Nintendo’s Wii Sports was an excellent compilation of mini games that helped introduced people to the Wii and its particular take on motion controls. PlayStation VR Worlds attempts to do a similar job for Sony’s new VR headset, with a collection of short experiences meant to highlight the power of the new piece of hardware.
The first game I played was Ocean Descent, which is really more of a passive experience. The game places you in a virtual cage and slowly lowers you into the ocean. As you look up while you slowly descend into the abyss, you see the sun’s rays piercing through the waves. It’s a beautiful sight to behold. As you look around, you’re surrounded by coral and all of its inhabitants. I felt awe and amazement seeing schools of fish and manta rays swim around me.
There are three short segments within Ocean Descent, but the one that really stands out is Shark Encounter. Here, you’re sent down to explore a wrecked submarine. As you approach the vessel, a massive great white shark appears off in the distance. At first, it merely swims around you, trying to get a sense of what you are. It doesn’t take long before it musters enough courage to try and eat you. Seeing its sharp teeth rip away at your cage is horrifying, but in the best way possible. Despite being a completely passive experience, it’s thrilling edge-of-your-seat entertainment and serves as a fantastic introduction to VR.
Ocean Descent is a great showcase for your non-gaming relatives at family gatherings. But perhaps its biggest shortcoming is that it’s, well, short. It will take roughly 15 minutes to breeze through everything Ocean Descent has to offer. The other downside is that it isn’t interactive, which does hurt the immersion to a small degree.
That’s where The London Heist comes into play. You play as a mobster and go on an adventure to steal a diamond. Despite being a relatively physical demo that requires you to move, the London Heist is a seated experience. The game appropriately has you sitting down in a variety of scenarios, whether that’s because you’re getting tortured by a mobster in a chair or shooting at bandits in a getaway van.
While you can use a DualShock controller to play the game, as you’ll physically have to pick up and shoot guns, it’s really an experience designed with the Move controllers in mind. Picking up guns, shooting, and reloading all feel very natural using them. While the shooting feels fun and satisfying, one highlight for me was when a mobster pointed the barrel of his gun down at my face. It felt dangerously real and showcases the immersive power of VR.
In a moment of hesitation, one of the characters ended up stabbing me to death. It felt disturbingly violent. So much so that I have no desire to experience it again.
Without trying to give too much away, there’s another scene towards the end of the game that forces you to choose who lives and dies between two characters. In a moment of hesitation, one of the characters ended up stabbing me to death. It felt disturbingly violent. So much so that I have no desire to experience it again. This is not a sensation that I’ve felt on a traditional 2D display. It also helps that the game has great production values and good acting.
There are also four shooting ranges within the game, but you can really play through everything The London Heist offers in under an hour. The game’s biggest problem is that there isn’t enough of it.
Another mini-game is called Danger Ball. It’s basically Pong in 3D, except you use your head to hit the ball towards an AI opponent. The game has you floating in the middle of a Tron-like arena and there are eight different enemy types, each with their own abilities. Dupe, for instance, might shoot two balls at you for every ball that you hit at it. Tornado, on the other hand, will spin the ball back towards you. Whoever gets five points first wins and it can get really hard, almost unfairly so at times. While Danger Ball is mildly fun, it would be much more enjoyable with multiplayer, which it lacks.
What I didn’t enjoy at all is Scavenger’s Odyssey. In the game, you’re an alien scavenger who pilots a spider-like mech. The game’s space setting is reminiscent of the original Metroid Prime, albeit more generic. There’s a simple story that really just serves as an excuse for you to rummage through abandoned spaceships and asteroids to blast alien bugs with your cannons.
Trying to track down where this constantly moving baddie was only made me more sick. The uneasy feeling stayed with me over an hour after I took off the headset.
It’s less-than-original backdrop isn’t the game’s biggest problem, however. Scavenger Odyssey made me really motion sick. You move around using the DualShock’s twin sticks, and if movement were simply relegated to moving across a flat plane, I think I would be fine, but the game also has you climbing up vertical walls like a spider and leaping from floating meteor to floating meteor. The jumping just made me feel really queasy. Towards the end of the game, you fight a giant flying worm-like boss, who loves flying across the screen. Trying to track down where this constantly moving baddie was only made me more sick. The uneasy feeling stayed with me over an hour after I took off the headset.
The last game in the compilation is VR Luge, which doesn’t require you to use any controllers. The game has you sliding down busy highways on a street luge board. An ideal way to play the game is lying down on a bean bag chair. There’s even legs rendered in front of you that act as a virtual surrogate for your own body.
VR Luge is effectively a checkpoint-style racing game where you steer with your head. The goal is to try your best to move forward while avoiding cars and oncoming obstacles. Throughout the four levels, rocks will fall from cliffs and trucks will drop logs for you to swerve around. While it’s a little dizzying, VR Luge’s biggest problem is that it feels like a polished tech demo. It might be fun once or twice, or to show your friends when they come over, but it’s not something you’re likely to play for hours on end.
PlayStation VR Worlds is a game with really high highs and really low lows. Ocean Descent and The London Heist are great introductory VR experiences that I think everyone should try, whether they’re into games or not. Their biggest downfall is that they’re both really short. Scavenger Odyssey, on the other hand, just made me motion sick. Overall, its a collection of novel but insubstantial tech demos.