Playstation VR Holiday Roundup

With so much interest in VR gaming lately, we couldn’t go into our Christmas break without having another look at another half dozen worth of titles for the Playstation VR to play over the holidays. These are some more options to help you get through the last week and a half of the year.

Pixel Gear VR

Released by Oasis Games, Pixel Gear actually came out pretty soon after the release of the Playstation VR headset. It’s a fairly generic shooting gallery type of game, where you stay stationary while wave after wave of enemies charge towards you. It’s a gameplay type that’s been around for over dozens of years, and often reserved for budget productions. Pixel Gear is no different, and will be fun to those who enjoy similar games. The visual style is a blend of Minecraft and fantasy fiction, and there are plenty of pickups available as you go along.

One of the reasons we’re including Pixel Gear in this particular roundup is that the game recently received a free upgrade, which allows for local multiplayer – which pretty much doubles the replay value for the game. Now, other players can join in and travel across the playing field while trying to avoid getting shot by the gun-wielding VR player – and it’s a lot more fun than the standard mode. If you’re interested in the kind of local multiplayer experience that The Playroom VR provides as well, then Pixel Gear VR is a solid choice for a friendly price. It won’t blow you away, but it’s definitely fun – especially with other players in the room. If you’re a solo player, check out Lethal VR further down.

pixelgear

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

One of the most innovative titles available on any VR platform so far, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is available for Playstation VR as well as other platforms. In the game, one player is inside a room while others can communicate with him in order to help him out. The player in the room is the one wearing the VR headset, and he has an important task: to diffuse a bomb.

Since the other players aren’t in the (virtual) room with the bomb and can’t see what’s going on, they have to rely completely on communication. Based on the descriptions of the player/diffuser, they have to go through the (on-screen) manual and provide the diffuser with hints to help him survive a possible bomb detonation. Bombs are randomly generated each time you play and get progressively harder, so it’s impossible to just learn the steps by heart and ignore the need for communication – which is why Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is such a great game even after the novelty wears off.

Controls are simple and there’s not too much going on inside the virtual room you’re in, allowing for the sparse visuals that are there to be of an excellent quality. The visuals for your ‘support crew’ aren’t too exciting though, as they’re basically flipping through an on-screen PDF file without any visual feedback on how you’re doing. I realize that communication should fill in this gap, but a virtual camera of the bomb room and some visual cues would have been nice in terms of adding suspense and a sense of urgency – even if the bomb itself wasn’t clearly visible.

keep-talking

Nevertheless, solving each puzzle is still a lot of fun for everyone involved, especially when you succeed at doing a bit of teamwork. With intuitive controls, it’s easy to switch roles as well, providing another way to keep the game fresh. We couldn’t recommend this game more – if you have someone to play with, then definitely pick this up.

Windlands

Windlands describes itself as a “grappling hook exploration game”. While that is technically correct, we consider it to be a mix of Mirror’s Edge free flowing first person platform action, Spiderman’s (or Bionic Commando’s) grappling hook action and Eagle Flight’s free-soaring VR experience. And it delivers this package at nearly half the asking price of other VR games like Eagle Flight.

There is a story to Windlands as well, which revolves around a world that has fallen apart and sees you traversing its ruins in search of the secrets behind everything. As with most VR titles, the story is relatively thin and over before you know it – clocking in at about two hours. And as is the case for so many VR titles, Windlands is best enjoyed as the unique experience that it (currently) is. It can be played at a more leisurely pace, or you can try your hand at some breathtaking aerial moves if you feel up for it – building up momentum and stringing together your turns and jumps.

While certainly not as visually polished as other VR titles, Windlands’ aesthetic feels a little like Super Mario 64 – but with a lot less land to walk on. It may not be likely to be remembered as a classic within the VR genre in a few years, but for now Windlands is certainly an interesting take on first person VR platforming – and quite possibly the only one of its kind available for Playstation right now.

windlands

Headmaster

Remember Kinect Sports, and its soccer mode? Headlander is somewhat similar, yet far more fleshed out and a lot of fun to play. As with Kinect Sports, you’re trying to hit targets as the console monitors your movements, but instead of kicking the ball you’re only heading them back as they are being fired towards you.

