The presence of VR at the major shows of 2018 is undeniable - hundreds flocked to Sony's PSVR booth to sample upcoming releases such as Tetris Effect, Beat Saber and Astro Bot Rescue Mission, and the indie offerings have been similarly strong with many fledgeling developers lending their hand to the platform. That means that this year we've seen something for everyone, from physics-based platformers, competitive shooters, rhythm games, and even poker! To help you know what to look out for in the coming months we've narrowed down the best VR content we got to check out recently.
This famous pack-in title for Nintendo Game Boy has now made its way into VR. Tetris Effect is the latest take on the all-familiar formula and sees Tetsuya Mizuguchi, a key influence behind music titles Rez and Child of Eden as well as classic music puzzler Lumines, take the director's seat. Playing just like the classic Tetris games that we all know and love, Tetris Effect adds an electronic soundtrack and some sleek visual effects. Satisfyingly aligning the rows of blocks felt enhanced as shimmering particles would dance in the background before disappearing. The music, as expected, is also noteworthy, starting very minimalistic and gradually building to a crescendo by introducing percussion and synths. In one stage that we played manta rays and dolphins swam and glistened behind the grid. In another all the blocks were excitingly glowing alit with flames.
Dr. Dad's Home for Disposable Clones
Dr. Dad's Home for Disposable Clones was pitched to us as Portal meets Spiderman and for the most part, we can say it did this comparison justice. The fleeting demo saw us intercept the home of the titular Dr. Dad by using a dual pair of laser beams to sling our way Spidey-style to a vault. Using these lasers for traversal felt fluid and it was an action we had to master quickly as we found ourselves platforming over spike rollers, bear traps and laser beams. A puzzle we encountered was focused heavily on this mechanic too and we had to load up a cannon, fire it a clock and then hold down one of its hands to open a lab door. The humour and lab-based puzzles reminded us a lot of an older Xbox Arcade title, Quantum Conundrum, which was produced by Valve alumni.
Beat Saber is a VR rhythm game that demands you to move like a ninja when slashing blocks and avoiding obstacles in tandem with the music. With the PS Move controllers gripped tightly you're required to flail your arms and move your body, responding to a number of visual cues. Each cube is marked by an arrow facing in the direction that you need to slash and its colour indicates which hand you need to strike it with. It shares the same addictive traits as Rock Band and Guitar Hero where you'll want to repeat each stage again and again just to strike a better combo. As we have seen on the Wii, poor responsiveness can shatter an experience like this but fortunately, Beat Saber feels snappy and precise. Out now via Steam Early Access.
A real hidden gem that we found when we were at EGX in September was Arca's Path. It plays in a similar fashion to Super Monkey Ball and Marble Madness but the hook here is that all movement is conducted via head tracking. In the demo, we had to navigate the ball across a labyrinth of narrow pathways and our patience was tested when scaling raising and lowering platforms. We didn't suffer from motion sickness from tilting our heads to control this game, which was surprising considering that we didn't stop moving around after strapping our headset on. As mentioned, it is a very similar affair to the titles we previously made reference to but its luscious pastel coloured aesthetic and inventive use of VR made it more than worthy of a shout out.
Vanguard: Fight for Rudiarius
Vanguard is a competitive cross-platform space shooter that explores what may have happened if the Roman empire never fell. This alternative timeline sees players take on the role of slaves who have to duke it out for their freedom in spacecraft modelled after Roman gladiators. The ambitious VR title made its debut at EGX and we were able to play both mobile and Oculus Rift versions.
We were treated to a hands-on with a team deathmatch mode and took on the devs as we dashed across the stars exchanging laser fire and homing missiles. We've seen too few competitive titles in the realm of VR prior to this and the VR perspective certainly added an extra layer to the cat and mouse chases that we engaged in. Playing across both platforms it felt as though there was no clear advantages competitively and the mobile version didn't suffer any hiccups when compared to the version played on much more powerful hardware. What we played was described to us as a "polished alpha" and developer Dev Clever seemed passionate about supporting the title with a steady slew of content long after its expected 2019 release window.