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Step into 'Welcome Park,' the PS Vita's tutorial minigame collection


The PlayStation Vita comes pre-loaded with a suite of minigames, under the delightfully Japanese heading of "Welcome Park." Each of the five games is designed to give users practice with one of the Vita's interface methods: the touchscreen (and touch panel), the mic, the camera, and the gyroscope/accelerometer.

I get the feeling they were designed not only to enable practice, but to familiarize users with the fact that these interfaces exist. They're even suggested to you in a particular order. Something about tapping numbers in sequence as my first Vita experience made me feel that just maybe Sony doesn't have the most confidence in its users.

Gallery: Welcome Park (Vita) | 13 Photos

Digit Chase introduces the touch, multitouch, and "rear touch" functions of the Vita in a series of number-tapping minigames. First, you just tap numbered bubbles in sequence. Then, the bubbles start overlapping, forcing you to tap twice in sequence. Next, multiple bubbles with the same number show up, so you have to tap two at once. This is all timed, and the game keeps track of your best time.

After that, it moves on to a game in which you spin a carousel and "peel" numbered panels off of it in sequence. This is actually good practice for the "peeling" motion found throughout the Vita interface, but, then, it's supposed to be natural enough not to require practice.

Finally, you use the rear touch panel to bounce some kind of goo upward through numbered rings. There's some kind of pressure sensitivity at work here, as you're intended to make the goo fly at varying heights to hit some numbers. All I learned was that either the rear touch panel isn't sensitive enough for this kind of detail work, or my fingers aren't.

Sound Loop lets you make annoying musical loops out of sounds recorded by the microphone. You tap the screen to record a quick clip, which is then placed in a location "orbiting" the center of the screen. The closer to the center it is (determined by the placement of an expanding on-screen circle when it is recorded), the faster its orbit, and thus the more frequently it is replayed. You can tilt the system to make "scratching" or bleeping noises. A button on the screen allows you to change the backing music.

Snap + Slide is one of two camera-focused (get it?!) games. It's simple to understand: you take a picture, using either the front or rear-facing camera, and make a slide puzzle out of it. You can choose how many pieces will comprise the puzzle. It's a quick, intuitive way to generate Earth's most hated puzzle.

Hello Face is the other camera game; it asks you to find things that look like faces, and take pictures of them, at which point they will become an animated "face" on a cube. I took a picture of my Slime Speaker Stand, and the game gave it Kermit the Frog eyes. I took a picture of that one smiley face (I was having trouble finding things it identified as face-like) and it popped up with a Dostoevsky quote: "Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart." Thanks ... smiley face ...

The tutorial notes that the faces say different things depending on what you capture and the time of day. I guess morning is a depressing time to be a smiley face.

Skate Axis is the "tilt" game, in which you control a little stick-figure skateboarder trying to avoid bouncing balls. You can tilt left or right to move the skater, or shake to jump. You get points for each successful dodge.

In a way, this collection is kind of the "Wii Play" of the PlayStation Vita, in that it's a series of extremely simple minigames designed to show off the interface possibilities. There's not quite as much personality on display here as there was in Wii Play but, on the upside, Welcome Park doesn't cost anything and comes pre-loaded.

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