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Fallout 4 is perfect for parents — if you have a PlayStation Vita

One of the biggest adjustments I've had to make as a parent is figuring out time to enjoy non-family-friendly entertainment. It's hard to watch Game of Thrones or play Assassin's Creed with two kids under the age of three running around. I really don't want my daughters seeing me (virtually) stab people in the neck. So I was pretty stressed out about reviewing Fallout 4: here's a game that lasts dozens of hours and frequently includes slow motion close-ups of exploding heads. If it wasn't for the PS Vita's remote play feature, I may not have been able to finish the game.

Remote play is a little-used feature that lets you stream a game from your PlayStation 4 to a Vita using your home's Wi-Fi connection. The games that do support it often don't work right; the Vita is lacking a number of buttons featured on the PS4's controller, and the touchscreen isn't always the best substitution. One of the few games to do a really great job of configuring the controls for the Vita is sci-fi shooter Destiny, with a scheme built by developer Josh Hamrick. Fallout studio Bethesda enlisted Hamrick's help for Fallout 4, and, for the most part, it works well.

Fallout 4

The Vita controls are far from perfect. VATS — a unique Fallout feature that lets you pause the game and aim at specific enemies or body parts — has been relegated to up on the D-pad, and you throw grenades by tapping the top right corner of the touchscreen, both choices that feel awkward. It's especially hard jumping back and forth between the console and portable versions given these differences; you get accustomed to one, and switching can be jarring. At one point I killed an important character because I accidentally threw a grenade when I tried to wipe a smudge off the screen.

But Fallout 4 is definitely playable on the Vita once you get used to it, and being able to play away from the TV is absolutely perfect for a long, involved game like this. While my kids are enjoying Peppa Pig on the television, I can sneak in a mission or two on the Vita, or even just spend some time tinkering with my gear before a prolonged session on the PS4. There are so many little things you can do in the game — like crafting items or exploring a new building — so being able to get in a half an hour here and there really makes a difference. You don't need to play for long to make at least some progress.

Remote play isn't an entirely unique feature; off-screen play is probably my favorite aspect of the Wii U, as it gives me more flexibility for how and where I play games. But it turns out it's especially great for these kind of violent, blockbuster releases, the ones I don't want my kids to see or hear.