Today is PlayStation VR’s second birthday - hooray! The peripheral is now well into its stride, recently giving home to a couple of stellar exclusives in tactical shooter Firewall: Zero Hour and 3D platformer Astro Bot Rescue Mission. Critical darlings were fewer and farther between back at launch, though not unheard of, thanks to the likes of Until Dawn: Rush of Blood and Thumper, so we turned back the clock and dove into a pile of premier titles to see if we missed any gems amongst the opening deluge.
Here’s to PS VR and it strong introduction to more immersive gaming on consoles; after looking backwards, we can’t wait to see what lies ahead!
RIGS: Mechanized Combat League
Intended to be a flagship heavy hitter, RIGS instead floundered as a mid-tier game. Its ambition in marrying broadcast spots and FPS into an all-new virtual reality spectacle is certainly admirable, but also misguided, given that this introductory experience is capable of nauseating even a grizzled VR vet.
Sharp visuals, precise controls and a range of tweakable comfort settings just aren’t enough to save our stomachs on this occasion. You need to tear around arenas at speed, turning and changing elevation on a dime in order to stand any chance of beating even the AI.
There’s really a lot of depth on offer, so it’s a damn shame that keeping RIGS at arm’s length seems to be standard practice; it spent months as a PS+ freebie, yet there’s absolutely nobody competing in the integrated online league.
Tumble VR is proof that simple ideas are often the best executed. The basic premise of playing with building blocks should be familiar to anyone with a childhood to their name, though things do get a little more advanced than chewing the corners and clacking them together.
While Tumble arguably doesn’t make the most exciting use of VR, its 3D environments offer increased spatial awareness and depth perception that no doubt serve as a performance booster when, for example, delicately stacking towers. With the complement of precise motion control and accurate physics, tackling the game’s varied suite of challenges is a simple pleasure.
This touching ‘look and click’ adventure from Uber Entertainment, creators of the underrated Monday Night Combat games, casts you as a young girl on course to save her father after their biplane crash lands on a floating fortress.
It does a great job of utilising perspective, seamlessly switching between multiple camera angles to help convey a very charming and genuine story with sparing use of dialogue.
That being said, it’s really the regular introduction of fun new gameplay mechanics that’ll keep you coming back until you’ve seen the impromptu trip through.
A horror game for all the wrong reasons, Weeping Doll is at least amusingly bad. Its abysmal writing, acting and visual effects inspire laughs at the game’s expense, yet fortunately it ends before the issues stop being funny and start to become overly tedious.
You’ll spend an hour or so awkwardly teleporting around an ugly family home, managing a cumbersome inventory and breezing through puzzles whilst unravelling a by-the-numbers story through weak environmental storytelling.
If you’re a fan of Resident Evil 7, it’s almost worth checking Weeping Doll out to witness the bargain bin implementation of its themes. Almost...
Another from Weeping Doll (and Pixel Gear) developer Oasis Games, Ace Banana doesn’t even begin to flirt with the same ‘so bad it's good’ territory.
You play a bow-wielding banana tasked with defending bunches of baby bananas against waves of monkeys with bad intentions. There’s just one map and one game mode, though enemy and power-up spawns are somewhat shuffled between sessions in a failed attempt to keep things fresh.
Confusion underpins Ace Banana’s poor general execution as well-aimed shots inexplicably miss their mark, certain power-ups have no discernible effect, a lack of audiovisual feedback often makes it unclear as to whether or not you’re actually dealing damage, and, perhaps best of all, the in-game encyclopaedia - which should help to set some of these issues straight - is so poorly translated that discerning useful information is almost impossible.
The game’s insane second boss is an even bigger impasse, making quick work of ourselves and seemingly most others, with only 0.4% of players having beaten the encounter at the time of writing. Tackling it with the help of a friend might help, if only the promised multiplayer update had actually ever materialised…
Here They Lie
Far preferable a spookfest to Weeping Doll, Here They Lie boasts a noir-style presentation and some very adult content that’ll leave you feeling in need of a good scrub.
A raw, sexual focus provides basis for an animalistic horror that can feel both grounded and abstract, with the helpless inability to combat aggressors forcing you to linger on the occult, ritualistic and thoroughly bizarre.
There are multiple paths to the same conclusion, offering a little more freedom than VR games of the time tended to, though, thanks to a post-launch patch, Here They Lie is now also playable on a television. You’ll certainly miss much of the atmosphere in TV mode, and probably all of the “Nope!” moments, but the game’s subtle philosophy should still translate.
Harmonix Music VR
This one’s still a great way to unwind, be that to settle your racing heart after tangling with Here They Lie or following a stressful work day. It’s not really a game, by Harmonix’ own admission, rather an encompassing music visualiser with interactive elements.
Four varied game modes see you relax on a beach that pulses in time to music, effortlessly create neon works of art on a blank 3D canvas (so effortlessly that we were never tempted to fall back on the trusty ol’ penis portrait), hilariously manipulate party-goers to create looping scenes and dance routines, and take a kaleidoscopic trip through a psychedelic representation of a song.
17 included tracks all fit thematically, but more than likely won’t match your taste, so you’ll want to stick some MP3 files onto a USB flash drive in order to import them into the game. This essentially makes Music VR endless, while, even more importantly, providing powerful new ways to interact with pieces of music that are meaningful to you.
Not too shabby, we’re sure you’ll agree. Big names like Rush of Blood and Arkham VR lived up to the hype, whilst plentiful hidden gems - Tumble VR, Wayward Sky, Harmonix Music VR, Here They Lie and Tethered - make it easy to imagine that revisiting the launch lineup for basically any other peripheral wouldn’t be anywhere near as positive an experience.
So, here’s to PS VR and it strong introduction to more immersive gaming on consoles; after looking backwards, we can’t wait to see what lies ahead!
If you’re interested in reading about more launch games, check out our reviews for PlayStation VR Worlds and Super Stardust Ultra VR. For an overview of all our PlayStation VR reviews, head over to our vrgamecritic profile.