All Blacks Rugby Challenge (or Jonah Lomu’s Rugby Challenge) was released last year on the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC to widespread commercial and critical acclaim. Rugby Challenge was the fifth best selling video game in New Zealand in 2011. Just Push Start was lucky enough to play the PlayStation Vita version of the game which due out later this year.
PlayStation NZ held a PS Vita launch party to celebrate the release of the new handheld this week. New Zealand developers Sidhe Interactive flew all the way from Wellington up to Auckland to showcase what All Blacks Rugby Challenge can really do on the PS Vita. As I was told from the representative, this was only the second time Sidhe has actually publicly shown off the PS Vita version of the game.
The version of Rugby Challenge that was displayed at the PS Vita launch party was close to the full edition of the game. It had all the teams, tutorials and stadiums on display. The first time I played the game, I was amazed at how excellent the game looks on the PS Vita. I own a PS3 copy of Rugby Challenge but I still couldn’t tell the difference between gameplay and visuals from the PS Vita version. It really is like playing on a portable PS3.
The look and feel of the game is exactly the same expereince you will have while playing on the console versions. The only difference is that you can now use the rear and front touch screens on the PS Vita to expereince a whole new way of playing Rugby. Because the PS Vita lacks the R2 and L2 buttons, you can now sprint in the game simply by holding down your fingers down on the rear touch panel. At first I thought it would have felt uncomfortable but surprisingly, it felt natural and I was able to score a try with ease.
If you know Rugby, what comes after a try is a conversion kick where you have to kick the ball over the posts for extra points. This is where the front touch screen comes into play. All you have to do is flick your finger across the screen to try and kick the ball. You have to aim your finger accurately to accommodate the speed of the wind. The first few times I kept missing because I wasn’t sure how to play. Over time, I got used to it and conversion kicks became more fun playing with the touch screen.
There are other moments in the game where you can use the touch screens as well. I think you can use them to direct other players to enter rucks and mauls. Although I did not use them as my knowledge of the sport of rugby is still fairly limited as I’m only a casual fan.
The PS Vita version of Rugby Challenge is exactly the same version we all saw from the console and PC versions of the game. That is to say, there are no new players and updated team rosters that have been made to the PS Vita version. The likes of Sonny Bill Williams is still a member of the Crusaders even though he has signed to play with the Chiefs this year during the Super Rugby season. This isn’t too much of a problem since you can always switch members into other teams whenever you want much like in other sports titles.
In terms of a release date, Sidhe only told me (and others) that the game is very close to completion and they’re hoping to release the game very soon just in time for the Super Rugby season. The Super Rugby season starts February 24th so it’s likely the game could launch sometime in March. In any case, All Blacks Rugby Challenge on the PS Vita is just as great as the console versions. It’s arguably better thanks to the fun touch screen controls it has.All Blacks Rugby Challenge (PS Vita) Hands-On ,