Mortal Kombat (PS Vita)
When Sony released the PS Vita a few months ago there were a number of very impressive games at launch, incliding the latest Uncharted and FIFA titles. There were also two beat-em up's available in the form of Reality Fighters and Marvell Vs Capcom 3. The latter was a great example of how to take a quality home console title and convert it to handheld, the former was... well at best a gimmick to show off some console functionality and it played really badly.
Since the launch of the Vita things have been a little quiet on the release front but now we get one of the first big post release period games in the form of Mortal Kombat. Like MvsC this is an attempt to take an existing game for the home consoles and port it to Vita, with some added functionality so let's find out if it falls into the same camp as the excellent MvsC3 or is closer to the less than impressive Reality Fighters.
One of the first things which will strike those playing Mortal Kombat on Vita is that there is a huge amount to do. Rather than just have a Vs battle and a story mode the developers (Neatherrelm Studios) have added a number of challenge and mini-game elements to Mortal Kombat, more on those shortly.
The main gameplay for MK takes place as tournament gameplay where we work our way through a ladder of fights, solo or tag, in our quest to become the best fighter. Alternatively we can go into Story mode and have scripted cut-scenes fit in around our fights as the game progresses. Although the gameplay is similar in both with the standard health meter, best of 3 round battles in ladder mode we choose our fighter from 32 available and in story mode the playable character changes as the plot progresses. All of the key characters from the franchise are here from classics like Scorpion and Sub-Zero to newer recruits, even finishing off with Freddy Krueger who adds a touch of interest to the gameplay.
As is common for a Mortal Kombat game there is plenty of blood splattering across the battle area and should we execute the correct combination of moves we get the extra bone crunching, knife stabbing, skull breaking mini cut-scene to enhance the effect. These moves are all unique to each character and of course we get a mix of weapon, hand and foot based attacks to play with.
Elsewhere in the menus we can kick off online or local multiplayer games and achievements are present to be unlocked but some considerable time can be swallowed up in the various mini-games and challenges. In challenge mode we get the most productive sections, fights which teach us how to perform particular moves which can then be taken into the gameplay and improve our skill, and maximise the gore. In the mini-games we find ourselves taking part in tasks such as guess what severed head an eyeball is hidden under as a game character quickly shuffles them around (Test Your Sight).
Added to these are a few Vita enhancements which add to the experience though, in Test Your Balance we see our character stand on a beam, using the tilt sensor in the console to ensure they don't fall off... should that happen a nice saw is waiting to slice them down the middle as they fall into a pit. Elsewhere Test Your Slice uses the touch screen and motion functionality to add a Fruit Ninja style game... of course this time using body parts.
Graphics and Audio
Mortal Kombat uses the Unreal Engine mixed with some Havok Physics and on the whole the game looks impressive on the compact PS Vita screen. The animations are smooth, characters varied and backgrounds packed with detail. The cut-scenes are also rendered well for a portable system and the only real criticism is that the more violent moves, with their cut-scenes could have done with being a little more detailed.
Audio wise we get plenty of voice acting as we go and it is all of a decent standard. Blows are landed with some decent thuds and splatters when played through headphones and the music aspect serves its purpose. Nothing too out of the ordinary happens but it doesn't need to.
When playing Mortal Kombat on PS Vita one of the stand out aspects of the game is the level of polish that has been applied. The game menus look lovely and the overall structure of them works well. Cut scenes are produced well with the occasional laugh along the way and various in-game graphics really stand out as being well drawn. The in-fight animations are also well done and interestingly although the images don't quite screenshot well the characters look good when playing on the PS Vita's screen.
In terms of actual gameplay there is a lot to like about Mortal Kombat, this version of the game very much has the feel of the older titles, is entertaining and feels well balanced. The button configuration also works well (high/low kick and punch on the shapes, block/throw on shoulders) and the only real disappointment is that a few opportunities to use Vita specific functions were missed. The Test Your Slice mini-game for example works well with touch screen but test your sight doesn't let us tap the severed head we think the eyeball is hidden under... not a line we thought would ever by entered in a game review!
Overall there are two distinct sides to the gameplay which really suit the handheld format. We can go into more in-depth and time consuming play through story mode or pick up quick challenges, mini-games and ladder mode when out and about on short trips, or the commute to work.
A hugely enjoyable version of Mortal Kombat and one of the best games available on PS Vita so far.