The days of not having a large enough VR catalog are now well in the rearview mirror, and now we can begin to really pick and choose between the standouts and everything else. The following is a list of solid new releases for Oculus devices we wanted to share circa July-August 2019.
from Brian Keeley-DeBonis
Currently in Early Access, this little game from Brian Keely-DeBonis already has us captivated with its exploration and puzzle-driven trip to an abandoned but otherworldly village that looks a little bit like the Anasazi ruins by way of The Legend of Zelda.
An evocative, reverb-heavy ambient score that reminds us a bit of David Sylvian’s work with Can’s Holger Czukay adds to the mystique.
We’re getting strong Thief and Dishonored vibes from this one, not just because of the stealth focus but also the not-quite-Medieval, not-quite-Renaissance and not-quite-Steampunk setting.
The game focuses not only on stealth but also the audio elements of sneaking around – listening for nearby guards and doors opening and closing – but even without the Thief-style stealth elements, we’d probably be all in on ROGAN: The Thief in the Castle just for the costume design alone.
More stealth, this time set during the second season of the eponymous HBO series, Westworld Awakening sees players taking on the role of a self-aware android – a “host,” in the show’s parlance – exploring a sinister corporate underworld.
Stealth and puzzles abound, and the tension of being stalked by a homicidal host puts this one right between science and fiction and survival horror.
DUSTNET is an experimental take on multi-player shooters, set in an imagined crumbling, far-future de_dust2 server.
If you don’t immediately get that reference, don’t worry; you don’t have to be a hardcore Counter-Strike player to appreciate this game’s vector graphics-driven, almost abstract interpretation of the original game. And it’s cross-platform, so you can even play with your flat screen friends!
The first release from Radix Motion, a small development team focusing on the intersection of neuroscience and VR, Meu is a movement toy that lets you capture and edit body language and gesture with some fun psychedelic filters and motion-controlled musical effects.
The ability to record and share adds a social component.
While many were justifiably excited about the release of Oculus Quest, it carried over the same problem of a lack of content. Some might call it the Beat Saber toy. Then we had the controversy around Oculus’ aggressively “curatorial” stance, which was accused of being overly like a walled garden that shunned experimental, indie or otherwise unproven titles. Going into month two and three, however, we are starting to see some interesting new titles pop up, and blow through a much needed air of novelty and refreshment. Here are some of our top picks.
from Twisted Pixel
Incorporating a little of every sort of action – from high tech gun play to down-and-dirty fisticuffs – as well as stealth, deception and even psychological warfare, Defector is a plot-driven spy thriller with multiple diverse missions.
While some of the promotional material compares this to Mission Impossible, the combination of futuristic weaponry and Middle Eastern setting had us thinking of George Alec Effinger’s stories set in the Arabic cyberpunk metropolis of Budayeen.
In any case, this is a polished FPS action experience for VR players looking for something a bit more meaningful than wave or rail shooters, and its setting is close enough to the “real world” to make its action all the more immersive.
We’ve all been on our fare share of heroic fantasy quests where the fate of the very world itself hangs in the balance, but we’ve never seen one that looks quite like Journey of the Gods.
This game’s bizarre vistas and weird, angular – and occasionally tentacled – inhabitants are as far from the usual elves and dragons as you can get, with color schemes and creature designs drawing less from the usual European myth than from recent indie games like Hyper Light Drifter and even Sundered.
No doubt the titular Journey of the Gods – and the related quest to save the world or whatever – is plenty compelling, but the setting alone is worth giving this one a look.
Based on the title, I was expecting Raccoon Lagoon – from the same studio behind Defense Grid and Brass Tactics – to be nonstop trash pandas. It isn’t, but my disappointment wore off quickly when I realized that it’s actually an incredibly charming farm simulation for VR.
The relaxing rural chores of the Harvest Moon series combine with cute, Pokemon-inspired creatures and a pastoral island setting that gives you plenty to do but doesn’t hurry you along.
This is VR gaming at its most relaxing; go on quests, turn your island into a thriving home…or just take off and spend the day fishing.
Oculus Rift S, Oculus Quest | (COMING SOON)
from Crows Crows Crows
So happy to see the continued success of the wacky stuff: Accounting+ comes with tremendous game dev pedigree – William Pugh (The Stanley Parable), Dominik Johann (Minit) and Justin Roiland (Rick and Morty).
The game started as a jam, but has ballooned/blossomed into a much bigger experience in its two years. It also has a killer soundtrack. Give yourself a little Dada, Po-Mo joy and hop into this zany world. You will laugh. Your mouth will be agape. You will swim in meta. Just do it. Account.
