PlayStation released a new demo disc for the PS VR into the wild last week. The disc, which is being packed into newer PS VR bundles, is available for download free of charge on the PlayStation Store. To sweeten the pot, among the other games that already have had demos available (including my beloved Starblood Arena) are new playable segments for games that don’t release until 2018. I took the new games for a test drive, and my thoughts on each are below.
Polyarc’s new title Moss is probably the highest profile of the unreleased PS VR games, after it made a loud splash at E3 earlier this year. The internet quickly became enamored with the main character, an adorable and expressive little white mouse named Quill, all decked out in adventure gear. The player had direct control over Quill the Mouse with the left thumb-stick, steering her through a series of tiny environments. The controller itself appears in-game as a glowing bubble, which can interact with the world in a variety of ways. The player uses both the mouse and the bubble, solving puzzles in each area and engaging in light combat in order to move to the next. It is hard to express how cute this game is. The mouse is cute. The environments are cute. The enemies are cute. The puzzles are cute. The mouse’s little sword is cute. This is a great looking game and the demo totally sold me on its storybook design and lively feel.
Next, I checked out Star Child (developed by GameTrust). I wish that I had played something in between, because Star Child is very similar to Moss in some ways. While the main character is not a mouse (she is instead a cute little space lady), there is a similar sense of peering into a miniature world and controlling a tiny character. Like in Moss, the player must solve a series of environmental puzzles to continue moving forward through the sci-fi flavored world. There are some differences, of course. The Star Child demo is very brief, and during that time I did not get a sense that combat would ever come into play. However, due to the short amount of time the player spends in this world, it’s hard to be 100% sure. I would need more time to draw a complete opinion on this game, but I can say that the art and sound design are attractive and engaging. The demo ends on a note that implies that the story is about to take a turn, and I am interested in seeing what comes next.
My favorite of the three demos is The Persistence, the new sci-fi horror game by Firesprite. This thing is rock solid. Players awaken on a space ship (I think) and are told by the computer (I think) that the ship is failing, and a meteor is speeding in their direction, sure to destroy them. The play is given some task (go to a place, get a thing back online) and they set out into the ship. Before long, it becomes clear that the rest of the crew are all infected-zombie-types, and should either be avoided or killed. The player creeps through the environment, gathering supplies and fighting when necessary. Deaths are sudden and brutal.
The thing that absolutely sold me on The Persistence was the amazing, amazing control scheme when players use the Duel Shock (I got all excited, so I haven't tried Move Controllers yet. I'm not even sure if they are supported.) Nothing makes me sicker faster in VR than first person movement. Just walking forward starts my stomach lurching. To combat that, many developers have started using the “teleport around” control scheme, which is nice, but lacks a certain finesse. The great thing that Firesprite has done here is give the player the best of both worlds. The player can look at an area of the floor in the distance and zip over to that spot immediately, but the first-person controls still work too. I found myself whipping through the ship in a completely intuitive manner, and the reverting to the thumb-sticks for when I needed to fine-tune my movement. It works great, and I would not be surprised to see this become the new standard for VR movement.
Another convenience is the ability to open doors, activate panels, and pick up supplies and ammunition just by looking at them for a few seconds. No button clicks are required to perform these actions. This allows the player to bop about the ship, grabbing stuff as they go, zipping instantly into hiding spots when they detect danger. The demo allows players to carry over money and supplies between lives, enabling the ability to save up to buy the coolest weapons at the ship’s vendor terminals. This is a pretty generous demo.
The Persistence looks like it will follow in the footsteps of games like Dead Space, with a fresh take on the horror sci-fi genre and a great new control scheme. Moss and Star Child also look like fun, polished VR experiences. There is a wealth of content on this disc, and it is well worth the free download for anyone that has a first-generation PS VR. Heck, I’d say it’s worth the 16 GB just to grab the Persistence demo.