Also On: PS4, PS3
Publisher: The Fyzz Facility
Developer: VooFoo Studios
I'm not even going pretend I went into Backgammon Blitz with any knowledge whatsoever of the board game. Prior to playing this, the extent of my understanding of backgammon was some rough idea of how the board looked, and that was about it.
After playing Backgammon Blitz…well, I'm still not totally sure I understand all the ins and outs of the game. The in-game tutorial tries to be helpful, but quite frankly it just left me feeling more confused than anything else. That said, once I actually got past it and started playing against the AI opponent, I quickly got the hang of it. It's not that difficult, after all — while I'm sure there are all kinds of crazy strategies I didn't discover, you're basically just rolling a pair of die and moving little circles around a board. There's minimal controls to learn, and playing on the PS Vita means you get the added functionality of a touchscreen.
In this respect and in others, Backgammon Blitz reminds me of the PS Vita version of Pure Chess that came out a few years ago (which shouldn't be too surprising, since both were developed by VooFoo Studios). Like Pure Chess, Backgammon Blitz does a great job of easing in newcomers, showing how simple the game can be even when there's all kinds of strategy that can come into play (or, at least, that's my assumption about backgammon). And like Pure Chess, Backgammon Blitz looks lovely, and really makes you feel like you're looking at an actual game board.
Unfortunately, this also means that, like Pure Chess, Backgammon Blitz has terrible online play. You can challenge other people to matches, but there's no way of telling who's online at any given time, which means that asynchronous matches are your most likely outcome. Given that the average backgammon match seems to take dozens and dozens of moves…well, you can probably see the problem. Or, more bluntly: score one for the low-tech solution, an actual backgammon board that can be played anywhere against anyone in real time. (Then again, the flip side of that argument would be that you'd have to find someone to play with first — and seeing as backgammon isn't the most widely-played game these days, you might be better of just waiting for your online challengers to play their turns.)
Of course, unspoken in all of this is the bigger question of whether you actually need a backgammon game on your Vita (or PS3 or PS4, if that's what you'd prefer). There's not a lot of content here, and unless you can find regular online opponents, that means it can all start to feel really repetitive pretty quickly. To be sure, if you're a big backgammon fan, it's undoubtedly worth the investment, but otherwise? Probably not.