldn’t be having anymore.
Is this launch title a must-buy? That depends. If you love Uncharted, then, yes. If not, then you might be able to skip the adventure until it dips in price a bit.
But, man, let’s hope the next ride doesn’t force so much touch control down out throats.
Full Disclosure: CraveOnline was sent a review copy of Uncharted: Golden Abyss with our bundle of PS Vita games. Before starting our review, we completed the game on normal difficulty.