Alone in a godless universe and out of shake 'n' vac? What if you could escape into a miniature world that you could carry around in your pocket (alright, your slightly large pocket), shutting out the cold harsh winter in favour of a lush green and slightly dangerous landscape.
I missed all the fuss and furore surrounding Terraria from 505 Games when it was originally a huge hit across mobile and under-the-telly platforms. Now it has officially arrived on Vita, I thought I'd better see what all the fuss was about.
At home, Minecraft is the only game we'll let my daughter play (aside from the odd jig-a-bout session on something lame like Just Dance on the Wii). She will happily sit there for hours shaping those rough blocky landscapes into her own miniature world. Terraria pinches that creative formula, tweaks it a bit, slaps it into two dimensions and offers the same mix of crafting, survival and exploration as Minecraft.
It's important to note that the play experience is succinctly different though. Terraria's controls have always slightly jarred with me, and on Vita, it took me a while to actually realise that the back panel doubled up as the cursor controls for your little avatar's tools and weapons. Splitting between an automated and manual targetting mode, this cursor lets you work at a block level on your surroundings, hewing resources from the bare rock, carving channels out of the earth or interacting with objects and the multitude of nasties that want to murder-death-kill you.
You begin the game by choosing the size of your world (which will be semi-randomly generated), and defining your avatar (oooh look, girls! You're allowed to be girls, how progressive!) before you're cast into the green and brown ready to explore, battle and survive.
The best thing about Terraria is also the worst thing about Terraria. Relative freedom comes at the cost of a long hard slog when you first start, with unclear goals defined for progess. Unlike Minecraft where you can tuck yourself up in bed when things get dark and the real nasties come out to play, Terraria forces you into an insomniac nightmare where you have to find something to do with your time while the zombies clatter at the door of your makeshift shelter (unless, Terraria experts, I've missed a trick and haven't realised you can craft a bed and get some kip).
Of course, it's pointless to be negative about this game when it's so horribly all-encompassingly addictive, and steadily gnaws away at your attention until you find you're tucking away the PS4 controller just to dig out the vita and play this instead.
In some ways, it's a shame the Vita hasn't had the attention it deserves, because games like Terraria (which you can also pick up on mobile platforms, tablets and other consoles) are such a bloody good fit for it (though £11.99 is a bit pisstakingly expensive in my opinion. At least it's not priced at the ridiculous levels of the PS and Xbox versions of Angry Birds).
It's always a good sign that you're thinking about a game even when you're not playing it - and stupidly I keep forgetting to bring the Vita to work for a bit of surreptitious god machine manipulation. If you've previously ignored this little corker, and don't mind the price, the Vita version of Terraria is terrarfic.
(I'll get my coat).
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I'm currently playing that and completely adore it. It's something I'd never consider on the PC or home console, just because you need to invest the time to play it, but on the Vita it's perfect for me.
My only gripe is that it's so addictive and absorbing, that I can't see me playing anything else on the Vita for months!
The timesink thing is very true. It seems to take AGES to get anywhere, then suddenly everything seems to happen all at once, and you become some sort of death-dealing mega-mentalist (as shown in the trailer there). It really is a corking good distraction from the action-based stuff. Just a pity it's not a cross-buy thing (or is it and I completely missed that)