Kayak VR: Mirage was one of the PlayStation VR2 titles I was most looking forward to playing once I got my hands on Sony’s next-gen headset. It appeared to be a different sort of VR game – one focused on relaxing and enjoying gorgeous environments. One that I could pop on when I wasn’t in the mood to play a fast-paced shooter, for example, or a puzzle game that was going to make me think too much. In other words, a game that I thought would allow me to turn my brain off while also taking it easy on a VR noob like myself. And while that is certainly the case in spirit, for me personally it was one of my worst physical experiences playing a game in virtual reality thus far.
To be clear, I don’t think Kayak VR is a bad game. I just don’t think it is a good game for me and others like me. I would also add that it is more of an “experience” than a “game”, although it does try to gamify things in the best way that a Kayak simulator can.
At the risk of straying too far into the issues I have with the game, let me share with you what the game does well. For starters, its locales are incredible. There is definitely something to be said about the level of care that has gone into crafting these beautiful environments. Locations include Costa Rica, Norway, Australia, and Antarctica at launch. Each of these can also be explored at different times of day or, at the Norway location specifically, during a thunderstorm. One of my personal favorites was visiting a Costa Rican beach at nighttime, looking up at the starry sky over the tropical water was very cool. As was being in the middle of a raging storm in Norway…until it wasn’t.
I’ve never been one to get sea-sick or suffer from motion sickness, but there must be something about the open water in VR that just doesn’t agree with me, because I was unable to last longer than about 15-minutes at a time in Kayak VR. So far, it’s definitely the game that has made me feel the worst with the headset on, and I had one particularly rough spell where I broke out into a full body sweat with a pounding headache to boot. I’m familiar with the recommendations of taking motion sickness medicine prior to playing, but I’m just not willing to drug myself up to enjoy a video game, especially when I have had relatively mild reactions to other games at this point. In other words, I know that, generally speaking, I am a good enough candidate for virtual reality. I did try adjusting some of the comfort settings in-game and those never did seem to improve my personal experience. Also, definitely do not play standing up, as that really throws your brain for a loop.
In terms of gameplay, Kayak VR is quite intuitive. When you boot up the game you find yourself in a training pool, paddle in hand, ready to go through a series of basic training exercises. They do a good job of introducing the game’s locomotion to you, which works just how I’d imagine paddling a real-life Kayak would. Short, narrow strokes make subtle movements of the watercraft, such as when making a turn, for example. Or sticking the paddle deep in the water on one side after gaining speed will initiate a hard turn in that direction, as another example. It’s fairly simple to pick-up and play, but I also was not very good at it. The game’s physics were also quite precise and seemed pretty true-to-life. Smacking a beach ball around the training pool felt and responded as you’d expect, for instance. The PS VR2 Sense controller and headset haptics are also supported, meaning paddle strokes will feel different, or if you crash into a rock (or the side of the training pool, but who’s watching?) you will feel that in the headset.
Thankfully, the game does offer three modes, depending on the type of experience you’re looking for. Free roam is the one I gravitated toward, and it is exactly as it sounds, allowing you to pick a location and time of day and head out to explore at your leisure. Taking in the sights, sounds, and wildlife were a highlight. There is also a race mode where you compete against the ghosts of other players from the online leaderboard as you kayak as quickly as possible through a series of gates. If neither of those first two options sound appealing to you, there is also a tour mode, which does not require controllers, and instead lets you sit back and relax for a guided tour around the locale of your choice. No matter which mode you opt for, accruing miles in your Kayak will unlock cosmetic items including skins for your kayak and paddle, hats for your race mode ghost, or new inflatables for you to whack around in the training pool.
Kayak VR: Mirage is a simulator through-and-through that skews more towards “experience” than “game”. It’s a piece of software that you fire up if you’re looking to just relax for a few, or perhaps to show off the potential of VR to a friend or family member. It’s not a bad game, but it’s one that is hard to recommend not knowing how your body is going to react to it. If you can, try it out on someone else’s VR rig before you decide to take the plunge.
Beautiful locales and a valiant attempt at gamifying kayaking can’t mask the fact that Kayak VR: Mirage will be rough water for some players.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Hello! I'm Jason, the resident noob here at Gaming Nexus. When not working my day job, I moonlight as a husband to a human and a father to two canines. Of course, I am also an avid gamer and general nerd. My favorite genres of games are strategy, management, city-builders, sports games, RPGs, and shooters, but I don't limit myself to those. My favorite game of all-time is Red Dead Redemption 2 and I have somehow played it for nearly 1,000 hours.
My first video game system was the NES and I never looked back. I currently play on PS5 and PS Vita, although I recently dabbled in Xbox Game Pass on PC for a short while. I co-host a weekly PlayStation news podcast with a lifelong friend/family member called The Dual Sense Podcast, so I stay pretty well versed in that ecosystem. Before that, I co-hosted a basketball podcast.
Follow me on Twitter @TheDualSensePod, or check out my YouTube channel.