By Ronald Gordon
Near the Hudson River waterfront, Sony recently hosted an event to show off new games that are coming to the PlayStation VR system. Along the walls of a long, blue-hued room sat various PlayStations, VR headsets and monitors, and each game was demoed by the developers themselves. It was kind of like an amusement park full of games with the creators present to explain how it was all done.
Concrete Genie is a creative, late 2019 adventure game being developed by Pixelopus, a company which includes a staff of young interns because the company is dedicated to bringing more young creators into the world of game design. In Concrete Genie’s story, you play as a character named Ash who, with the help of a magic brush, can paint things in his town that magically come to life and help him solve puzzles. I first saw this artful game on the PS4 without virtual reality at PlayStation’s New York event last year, and I was utterly consumed with excitement when I learned it was in full VR at this latest event. My enthusiasm was not misplaced – the VR mode for this touching game was absolutely phenomenal. You could paint the game’s world in any way you wanted, with vibrant plant life that swayed realistically, shining stars that interacted with the objects around you, even your own Aurora Borealis formation.
I moved on to a very harrowing experience with “Five Nights At Freddy’s,” a well-known horror game being developed by Scott Cawthon. As a longtime follower of the FNAF franchise, I expected that the VR experience was going to be spine-tingling. FNAF VR: Help Wanted displayed a variety of minigames: one in which you tune the guitar of a creepy animatronic called Bonnie. If you don’t follow the deceivingly simple instructions, you die.
I also indulged a minigame that has you repairing a ventilation system while trying to keep Mangle, another animatronic, from entering your security guard lair and killing you. VR definitely improves the Freddy experience. In the original game, the different animatronics would move statically from one camera to another. In VR, which was a timed experience, you sometimes see them walk out of frame and in front of another security camera, which makes the game even more tense and scarier, since you watch them get closer to you.
With the horror factor over, I moved over to something less fear inducing. Trover Saves The Universe is a VR game being developed by Squanch Games with help from Justin Roiland, the co-creator of Rick and Morty. In the story, you are bound to a chair and have to control a hero known as Trover in order to save your two pet dogs, who are being used to power a giant monster. Unsurprisingly, with Justin Roiland involved, Trover is anything but serious as the monster takes your precious dogs and sticks them in his eye holes – before immediately beginning to shoot lasers and rip apart the fabric of reality. How fun. The humor and language are as crude and colorful as can be. Even in the first level, you get cursed out by an old man who just didn’t like you and your dogs. Being bound to a chair reminded me a bit of Astrobot, a game I saw at last year’s PlayStation event, and I was intrigued by the way the still camera can affect your viewpoint and the way you explore the world. When you can’t see certain parts of a level, it makes you want to explore the environment even more.
Going from being stuck in a chair to flying high in the sky is a bit of a shift, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Iron Man VR, developed by a studio called Camouflaj, takes you through a quick training tutorial before launching you into the air and tasking you with fighting off killer robots while you try to save Pepper Potts from a crashing plane. I was surprised that nothing on this game had been leaked since it’s been in development for two whole years and, knowing the internet, someone would’ve at least teased screenshots or models. But the secrets were well kept! The surprise made experience even more awesome, as you got to fly around and blast enemies just like Iron Man would. The controls were fairly simple. But it took me a couple of tries to be accurate with my flying, since I had never played a VR game with flight mechanics before.
Blood And Truth is a first person shooter game for PSVR developed by PlayStation London Studio (well known for their The Getaway series). The action in the game is exciting and realistic. Dust flies and bullets whiz by, but there’s an appropriate amount of cover you can hide behind to shield yourself from attackers. Normally, you’d expect that an FPS game would be just another Call of Duty or Battlefield clone. But Blood & Truth is a special case, because the game also has special tools such as lockpicks and other devices to help you reach different parts of the levels. It becomes highly immersive in VR as you have to physically move to do things like climb ladders or holster weapons. Wry British humor keeps the dialog fresh.
I thoroughly enjoyed all of the games I saw there and am now highly enthusiastic about starting to save up my checks in order to buy a PS4 and eventually hook up my own VR set to play around with.
Freshman intern Ronald Gordon is creating the City Tech College chapter of the New York Videogame Critics Circle.