Top 5 Oculus Releases – April 14th-20th – Meditate or Get Mental

This week’s top Oculus releases focus more on mind than reflexes, literally and figuratively. Twist your brain in the VR sequel to one of the greatest comedic adventures of all time, set your brain to work as a virtual city planner, or just relax with some paper airplanes:

Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin

from Double Fine Productions and React Games

Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin - screenshot courtesy Steam
Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin – screenshot courtesy Steam

The beloved team of youthful psychics is back with an all-new adventure, initially released as a PSVR exclusive and now available for the Rift. Exclusive to VR and serving as a bridge between the original classic and its forthcoming sequel, Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin picks up right where the first Psychonauts game left off.

Featuring some interesting control choices – like using your head to pick up and manipulate objects instead of your hands, in a simulation of telekinesis – this abounds with tricky puzzles that will push both your logic and your psychic abilities to their limits.

More importantly, it’s got the signature writing and twisted humor we’ve come to expect from Double Fine Productions in general and this series in particular.

Oculus Rift | 8 GB | $19.99 from Oculus or from Steam

Block’hood VR

from Plethora-Project and General Arcade

Block'hood VR - screenshot courtesy Steam
Block’hood VR – screenshot courtesy Steam

Another expansion of an existing – and award-winning – game concept into virtual space, Block’hood VR puts a 3D spin on the original game’s ecologically-focused, voxel-based approach to the city-building sim.

Players will still build neighborhoods using a block-based system that requires careful thought not only of each section’s own qualities but those of surrounding blocks, and the use of VR space gives each choice and combination even more impact.

Oculus Rift | 2 GB | $14.99 from Oculus or from Steam

Paper Valley

from Vitei Backroom

Paper Valley - screenshot courtesy Oculus
Paper Valley – screenshot courtesy Oculus

If psychic puzzles and ecological urban planning is making your head hurt, why not relax by tossing some paper airplanes in an idyllic wooded vale? Paper Valley is a meditative experience that still offers puzzles as tossed paper airplanes help to reveal a lost civilization – a bit like Myst gone papercraft.

Its combination of simple mechanics and tranquil environments netted developers Vitei Backroom a Famitsu Media Highlight Award at last year’s BitSummit in Japan.

Oculus Rift | 657 MB | $19.99 from Oculus


from konzeptzwei

Fibre - screenshot courtesy Oculus
Fibre – screenshot courtesy Oculus

Not all this week’s releases are slow-paced – Fibre is far from it, in fact – but this combination of rail shooter and endless runner for Gear VR is incredibly meditative once you get into the rhythm of it. Stark, abstract graphics inspired by data packets on a network also make this a far different experience than the robot and zombie games more typical of the genre.

Gear VR | 130 MB | $2.99 from Oculus

3D Mahjong Worlds

from PixelBrain Studio

3D Mahjong Worlds - screenshot courtesy Steam
3D Mahjong Worlds – screenshot courtesy Steam

A favorite casual game genre – the venerable Mahjong solitaire tile game – makes its way to the Oculus. UK developer PixelBrain Studio previously released a similar game for mobile VR, and the experience served them well. This is a simple idea executed extremely well, bringing the relaxing puzzle-solving and hypnotic tile-clicks into a more immersive space.

Top 5 Oculus Releases – April 7th-13th – Boss Raids and Bombs

If you’re not still lost exploring the wilderness of Skyrim from last week, this week’s new Oculus and Gear VR releases offer some new twists on popular genres, like MMORPG boss raids, escape rooms and wave shooters:

Nemesis Realms

from Evocat Games

Nemesis Realms - screenshot courtesy Steam
Nemesis Realms – screenshot courtesy Steam

Inspired by end-game raid bosses in MMORPGs, Nemesis Realms takes that concept and turns it into a smaller scale local multi-player affair. One player controls the raid boss, while up to four additional players attempt to take him out in the arena.

While there are only three bosses available so far, they include a multi-headed dragon, which is more than enough to generate our interest.

And Evocat Games has done a wonderful job distilling the asymmetric action of boss raids into something simple enough that anyone can pick it up while still retaining the manic fun and nerve-wracking tension of large-scale multi-player battles against massive enemies.

Oculus Rift | 2 GB | $14.99 on Steam

The Ship

from VR Escape Adventures

The Ship - screenshot courtesy Oculus
The Ship – screenshot courtesy Oculus

Escape room games are a popular VR genre, arguably second only to wave shooters in terms of sheer numbers, so it takes something fairly special in the genre to get our attention. The Ship stands out for its story-driven setting – a historic pirate ship – and for its cleverly designed puzzles, which were put together by a real escape room company.

The end result is an experience that, despite comparatively simple graphics, feels a lot less like a video game and a lot more like a real-world escape room.

