Let’s talk about SUPERHOT VR

Oculus Touch is finally available and with it come a slew of Oculus Studio funded games, perhaps the most hotly anticipated of which is SUPERHOT VR. Following on from its Kickstarter success in June of 2014 and commercial release in February of 2016, the VR version takes the intensity and action of the original game to a whole new level.

As excited as I am about a new SUPERHOT and as hype as I know many people on the internet are, I’d like to take a more critical look at SUPERHOT VR. I worry that the finer points will be overlooked in favor of people recounting their most harrowing experiences. Before diving into the details, I’d like to preface my critique by saying that I absolutely love SUPERHOT VR. Both as an experience and as a source of incredible stories SUPERHOT VR delivers on what made the original game great.  The feeling of ultimate power and generally just being a badass carries you through the early sections. The visual spectacle of destruction is breathtaking from start to finish, and as the difficulty increases each win feels hard-fought and satisfying.

It’s perhaps because of how difficult the encounters becomes near the end that the flaws being to stand out more to me. On the PC version objects like bottles and ash trays were bountiful but when thrown would only stop an enemy temporarily and maybe make them drop the gun they had. In VR all thrown objects are one-hit kills, assuming you can make contact. This would be great except the throwing feels awful. I never have a sense of how hard or how far I’m throwing something. Even trying to hit an enemy at close range I’ll end up throwing it wide more often than not.

I understand the desire to have realistic throwing with the Touch controls, but without any indication of trajectory I quickly learned to only throw objects as a last resort. On top of issues with the feel of throwing objects, the hitboxes on the geometry of the world is noticeably rough in places. Throwing around corners or between to objects will almost always result in the object shattering on an invisible plane jutting out from the wall. It’s a shame because when those thrown hit do occasionally land, it’s a great feeling to see an enemy being blasted into bits.

Stepping away from the mechanics to look at SUPERHOT VR as a whole, one more thing sticks out at me. Unlike the PC version, the VR version features no additional play modes outside of the story. Endless mode had several variations including an unlimited mode where enemies would assail you until you were defeated, and timed modes to see how enemies you could kill in a given time. Challenge mode allowed you to replay the story but with restrictions such as Katana Only, Throwing (can’t use guns, thrown weapons hits are lethal), Real Time (time doesn’t slow down at all), and Ghost (all punches are lethal, can’t use gun). These additional modes add to the replayability and continue to challenge the player far beyond the difficulty of the normal story mode and the VR version lacks all of this.

SUPERHOT VR stands out in my mind as more of an extended VR experience than a video game. Let me explain what I mean by that because I understand that describing something as an ‘experience’ may sound like an insult to some folks. For me SUPERHOT VR is a lot like Hotline Miami (another game that I love to death). I see both as being an execution puzzle; you’re presented with a problem (dudes want to kill you) and given the tools to resolve the problems and the difficulty is in finding an execution that’s efficient. In both SUPERHOT VR and Hotline Miami the puzzling is made difficult from a lack of information and the need to make decisions on the fly.

After playing through the story mode in SUPREHOT VR most of the mystery surrounding the levels and placement of enemies has vanished. Hotline Miami gives you a plethora of masks to choose from that vary the gameplay and SUPERHOT PC has challenge modes to mix up the core gameplay but SUPERHOT VR lacks any of this. As much as I’d love to dive back in, I don’t really feel anything drawing me back after completing the story. Maybe I’ll play it again in a year and I’ll probably have a blast with it then too but right now I’m sad that it ended so soon. There’s nothing inherently wrong with VR experiences (and maybe I should have tempered my expectations) but I was hoping SUPERHOT VR would be the first game that could hold my attention and truly be a video game rather than a one-time experience and I’m pretty bummed out. To the game’s credit, shooting feels great and the VR version excels at body awareness, making it easy (at least in theory) to dodge oncoming bullets.

At the end of the day I put SUPERHOT VR into the same category as games like Gone Home or Inside; A single play through is sufficient to experience what the game wants to convey. For what it is, SUPERHOT VR is an incredible, unforgettable experience but falls short because the core idea behind it has the potential for so much more. Maybe one day down the line, perhaps after the Oculus exclusivity period is up and this gets into the hands of Vive users, the folks behind SUPERHOT will patch in some additional content. Regardless of all my complaints, I would wholeheartedly recommend SUPERHOT VR to anyone who owns an Oculus with Touch controllers (given that they have a large enough area to play in).

I Played: Bazaar

Bazaar started off as a 2015 VR Game Jam entry and has since been released on Steam for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Bazaar

If you’ll excuse the play on words, the world of Bazaar is quite the bizarre one indeed. You set off through the canals of a maze-like city on your trusty magic carpet to seek out three pieces of the legendary Lamassu. From the very beginning of the game I was drawn in by the sights and sounds of the city. The music fits the scenery perfect, and my only problem is that there isn’t nearly enough of it. The music loops frequently and in my 78 minute playthrough its magic wore off fairly quickly.

