Virtual Reality Jetlag: A Few Months of The Vive
It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything here on TheGeniusInc. In fact, I stopped writing around the time I got my Vive and those two facts are not unrelated. From the borders of the gaming sphere I’ve returned with my thoughts on a few of the offerings people can enjoy on their head mounted holodecks!
Audioshield is from the creator of Audiosurf, one of my favourite games. Being able to load up a song and ‘surf’ along it in a variety of modes gives you certain expectations for the VR version. I mostly played mono-ninja because I liked dodging about and that translates perfectly to Audioshield. Grabbing your controllers, you’ll find your left arm has a blue shield and an orange on your right. As wet dots fly towards your face, you have to block them with the same color shield (unless it’s purple, then you need both). The concept is simple but the game is just pure fun. While being able to surf any locally available song (wait, people still store music locally?!) is nice, the only supported streaming platform isn’t Google Music, which is what I use. While there are workarounds to use this service, I do find the lack of streaming options, game modes and updates to be all cons someone should consider before buying the game. And then they should throw the con list out, buy it anyway and have a blast!
In the world of VR you can be anyone, from a ninja cutting arrows out of the air to a god, helping airplanes land. Of course, why should you limit yourself to being something on two legs? Enter: Catlateral Damage. Now I haven’t played the non-VR part of this game yet, but the VR DLC is free and it’s pretty fun. With the tone and pacing I remember from the first Katamari game or Mr Mosquito from the Playstation 2, you’re a cat and you go around knocking stuff off of shelves. Yeah that’s it, but the chance to be an asshole cat for an hour is really appealing. Because the VR content is limited, I would advise someone see if the other stuff appeals before buying full price. Otherwise, wait for a sale.
Cloudlands: VR Minigolf
While I expected VR minigolf to be, well minigolf in VR, Cloudlands doesn’t feel restricted to bow down to what we call the laws of sanity. The teleport mechanic might make some a little queasy as there is less control in it when compared to other games that have similar movement. Usually I try to find a reason why one might give pause before buying but with a nice price tag, lots of content and workshop support to add more holes, this game is a surefire VR winner.
In my reviews of Defence Grid, I’ve stated I’m a huge fan of the genre. I love the strategy involved and with the right amount of balance these games are simply the best (to me). A first person, planetary exploration, robot based tower defence game is a shoe in to get my recommendation. Or so I thought. First, the game is Early Access, so that’s a thing a lot of people might not be too thrilled about. Secondly, the game clocks in at 15 bucks and doesn’t have much game right now. But if you can get over those two faults, there is a dearth of promise underneath. Between harvesting resources with your cosmobots to upgrading your weapons and defensive towers, there’s a lot going on. A great soundtrack compliments your time spent in game well and the UI is a great example of what works well in VR. The developer is very active on their Steam page in keeping the community engaged as well which is a big plus for most people.
DOTA 2, Elite Dangerous, Project CARS
I’ve given reviews of these games before, so rather than talking more about them I’d like to address their VR adaptations. With DOTA 2, you have a quality spectator mode. You can get right down onto the battlefield and feel like there’s a combat unfolding around you or you can stay on high and be the commander looking down. Either way, VR is a nice add on but not the way to play the game itself. Elite Dangerous has a love/hate relationship with the Vive. While it does run better on the Rift, Frontier has put some love into updating the engine for us Vive owners. As it stands right now, I can spend hours in Elite VR without needing a break. However, because it is such a control heavy game, you’re gonna want to know your personal setup by feel, otherwise you could get very lost easily, very quickly. Project CARS is an example of just adding on VR in a really natural way. You still want a wheel and pedals, but you get the ability to naturally look around and drive like a real driver. It is uncomfortable if you move, however, as your body stays put.
