Adventure in miniature
Although comparisons are unfair, it's impossible not to judge Uncharted's portable debut against its home console cousins. And while Golden Abyss is an incredible-looking adventure that flexes the PS Vita's graphical muscle, this cocksure swashbuckler pales in comparison to its explosive predecessors.
The main problem with Golden Abyss is its story. While previous Nathan Drake games have been brought to life by Hollywood-style production values and scripting that detract attention from the linear, often predictable platforming, Golden Abyss' uninspiring dialogue and largely twist-free plot are a bitter disappointment, despite the valiant efforts of the voice actors who work hard to make the best of the game's lifeless script.
Without the epic storytelling that Uncharted players crave, Golden Abyss' rather ordinary action is thrown into sharp relief, and largely sees players shimmying along a linear path and looking for shiny objects to work out where to go next. And while most of Drake's actions can be performed using the PS Vita's touch screen, it's easier in every case to use the game's traditional controls to play; and in instances where the tactile controls are obligatory, the cutting and fighting sequences appear slow and clumsy, and are it odds with Uncharted's traditionally slick action.
So why four stars? Well, if you're looking for a game to showcase the PS Vita's immense power, you'll adore the game's exploding buildings, collapsing temples and other outstanding set-pieces that punctuate the story and would look remarkable on any home console, never mind in the palm of your hand. When using PS Vita's dual sticks, the gunplay is also tremendous fun, brought to life by original touches such as using the rear touch-pad to zoom the sniper rifle. But Golden Abyss deserves a fourth star because it delivers the moments of pure exhilaration and panic that are what we buy Uncharted games for in the first place, and is packed with instances of heart-pounding drama that make up for the game's failings.