Excited to see this exacting design tool get the Oculus Quest port treatment. Of course, we don’t like having to pay for stuff a second or third time for device-specificity, but at the same time, we know that devs, investors and Facebook/Oculus have spent money on not only making these ports but improving the experiences in the process. We also note that slowly the prices are coming down from their nose-bleed heights and many of these tools/games are now quite affordable – about the cost of a lunch for two.
Gravity Sketch is not just another Tiltbrush or Quill – it is geared towards creating detailed models, scenes and artwork that can be exported into other design tools, CAD software, game engines, or 3D printing platforms.
It will be amazing to see what the combo of this kind of design software can do when combined with tetherless, free roaming hardware.
There were many fascinating releases in the Virtual Reality gaming spectrum in 2018, and we are delighted to see the industry iterating, exploring and improving. These were our favorites – the best, well…that’s someone else’s problem.
from Crypton Future Media
“Vocaloid and VR fans were treated this year to a Hatsune Miku game that was finally done right. After Miku’s first foray into VR wasn’t so well-received due to lack of gameplay, Crypton Future Media listened to fan feedback and made a fun rhythm game more in vein with the franchise’s previous titles.
Not necessarily a ground-breaking VR project, Hatsune Miku VR provides a decent amount of fan service and catchy, popular Vocaloid songs sung by Hatsune Miku. Try Hard Mode if you’re really looking for an intense workout.” ~ Michael.Duhacek
This is a game with all the pedigree of the Dada movement – it started out as a game jam between developers from The Stanley Parable and Minit as well as Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland – and the propensity of a leprechaun. While it may not satisfy all gamer types, it plays to the idea in which VR pulls you by the collar into its own bizarre whims without ever truly hurting anyone.
Its game-within-a-game approach is delightfully meta as well as adrenaline-fueled – playing on a GameBoy analog in class without getting caught is a tense exercise in divided attention.
More important than its clever play of Augmented Reality within Virtual Reality, though, is that Pixel Ripped 1989 is fun in every way, from its nostalgic call-backs to ’80s-era video games to its tight 3D platforming action.
From the same company that gave VR its first Emmy award with their trailer for Sleepy Hollow, Secret Location has made several VR games on the road to what may be their best so far.
Transpose is a single-player title that has you playing out multiple versions of yourself called Echoes that interact with future and past versions of you in what amounts to an uncompromising series of sci-fi escape rooms.
A fascinating and ideal demonstration for spatialized gameplay that may not be for those who hate challenging puzzles but may be a little slice of just-have-to-solve-it for the rest.
Tequila Works showed they could put a fascinating spin on the classic ensemble murder mystery with 2017’s The Sexy Brutale. Designed specifically for VR, their follow-up is just as compelling a twist on the classic formula, complete with a plot based on the Internet’s favorite historical inventor, Nicola Tesla.
“The Invisible Hours is like the murder mystery dinner party you sat through in the ’90s, but without the overcooked fondue and dried out sausage rolls. It’s stepping into an Agatha Christie novel or reliving your childhood playing Clue. The story and immersive theater elements captivate gamers and non-gamers alike. Watching people experience the game who haven’t picked up a console since the Atari VCS and become completely lost in the narrative is thrilling. What makes The Invisible Hours an essential addition to the list is its ‘gateway drug’ effect for whetting the appetite for immersive and interactive storytelling.” ~ JaneHasNoThumbs
Never send a man to do the work of a mouse! Moss ramps up the enchantment early with the introduction of Quill, the rodent heroine of the storybook adventure. Her minuscule stature is amply detailed, and leaning in for a close-up of her is like watching a Calico Critter come to life. She also frequently acknowledges your presence, and it’s nigh impossible to watch her reach up to touch your face without feeling a tug at the heartstrings.
With the player represented as a disembodied human-sized presence, there are frequent visual reminders that the dangerous world Quill is braving very much belongs to human beings. Guiding Quill while simultaneously solving environment puzzles can lead to some head-scratching moments, but it never detracts from the enormous joy of piloting the tiny adventurer through this whimsical realm.
Beat Saber took all the things that were working from Soundboxing, Lightblade VR and Audioshield and mashed them up into the most perfect combination of Rhythm Game, combat training and fitness workout.
With a kick-ass music library, perfect haptics to enhance strikes and blade-mashing, and an international e-Sports community consistently growing around it, Beat Saber pleases casual to hardcore gamers alike and may have given VR – for the first time ever – the break-out hit it desperately needed.