Gear VR | 539 MB | $3.99 from Oculus

Zombie Grenade Practice


Zombie Grenades Practice - screenshot courtesy Steam
Zombie Grenades Practice – screenshot courtesy Steam

Speaking of wave shooters doing something special, Zombie Grenade Practice offers a new take on zombie-killing mayhem: no guns or melee weapons, just an arsenal of grenades for taking out the shambling corpses.

Careful attention to level design and additional modifiers to the usual formula – like improving your score by maximizing zombie deaths and minimizing human ones – add touches of puzzle and strategy, resulting in a much more thoughtful game than a typical wave shooter, despite the seemingly comedic premise.

Oculus Rift | 16 GB | $12.99 from Steam

No Horizon

from Virtro Entertainment

No Horizon - screenshot courtesy Oculus
No Horizon – screenshot courtesy Oculus

There aren’t loads of space pilot simulators for Gear VR, and No Horizon adds to the mix with an approach that’s a little more free-flowing and sandbox-oriented than the excellent but more linear End Space.

Gear VR | 120 MB | FREE from Oculus

The Road to Hades


The Road to Hades - screenshot courtesy Steam
The Road to Hades – screenshot courtesy Steam

Though some players have reported clipping issues and a few other performance issues that are still being worked out, the unique Asian horror setting and gorgeous imagery of The Road to Hades make this experience more than worth checking out.

Oculus Rift | 7 GB | $14.99 from Steam

Top 5 Oculus Releases – March 31st-April 6th – Elder Scrolls and Other Amazing Environments

There are quite a few movie tie-ins this week, but after last week’s collection inspired by Ready Player One, we’re focusing on worlds designed originally for games and VR this time around. And thanks in part to VR’s entry into the world of Tamriel, there are plenty of worlds for adventurous Oculus players to explore:

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR

from Bethesda Game Studios

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR - screenshot courtesy Steam
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR – screenshot courtesy Steam

After an initial release exclusive to Sony PSVR, the most successful game yet in the massively popular Elder Scrolls series makes its way to Oculus, as fellow Bethesda Game Studios series Fallout did several months ago. The VR edition also includes all previously released add-on content, for hundreds of hours of dragon-slaying and quests.

The marvelous thing about Skyrim, though, is that you can ignore the quests altogether and spend hours, as we have, wandering through its verdant glades, mysterious forests and awe-inspiring mountain peaks. And if the original edition is nearly perfect as a fantasy landscape hike simulator, how much better is it in VR?

We recommend playing this with the Oculus Touch controllers because the thumbsticks allow for smoother motion and tighter control, and we were a bit puzzled by the lack of haptic feedback from weapon strikes, but those are minor quibbles for a game that creates this deep a sense of immersion.

Oculus Rift | 15 GB | $59.99 on Steam

Island Time VR

from Flight School Studio

Island Time VR - screenshot courtesy Steam
Island Time VR – screenshot courtesy Steam

With the notable – and wonderful – exception of Don’t Starve, too many survival games opt for such a grim and gritty approach that the actual sense of fun gets left behind.

Not so with Island Time VR, which brings a charming cartoon-inspired aesthetic to the “how would you survive on a desert island” genre. Between its bug-eyed crabs and gulls, buck-toothed fish and a comedic approach to crafting, it reminds us a bit of Robinson Crusoe as done by Aardman Animations.

Oculus Rift | 1 GB | $14.99 from Oculus or from Steam

Kartong – Death by Cardboard!

from SRVIVE Studios

Kartong - Death by Cardboard! - screenshot courtesy Steam
Kartong – Death by Cardboard! – screenshot courtesy Steam

We’ve been following this one for a while. Now out of Early Access, Kartong – Death by Cardboard! is a survival action shooter that stands out for its papercraft environments and its approach to household objects re-imagined as traps and weaponry.

It’s also cross-platform compatible, so non-VR players can also try their hands at escaping the sinister cardboard city and the nefarious clutches of the mastermind who created it.

Oculus Rift | 9 GB | $8.99 from Oculus or $13.99 from Steam

La Camila: A VR Story

from Jak Wilmot

La Camila - screenshot courtesy Steam
La Camila – screenshot courtesy Steam

Selected for this year’s Atlanta Film Festival, La Camila: A VR Story is a free interactive film that charmed us equally with its pastoral steampunk imagery, it’s ‘60s folk-rock soundtrack, and its heartwarming tale of a young orphan girl preserving a fantasy world. A brief but lovely work of magical realism.

Oculus Rift | 2 GB | FREE from Steam

Cat ‘S’ Trophy

from Visible Realms

Cat 'S' Tropy - screenshot courtesy Oculus
Cat ‘S’ Tropy – screenshot courtesy Oculus

Loosely inspired by Mario Cart in terms of mechanics and perspective, this cart racing game for Gear VR has a couple of clever innovations. In Cat ‘S’ Trophy, players design their own tracks; that’s not a bonus option but an integral part of the game. For another, instead of go-carts, players race bizarre wheeled cats, which gives new meaning to the phrase “purring engine.”

Gear VR | 521 MB | $4.99 from Oculus