Now Playing: Thumper (2016)

Thumper is described by its creators as a “rhythm violence game.” I don’t know if that’s exactly accurate, but it certainly sounds nice and it was a pretty fun game.

There isn’t really any combat in the game, so the “violence” label is kind of questionable. There are boss fights where you have to hit every beat to make some kind of attack beat pop out that you can knock back into the bosses face, which is the only way to damage them, which is about as violent as it gets.

I suppose the violence could be more referring to the amount of times you’ll die. The game starts out pretty simple and manageable, much like the levels you get to try in the demo, but a little less than half way through things start to get way more complicated and fast paced. Luckily the levels are all pretty short, so it’s not TOO frustrating to have to redo one several times.

I guess that was the only real complaint I had, that things started moving so fast that there was no time at all to look at all the crazy, psychedelic scenery. There’s so much weird shit going on in the background, but you just can’t take your eye off the track for even a second or you’ll be dead.

It’s definitely a worthwhile VR title though. It’s not super long, but it’s a bit longer than most of the tiny movie length VR games flooding the market these days. Maybe 6-8 hours or so, not including the extra play modes and trying to get S ranks in all the levels if you’re really masochistic.

Now Playing: The Assembly (2016)

Yet another Playstation VR title. Grabbed this because it was on sale and looked interesting, but eh…it wasn’t that great.

Nice enough looking environments and an interesting concept of interacting with some secret science group with questionable morals (called…The Assembly), but as an experience it just felt incomplete. Puzzles are rare and too easy. Everything else is just walking around, looking through a lot of cabinets and drawers, most of which are empty.

The plot has a lot of potential, but it never really realizes it. You never really see the threat posed by The Assembly. There’s a lot of talking about it and apparently a lot of mischief going on off screen, but you’re never really directly exposed to it, and so it never really feels particularly sinister.

The few moral choices you have to make feel much the same. They usually refer to things that are going to happen off screen. For example, oh no, you have to choose who should get this kidney transplant, a 70 year old veteran that’s famous for his PTSD coping techniques or a random 7 year old girl. Except you don’t get to meet or even see either of them. It feels more like a question from a job application, which I suppose it technically is in this context, but it just doesn’t have any impact. Ok. I clicked old man. Now I forget about him and move on to the next room, never to hear about that situation again. Who cares?

This just had the feeling all around of being only the first episode in a larger story. It was all build up and no real payoff. It felt like it should have ended with “to be continued”, but they just said “fuck it, let’s just slap an ending on here and call it a full game”.

Oddly enough, the same can be said about the use of VR in the game. Apparently this was originally designed as a normal game, but had the VR capability added on afterwards, and it shows. Functionally, VR has no real use here and while the environments aren’t bad looking, they don’t contain any areas or scenes that are remotely memorable enough to go “wow, I’m glad I played THAT in VR!”. It just doesn’t add anything to the experience. In fact it only makes things more difficult, with the weird Here They Lie-ish controls you have to use to avoid motion sickness.

I wouldn’t really call it an altogether unpleasant experience in the end, but it was definitely ultimately unfulfilling and there are much better things to spend $20 and 4-5 hours on.

Now Playing: The Brookhaven Experiment (2016)

The Brookhaven Experiment is basically a 360 degree horror shooting gallery. You stand in a fixed place and spin around, fighting off hordes of increasingly bizarre and difficult creatures. You have a knife or a flashlight in one hand and a gun or a thrown weapon in the other. You can find new weapons and items hidden throughout the levels. That’s…really all there is to it.

It’s very simple, but effective. The creatures and environments look great. Like all of these VR games, 2D videos just can’t do the visuals justice. The gameplay is mostly very functional, with the exception of some aiming/firing glitches that occur when you spin around into just the wrong place where the motion controller briefly enters a blind spot. It’s another short game, with a campaign that only lasts maybe 4-5 hours, though there is also a survival mode to mess around with. It doesn’t have the tight production of Until Dawn: Rush of Blood (which I played before this, but forgot to record. Great little game!), but it is way heavier on action and challenge. There’s really not much else to say about it. *shrug*

Now Playing: VR Worlds (2016)

VR Worlds is basically a collection of tech demos, showcasing what Playstation VR is capable of. These are all very short, very limited games, but the majority of them were actually surprisingly fun and well made.

First there is Scavenger’s Odyssey, which is a space shooter that had a kind of Metroid Prime feel to it. It’s only about 2 hours long, but it’s ridiculously fun and nice looking while it lasts. The end sets things up for some kind of sequel. I’d buy it.

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