Summer is a time when families set out on long trips. They heed the call of the road or decide a trip abroad may help kids soak up some culture. But between home and the destination, there's plenty of dead time to fill.

"Angry Birds" can do only so much before the smartphone battery runs out, and there are only so many games of "20 Questions" you can play. Be thankful there's a new batch of handheld games for the PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS to keep gamers busy on the highway or at the terminal gates.

They're a dynamic bunch that cover the gamut of genres, but they all have one thing in common: They're deeply engrossing. That's what a portable game has to do during agonizingly long travel times.

RHYTHM THIEF & THE EMPEROR'S TREASURE

★★★ 1/2 out of four stars

Publisher: Sega.

System: Nintendo 3DS.

Price: $40.

Rating: Everyone 10+; alcohol reference, cartoon violence, mild suggestive themes.

Although rhythm games have fallen out of favor, developers still find ways to reinvigorate the genre. In this case, Sega takes musical game play and melds it to a point-and-click adventure similar to "Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney." The result is an engrossing release that follows a master thief named Raphael who has to uncover the mystery behind his father's disappearance and a strange symbol. He evades police and fights bad guys through simple rhythm mini-games. Some of them can be difficult, but it's the desire to see what happens next to Raphael that will keep players persevering.

HEROES OF RUIN

★★★ 1/2 out of four stars

Publisher: Square Enix.

System: Nintendo 3DS.

Price: $40.

Rating: Teen; fantasy violence, mild language, mild blood.

In this "Diablo" clone. Players pick one of four characters and delve through dungeons to reawaken a mighty lord named Ataraxis, who has been put under a sleeping spell. The journey toward that goal is divided into simple quests that usually require the heroes to kill a monster or collect special items. That's par for the course, but the real reason to play "Heroes of Ruin" is that constant urge to level-up a character and watch him get more powerful with time. With a lengthy quest, this game will keep most players busy for weeks.

RESISTANCE: BURNING SKIES

★★★ out of four stars

Publisher: Sony.

System: PSP Vita.

Price: $40.

Rating: Mature; blood and gore.

First-person shooters have been hard to deliver on handhelds. On touch-screen devices, the lack of physical buttons makes the controls clumsy. On traditional portable systems, the absence of a second analog stick makes it nearly impossible. With the PS Vita, gamers finally get a legit FPS experience on the small screen. "Burning Skies" captures the essence of the "Resistance" series with its weapons and set-piece battles. The one misstep is the reliance on touch-screen controls, which can get awkward and inconvenient especially in a tense firefight.

GRAVITY RUSH

★★★★ out of four stars

Publisher: Sony.

System: PSP Vita.

Price: $40.

Rating: Teen; fantasy violence, mild suggestive themes, use of alcohol.

In this little-known gem, Sony's Japan Studio puts a clever twist on the adventure game by letting players take on the role of Kat, a mysterious girl who can control gravity. She can fly and walk on walls or the ceiling. She'll need these powers to fight monsters called Nevi and to protect her town. The game is gorgeous, and the game play is inventive, as players manipulate gravity to collect crystals and fend off villains. The ability to fall into a wall or a ceiling is easy as pressing a few buttons. The whimsical world and story is so intriguing that it will be hard to put this game down.