You probably wouldn't know it, but Sony's PlayStation Vita handheld contains one of the most vibrant, offbeat and downright quirky video game shops in the world today. It's called PlayStation Mobile, and it's a component of the larger PlayStation Store, which all modern PlayStation systems can access.
There's really no other way to say it: The games offered via PlayStation Mobile are different. They're generally independent rather than studio-produced, most have unconventional graphics and game mechanics, and a large number are by Japanese developers. But here's the problem: Sony is closing the Mobile marketplace Wednesday, locking the door and throwing away the key.
After the closure, it will be impossible to buy any of the games that are currently available for the platform. But Sony has stated that Vita owners will be able to play the Mobile games they've already downloaded, which has incited a sort of gold rush for gamers who want to snap up these obscurities before it's too late.
Here's a look at some of those titles: There's a bizarre game about being a dog, with graphics that feel like a Japanese kamishibai; you can also download an offbeat roleplaying game where you play as the character that mends the the actual adventurer's wounds; there's also something called "Super Skull Smash Go!"
Instead of drab, brown shooters with same-y 3D graphics of the sort you're used to on consoles, or the derivative puzzlers for smartphones, PlayStation Mobile offers colorful, innovative, inexpensive experiences that download in seconds and offer big, sugary bursts of unique, interactive entertainment.
Sony announced the impending closure in March. Not many people noticed -- only about 18,000 people have viewed the announcement on Sony's official message board, according to public numbers. Sony itself cares so little about the three-and-a-half-year-old Vita system that it's stated it won't make any more "big budget" games for it anyway.
Sony did not respond to requests for comment from The Huffington Post about the shuttering of PlayStation Mobile.
Brandon Sheffield, a game director who's made a number of titles for PlayStation Mobile, told HuffPost that he imagines the service simply wasn't profitable. What's more, some people may have been using PlayStation Mobile as a backdoor for "homebrew" software -- unapproved programs, basically, some of which could allow pirated games to run on the PlayStation Vita system.
Still, fully aware that PlayStation Mobile was closing a month later, Sheffield in June released "Oh Deer! Alpha," on which he'd collaborated with several artists and coders, as well as well-known composer Motohiro Kawashima, who wrote the music for the game.
"The culmination of all of our efforts had to be seen," Sheffield told HuffPost in a Skype interview Tuesday.
The game costs 49 cents and is basically unlike anything else on modern systems. You're driving a station wagon to grandma's house, which is at the end of a tremendously diverse landscape. (Think European castles and Egyptian pyramids.) Along the way, there are long lines of deer on the road. You can run them all down, or you can avoid them entirely. If you choose to smash into them, the music gets dark and intense -- if you don't, it becomes a bit brighter and happier.
"Do you want to destroy, or live and let live!?" Sheffield said of the choice players have.
"Oh Deer! Alpha" sometime feels a bit apocalyptic -- blood creeps up the edges of the screen and the musical score will make your palms sweaty -- which is suitable for a platform that's about to be wiped off the face of the planet.
Shawn Layden, CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, recently told Forbes that the Vita is the perfect system for independent developers. One might say it's sort of a pity that the most independent-minded games of all are being lost now.
If you have a PlayStation Vita, Sheffield put together a comprehensive list of PlayStation Mobile games to nab before the service vanishes. If you don't have one, we've included some standout gameplay videos below -- they're worth watching, especially if you can't play the games yourself.
"It would be a shame if these games went away without anybody knowing about them. That's why I want to expose this kind of stuff," Sheffield told HuffPost. "[Developers] put a lot of work and a lot of heart into this."