That was my primary reaction while playing A Knight in the Attic, a new puzzle/adventure game available on Quest 2 and Steam VR. Nothing earth-shattering, nothing that really raised my blood pressure, just a quiet sense of satisfaction of the sort that you get when you find some old doodad or gadget in your grandmother’s attic that you haven’t seen before.
I had a grandmother with a mysterious attic, and she did indeed allow me go up there and poke around when I was a kid. Mostly I was on a mostly fruitless never-ending hunt for my uncle’s comic book stashes, but I did on occasion find something else that caught my interest. A light-up sign, or one of those contraptions that uses the heat from a light bulb to make a carousel spin. I would fiddle around with whatever I found while dust motes circled around my head, and I would think “Hmmm…neat.”
A Knight in the Attic puts the player into this exact situation. You find yourself in a small corner of your grandmother’s attic, and you do indeed find some stuff that is neat. In this case, the found treasure is a magical diorama that tells a quiet story about Guinivere, queen of Camelot.
This diorama is the primary object the player interacts with in A Knight in the Attic. It works a lot like one of those old-timey tilt mazes that you might still find in the gift shop at Cracker Barrel. There is a tilting platform with a bunch of holes in it, and the player has to tilt the playing field to guide a ball from the beginning to the ending of a maze without letting it fall into a hole. It’s what people did for entertainment before video games, friends.
In this case, the ball is Guinivere, represented by a little figure with a ball instead of legs. You set her down on the board, and tilt it around to get her to roll in the right direction. And when Guinivere moves towards an edge, the tilt puzzle scrolls neatly in all directions, sprouting trees, forest paths, streams, other characters, all sorts of stuff. The crux of the game is that you guide Guinivere from a starting point to an end point in each level, scrolling through the scenery and figuring out small puzzles to unlock obstacles that are in your path. This is done by physically holding the maze in your hands and tilting it. It works great.
A lot of any player’s tolerance and enjoyment of A Knight in the Attic will stem from their tolerance and enjoyment of tilt puzzles; the same frustrations that exist in the real world appear in the game. Not only can you send poor Guinny down a hole, but you can also send her plopping into streams, or falling off of ledges. There are some Marble Madness mechanics at play here too, where the player has to guide Guinivere up series of narrow paths. One false move, and she falls – clunk, clunk, clunk – down to the bottom and you have to start all over again. Neat – but kinda frustrating.
As the game progresses, the puzzles become more complex, the obstacles become tougher to navigate, and a few other minor mechanics are introduced. You can pour water from a mug to impact in-game water levels, for example. Everything that is introduced is done so organically, in the name of solving the game's small puzzles and keep Guinivere moving forward.
The VR implementation here works like a charm. Grabbing and tilting the table feels extremely natural, and the Guinny-ball reacts exactly as it should. There’s very little point in even mentioning comfort issues, as the player remains seated and stationary for the duration of the game. The only issue I had was that a few of the objects felt a bit fumbly; there’s a lamp you use to capture little fireflies, for example, that I could never quite get the hang of. I kept jamming it down on the bees until they finally registered.
It’s been a trend in gaming lately to describe games that don’t involve a lot of combat as “cozy”. I normally balk at the use of the word, but in this case “cozy” is a great way to describe A Knight in the Attic. You are literally hanging out in a small nook, exploring an old story through the use of a dusty game, some scrolls, and a couple of tools you find laying around. It doesn’t get much more cozy than that.
I often comment that one of my favorite activities in VR is "playing with my toys". I prefer VR RTS games to first person shooters, for example, because I enjoy the tactile feel of picking things up and putting them down, and organizing play on a smaller scale. In this case, playing with toys is precisely what I'm doing for the duration of the game, and it is for the most part satisfying. But I'm forced to wonder if there might have been a way to open things up further, just a little bit. Some other ways to play with scale in VR that could have pushed the experience to the next level.
That said, this is a ten dollar game that performs well and does precisely what it says it will. You can take one look at the trailer and determine whether this is something you would want to spend time on. For me, that's a yes. But not everyone enjoyed hanging out in their grandmother's dusty attic as a kid.
A tightly contained VR experience that performs it's one trick very well. This is a game that is short on mechanics but long on charm. Players' tolerance may vary, depending on how much they enjoy tilt mazes in the real world. An inexpensive way to experience a fairly unique - and cozy - implementation of VR technology.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Howdy. My name is Eric Hauter, and I am a dad with a ton of kids. During my non-existent spare time, I like to play a wide variety of games, including JRPGs, strategy and action games (with the occasional trip into the black hole of MMOs). I am intrigued by the prospect of cloud gaming, and am often found poking around the cloud various platforms looking for fun and interesting stories. I was an early adopter of PSVR (I had one delivered on release day), and I’ve enjoyed trying out the variety of games that have released since day one. I've since added an Oculus Quest 2 to my headset collection. I’m intrigued by the possibilities presented by VR multi-player, and I try almost every multi-player game that gets released.
My first system was a Commodore 64, and I’ve owned countless systems since then. I was a manager at a toy store for the release of PS1, PS2, N64 and Dreamcast, so my nostalgia that era of gaming runs pretty deep. Currently, I play on Xbox Series X, PS5, PS4, PSVR, Quest 2, Switch, Luna, GeForce Now, (RIP Stadia) and a super sweet gaming PC built by John Yan. While I lean towards Sony products, I don’t have any brand loyalty, and am perfectly willing to play game on other systems.
When I’m not playing games or wrangling my gaggle of children, I enjoy watching horror movies and doing all the other geeky activities one might expect. I also co-host Spielberg Chronologically, where we review every Spielberg film in order, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts.
Follow me on Twitter @eric_hauter, and check out my YouTube channel here.View Profile