One of the more perplexing features of Sony‘s next portable is its patented rear touch capability. Not only will the PlayStation Vita allow players to use the primary screen as a touch screen, the back of the device will serve as a second interactive panel. Several of the games demoed at E3 2011 showed a multitude of uses for the rear touch features, one of the most unique being its assistance in track creation for the Vita version of ModNation Racers.
You might (or might not) be surprised to know that this odd innovation for the Vita was originally turned down. Shuhei Yoshida, the head of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studio, was recently interviewed by Famitsu, admitting that when the idea was brought up, concerns of cost and functionality almost prohibited the feature’s existence. Apparently the hardware team was given a chance to create a prototype regardless, and as soon as the higher-ups got their hands on the unit, the addition was finalized.
Game Rant recently had a significant amount of time to go hands-on with the PS Vita at E3, and although the device did not fail to impress in terms of graphics and technology, the rear touch pad failed to make much of a positive impression on our team. The use of the pad did nothing to enhance the gameplay of the demos, sometimes even hindering the controls.
The most recent Uncharted: Golden Abyss trailer presents a player using rear touch to imitate the act of climbing a rope by brushing up and down each side of the touch pad. Although this might not be the most appropriate indicator of what the pad is capable of, consider the recent Kinect-enabled Child of Eden. Sometimes it just takes the right developer with the right idea to put innovative hardware to use in an entertaining way.
There is no question this new mode of interaction will take some getting used to, but it would be intriguing to know what made the people at SCE change their minds on an addition like this. Soon enough we will see if the rear touch ability of the device is a gimmick to be abandoned by the third party development teams, or a control scheme that could set the PSVita ahead of its portable competition.
Is the rear touch feature of any importance to you? Do you see it being dropped after several failed attempts to enhance a game, or do you think the rear touch pad will elevate gaming on the PlayStation Vita?