As you guide your carpet through the world, you’ll encounter various impediments such as arrow traps and hungry crocodiles and you’ll find items to aid you in your survival. A crossbow can be used to pick off those nasty crocodiles, while a shield can be used to deflect arrows shot at you from traps placed around the canals. These items all have a durability and will break after a number of uses, leaving you vulnerable once again to the elements so the game becomes a cycles of seeking out these items, defending, and the seeking out again. Later into the game you have the opportunity to buy special golden versions of the shield, bow, and umbrella (to protect against water that washes away your map) and these become highly desirable as they somewhat remove the looming sense of dread that comes with knowing your crossbow only has one shot left in it before it crumbles to dust. These golden versions come at a high cost so they’re only obtainable if you’ve been diligent about combing every city street for the hidden coins.

Other quality of life improvement are available at the shop including a quiver to store arrows, a food basket to store food, and a large chest to store all your other goods. The main reason these are beneficial is because they (partly) remove the burden of playing inventory management, which is easily my biggest criticism of the game. You begin with nine inventory spaces and they’re quickly filled up by all manner of different items, and before too long you find yourself with no free space to pick up the key so you can proceed to the next level. In my first time playing through the game I’d wager about a quarter of it was spent staring at my inventory and trying to determine what the least important item among them was. Items like the food basket ensure that food will always have a dedicated inventory slot so you won’t have to worry about having no space to carry food, but you may not get that item until the second or third level and by then the stress of having to micro-manage your inventory while navigating a deadly maze has reached an uncomfortable high. Eventually, with the acquisition of these quality of life items, you no longer have to worry about managing your inventory and can enjoy the game.

Gameplay is intuitive, using glances for the majority of the controls which can be helpful in certain situations and a hindrance in others. Different items have a different length of time that you have to focus your gaze upon them before interacting and this takes some time to get used to, but by the middle of the second level I found myself more comfortable with the gaze controls. Besides the gaze controls, you’ll be using a controller to pan the camera left and right using the left and right bumpers. You can also use the X button to open your inventory and the B button to hold up your map. The camera controls play a critical role in the game, as your carpet is constantly moving forward and you’re only able to steer it left or right, or to make a u-turn.

Not having direct control over the motion of the carpet is an interesting design choice that I wholeheartedly disagree with. From the very beginning of the game you see coins littered around every square on the map. As is the innate response of any gamer, you’ll want to collect these coin. Upon collecting all the coins in a given map square, you’re rewarded with a random item. It becomes clear very early on that these bonus items from collecting coins are very important but it turns out that collecting them all isn’t nearly as easy as it should be. Because you’re constantly moving forward you only have a small window of time for each map square to collect coins and I found myself frequently having to make u-turns or circling the same block several times to collect everything.

Not collecting the coins means you have less leverage when shopping later on in the game, but it also means that you’re missing out on all the bonus items, most of which end up being food, and puts you at a distinct disadvantage. Food is the most important resource in the game and you’ll quickly perish if you find yourself with an empty stomach. Managing your food becomes the object of the game and led me to wander around trying to top off my food even after finding the exit of the level.

Finding your way to the end of the game rewards you with a special currency you can spend on upgrade to make subsequent playthroughs easier, but I think once was enough for me. On the whole Bazaar is a neat game with a beautiful aesthetic that I wish was more fully fleshed out. The limited controls and awkward inventory management make navigating this peculiar world a test in patience rather than the exciting carpet ride I was hoping for. Perhaps, if this game integrates Oculus Touch controls when they see a consumer release, some of my problems may be alleviated. All my issues aside, you can pick up Bazaar on Steam or the Oculus Home store for only $5, and for about 90 minutes of a crazy trip I’d say it’s definitely worth it. It’s far from perfect but Bazaar is an experience unlike anything else I’ve seen in VR and it gives me hope that more VR games and experiences explore impossible worlds instead of hyper-realistic ones.

I Played: Ridiculous Fishing

Ridiculous Fishing - Now on Android

Ridiculous Fishing is by no means a new game. From humble beginnings as a flash game by the name of Radical Fishing, the game eventually came to iOS, and has just recently (like, yesterday) debuted on Android. I picked it up in the Humble Mobile Bundle and I’ve played it for about an hour now. Here’s what I think of it so far

The game plays in three basic phases: Fishing, Shooting, and Shopping.

As you cast your reel out you want to avoid any fishies you see on the way down. As soon as you get a bite, you’ll start to reel whatever you have caught in. You’ll want to try to sink the lure as deep as possible to allow you to catch as many fish as you can on the way back up. Once you’ve hooked a fish and start to ascend again, you’ll want to start hitting as many fish (avoiding the jellyfish) and make your way back up to the surface.

At the surface, you fling the lure up into the air, launching everything you’ve hooked skyward. This is when you pull out your gun and start shooting all of the fish! You start out with a simple pistol, but can purchase bigger and badder weapons in the game’s shop.

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Eldritch is finally out!


Eldritch is finally out of beta and has made its way to Steam thanks to a successful Greenlight campaign. To a casual observer browsing the Steam, it may seem like the game is promising a lot. Ripped from the Steam store page, Eldritch is described by the developers (twin brothers and co-founders of Minor Key Games David and Kyle Pittman) as a first-person action game inspired by roguelikes, immersive sims, and H. P. Lovecraft. Could there truly be a game as amazing this? Find out after the break!
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