PlayStation VR @ EGX 2018

I was really glad to see PS VR have a really strong line-up of games and be very well represented at this year’s EGX. Diarmuid did a good roundup of the highlights of the other VR games from the show floor, which you can read here. Coleman and I played through the newer games available to play on PS VR and I have also discussed the other games on display.

While both Wipeout Omega Collection and The Persistence are already released I can entirely understand demoing them at EGX as both added to the breadth of content on display and also great examples of currently available VR software.

Even though I am eagerly anticipating its release, I also did not play Blood & Truth as it appeared to be a very similar build to the one I played at Develop Brighton (and discussed on this podcast) I fully expect the final game to live up to the promise of the two demos I have played and expect this to be a crown jewel of the PS VR headset going forward.

Tetris Effect (VR)

  • Developer: Resonair
  • Publisher: Enhance, Inc
  • Previewed on: PS VR
  • Release Date: November 9th, 2018

As I said when it was announced; the only problem I have with the Tetris Effect is I now fear Sony have been using the PS VR headset to read my mind to discover my ideal VR games. This demo reinforced my thinking that this game may be taking me hostage for an extended period of time when it launches on the 9th of November.

I discussed the demo with a few other people that commented that the VR does not significantly add to the experience. Given that all of the game playing portion takes place on a 2D plane, I can understand the criticism but I don’t entirely agree – mainly as I think the level of immersion afforded by the lack of visible distractions will enhance the overall experience. High-level players could also see benefits from the lower screen latency. It may not be an essential VR game but I am grateful for the option and one I can see opting for more often than not.

If you have yet to see this excellent video I recommend it and really like the use of the phrase “headphones for the eyes” to describe the PS VR headset and the way they can be used for enhanced immersion.

During the EGX demo, I got to play through the first four or five songs. While quite varied I was pleased that they appeared to be seemingly as high quality as “I Am Yours Forever” which was the song seen in the initial trailer and coverage. At normal difficulty each level tasks you with clearing 24 lines before moving onto the next. Harder difficulties require more lines to be cleared per song and appeared as though they may open up more branching paths as you progress and possibly lead to an increased range of songs.

There are a few aspects that I will have to spend more time with to really see how they are best deployed and how much they add to the enjoyment of the game. The main aspect being the new Zone system that sees you able to temporarily stop the clock and allows you to build up huge stacks that, when gameplay reengages, allows for the construction of multi-Tetris (all the way up to a 16 line Decahexatris). I expect that new mechanic will be really useful and rewarding but I did not really get to grips with it enough to make best use of it yet.

My other lesser concern is the background imagery. Many of these elements pulse or otherwise react to your in-game actions. I found these a little distracting at first but suspect or hope that this is something that will be less of an issue as you get used to them. It does, however, seem somewhat counterintuitive to remove real-world distractions and replace them with a whole set of artificial ones.

Yes, it is essentially the Tetris you know and love (and possibly got bored of some years ago). However, any fan of Lumines can tell you how much joy can be added to a puzzle game by musical interactivity. I also have full confidence that Mizuguchi, Resonair and Enhance are the ideal combination to line up all these pieces into a perfectly executed package.

Official Game Site

Astro Bot: Rescue Mission

  • Developer: Japan Studio
  • Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
  • Previewed on: PS VR
  • Release Date: November 9th, 2018

Long-term BRB fans will be well aware that I am not a fan of platformers. I was also previously generally wary of how well this genre will work in VR. However, trying the demo of Moss (at last year’s EGX) not only gave me confidence that I could enjoy this type of game in VR — but Moss went on to become one of my overall favourite VR games.

While Astro Bot: Rescue Mission is an extension of Robot Rescue, one the mini-games from the launch title, The Playroom VR, I am fairly confident that the developers have learned some lessons from Moss – and Astro Bot is all the better (and cuter) for it. In a similar manner to Moss, it feels as though the environments of Astro Bot are all around you. Rather than being as observer from an abstracted viewpoint, you feel like you are in the middle of the activity. With both you and the character model existing in the same environment. This is even further enhanced by your own interactivity with the environment – this demo sees you tasked with head-butting large obstructions in your path so that they break and reveal the path that Astro needs to travel along.

Each level that wraps all around you, has you searching high and low and peering around corners to help find the other bots you need to rescue from the environment – achieved by getting close enough to kick them up the bot butt. The path to reach them is not always immediately obvious and some light path-finding puzzle solving is required – but neither the pathfinding, combat or platforming felt particularly demanding. While this may change as you get deeper into the game I expect that it will generally tend to skew towards being more accessible throughout. That is not to say that it is totally without challenge and finding the path to some of the bots was not always overtly obvious.

I did have a small issue at one point where the Astro character was hidden by the robotic model that represented me in the level – which meant that I could not see to accurately position the Bot on the bouncy trampoline I needed to progress. The overall aesthetic and attitude of the game makes it easier to look past any shortcomings – hard to frown when little Astro waves at you when crossing your path. There are many other nice little humourous additions and touches that add up to the game being adorably charming. I went into this being possibly interested and before my time with the demo was up it was a definite day one purchase.

Official Game Site

Beat Saber

  • Developer: Hyperbolic Magnetism
  • Publisher: Hyperbolic Magnetism
  • Previewed on: PS VR
  • Release Date: TBD

If you’re a fan of rhythm games and Star Wars (and who isn’t), then you might be aware of Beat Sabre. Using motion controls to simulate a pair of lightsaber and placing you in a tunnel not a million miles away from the Guitar Hero fretboard, you’ll have to attack blocks in time with the beat. Sounds simple right?

These floating blocks are marked with directional keys to indicate which direction to slash or stab, all the time while jamming out to some high energy tunes catchy enough to help you move in rhythm and at times, let your mind go into auto-pilot for some of the more repeased sections of a level. Then there are the obstacles – giant blocks of red energy that just look like they need to be avoided and avoid you must! Add all these elements together and you’ll have not only one of the most addictive rhythm titles created in the past decade but something easy enough for anybody to pick up and get the hang of.

Since launching on the big two headsets earlier this year, it wouldn’t take long before news of a PS VR caught my eye at the E3 2018. Admittedly, as exciting as the news of Beat Saber coming to the blue side was for me, I’ve remained on the side of caution thanks to the limitations in those pesky PlayStation Move controllers. After finally getting my hands on the game for myself, however… I think Sony may have sold another headset.

Official Game Site

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