Headmaster is as unique in the PS4’s VR lineup as it is simple. See balls fired at you, see targets, and try to angle yourself so that the ball bounces back towards said target. It’s wonderfully simple, which makes sure that anyone can play it. Having actual soccer experience is a big plus, but not a requirement. It will help you with the timing aspect at first, but this is also something that others will quickly learn and pick up. And none of it with the headaches that an actual soccer ball might cause if you hit it wrong.

The head tracking is very precise and thus works really well, but even with that you’d think that Headmaster would hold a limited long term appeal. Developer Frame Interactive finds a way around this by providing a large diversity of challenges for you to tackle – our best analogy being Virtua Tennis and its many skill-based and fun challenges. Headmaster is also presented with a ton of humor, and of course it helps that a game like this doesn’t take itself too seriously. The end result is a fun game that walks a fine line between casual fun and some serious skill-based action. A blast for soccer players who get together for some games, but a really fun experience for everyone else as well.

headmaster

Lethal VR

Lethal VR is a shooting gallery game in the most literal sense of the word, but it goes above and beyond to try and create the ultimate version of such a game. It does so by combining what is often a budget game type of experience with top notch visuals, and by providing plenty of variety in its challenges and game modes.

Presentation-wise, you shouldn’t go into Lethal VR expecting a lot of animations and 3D models – this isn’t Robinson: The Journey. Instead, you’ll be looking at static and moving targets that are often not more than cardboard cutouts – after all, this is meant to be a shooting gallery. Having said that, the visuals are crisp, detailed, and laid out and/or moving within a convincing 3D space. Unfortunately, because Playstation VR requires you to face the TV, the area you’re playing in isn’t stretched out over a 360 degree viewing pane – a feature that is available on the Steam version due to Vive’s room tracking.

lethalvr

Lethal VR isn’t just about guns, as knife throwing is another way to hit targets and obviously a different way to use your move controllers. There are also many different targets to hit, different gun modes (including dual wielding) and a wide arsenal of guns. These are all mixed and mashed throughout a series of challenges, and the game’s tendency to encourage you to press for points helps as well. Going for a head shot gets you more points, but might cost more time. Time your reloads right, and you’ll be certain you have bullets to fire once a multitude of targets appears on screen at once – time them wrong and you might miss them completely.

As a shooting gallery game, Lethal VR is currently the top choice on Playstation VR. If you’re more of a cinematic shooter-on-rails kind of person then Until Dawn: Rush of Blood might be more up your alley, but Lethal VR offers more replay value by bringing out that “I can beat that score” feeling like few VR games do.

Starship Disco

Developed by a one-man team, Starship Disco is a VR rhythm shooter. That puts it dangerously close to Rez Infinite, one of the Playstation VR’s best, in terms of its genre. That’s not the most fair of comparisons though, seeing as how Rez is a much bigger title with a far larger budget and an asking price that’s about three times as high as Starship Disco’s.

Perhaps a better comparison here is Audiosurf, or Rez meets Audiosurf meets Tempest 2000. While Starship Disco may not be the audiovisual treat that Rez Infinite provides in VR, it does offer you the chance to import your own music tracks and “play” them, as the game recognizes the flow of your music and creates levels to match – like Audiosurf does. The core gameplay of Starship Disco is different from Audiosurf though, as you’re flying through 3D levels that look a little like the Atari Jaguar classic Tempest 2000 (or any other more recent Jeff Minter game). Flying through, you’re firing at aliens who – as mentioned – spawn in locations that match the music’s beat.

starship-disco_01

There is a soundtrack included with the game itself, but the real appeal here lies in the fact that you can use your own tracks. If you liked Audiosurf, or you’re a music fan who likes the idea of playing to your own music, then Starship Disco is a real steal with tons of replayability. If you’re just in it for the ‘campaign’, you’re better off skipping it and experiencing Rez Infinite instead.

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