While my love for Garry’s Mod hasn’t dwindled, I really haven’t played the game in a very long time. I thought that playing Fantastic Contraption would bring it right back, but I had no such luck. However the game is a great puzzle based building game asking you to get from A to B. There is a delightful dreamlike quality to all the art and the game has one of my favourite saving methods ever (you grab a hat, and put it on your head. Upon peering into the inside of the hat, you’re looking at another room where there are buttons for saving/quitting) and some people are bothered by the toolbox being a weird dream-cat but I liked it. I’d recommend it, but most people get it for free with their Vive and would play it even if it wasn’t recommended.
Air Traffic Controller was a game that drained my phone many many times. The management, stress and reward systems were balanced just right to keep me entertained for hours (although spread out over weeks, obviously). Final Approach has four or five activities you will repeat over and over, but the goals you have to attain are what keep the game from getting repetitive. It’s worth noting that they also offer the Pilot edition, which has you sitting in the airplanes and flying them in first person as a seated experience which is also pretty cool.
While I’m usually more for function over fashion, substance over style, the 80’s have this weird effect where I just sort of like it no matter how vapid or empty things feel. Sometimes you get both as with Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Holoball. Holoball is like playing tennis or squash, but against an AI opponent that taunts you the whole time. Harder difficulties result in both more advanced AI as well as larger arenas. Playing Holoball will make you SWEAT in best of ways: with hatred for robots. The game also features live leaderboards and five difficulties. As a launch title it was one of the best games for the Vive and even with a more full marketplace it’s still on top for most people.
Channeling the cool scene from ‘The Hunger Games’ where Katniss trains with a bow against holographic targets, Holopoint presents us an asian dojo and holographic targets. Except our targets range from cubes to sword wielding samurai and modes like endless waves and time trial, there’s lots to see and do in Holopoint.
If I were giving away awards for VR games, ‘Best Sense of Presence’ would go to Job Simulator. Another Vive pack-in game, Job Simulator comes from the viewpoint of future robots: “What was the human ‘job’ of history like?”. Really, the game is an experience, allowing you to be a Chef, Cubicle Worker, Car Mechanic and Store Clerk. While you could just do the jobs and go home, it’s far more fun to just see how you can play with things, mess up the robots in the environment around you and just generally cause chaos.
The Legend of Luca
While I enjoyed The Binding of Issac, the tone of the game really brought me down. It was grimdark, and sort of gross. The Legend of Luca gives me the same feeling without all that gross stuff. Randomly generated dungeons and loot means it’s quite the replayable game. Workshop support adds additional adventures too!
Wait for it to go on sale, but this Lightsaber (oops, I mean Light Blade) game is pretty fun. The easier difficulties won’t provide any sort of challenge but the developer is pretty big on updating and has already added a mobile combatant for you to fight.
I don’t usually play snipers in shooting games. I find video games don’t really afford the feeling that I’m sniping, especially when other people are 360no-scoping around corners. The nest is different, I totally feel like a vulnerable human being hunting robots from a remote position with a future gun. It’s a blast.
New Retro Arcade: Neon
Loving arcade games to the point where I made my own arcade cabinet with MAME, I thought I would have loved this more. The emulator part of the game is the least entertaining, but all the other games that come with it are a hoot (especially with friends).
Nighttime Terror: Dessert Defender
A passable RTS game where you defend desserts left out on tables overnight. The controls are really weird but the game is pretty fun. It came out very early in the Vive lifecycle and with more competition, I’d say wait until a sale.
So having loved New Retro Arcade for everything *except* the arcade, Pierhead is pretty much all the rest of that stuff but done really *really* well. The developers are also totally on top when it comes to updates.
Pool Nation VR
With Pierhead replacing all the mini-games from New Retro, Pool Nation provides that core gameplay experience that we crave. Deep with a heavy amount of skill. Also one of the prettier Vive games.
While it has performance issues for some, Raw Data runs beautifully for me. Perhaps the prettiest Vive game and certainly the most ‘game like’ one so far. Don’t wait for a sale, get this game now!
Loving Dungeons and Dragons, this game was one of my first purchases and while it’s short (2 hours) and leaves you wanting more, it’s a great demo for what we can expect from future VR titles.