The VR Conundrum


there's a frog in my snake oil
No, it's still free, and I'm downloading it now. Thanks for the heads up! I'm so far behind on my Oculus/VR gaming!
I think it's just the first 30mins of gameplay that's free. The blurb is really confusing.

Still worth it though, if so.

(I'd advise changing the teleport system to the classic / basic alternative pretty quickly though if you're still on wobbly with movement systems. The teleport you start with is pretty trippy and cool, but it is disorientating at first. I'm assuming the back up one is just a classic teleport system).
Virtual Reality chatter on a movie site? Got endless amounts of it here. Reviews over here

The Adventure Starts Here!
Let's put it this way: I LOVE VR and could spend way too much time gaming with my headset... but even that opening screen (the living room with the fireplace and the blank grid behind it) makes me a little queasy. I have an extreme fear of heights, and anything that *feels* like heights (or, apparently, large open distances with no perspective) kinda makes me nervous.

I find this extremely frustrating.

there's a frog in my snake oil
Let's put it this way: I LOVE VR and could spend way too much time gaming with my headset... but even that opening screen (the living room with the fireplace and the blank grid behind it) makes me a little queasy. I have an extreme fear of heights, and anything that *feels* like heights (or, apparently, large open distances with no perspective) kinda makes me nervous.

I find this extremely frustrating.
Some of that will probably recede over time most likely. Partially your brain will just associate the headset with 'that altered-physics place', and dial downs its pushback a bit (and any anxiety associated with that).

It could be that you just always feel that way, and have to really pick and chose your games. But I thought that about the more hardcore stuff (smooth turning your vision with a stick etc / big, fast motions not under your control etc). Thought Iíd always get nausea from that stuff, and have to avoid those games. But it turned out I just needed to find games that Iíd find fun enough to keep persevering with them . Slowly building up playtimes without realising it (using semi-conscious self-training like... closing my eyes when a challenging aspect kicked in . Prolonging the sessions...). Before realising I was playing long sessions and feeling fine. And that it transferred to other games.

It sounds like puzzle room games might be a good niche for you maybe? No big horizons, just localised interest / reading / tinkering. They almost always have teleport for motion, but often allow dual-use of some form of 'walking' too. Letting you use it as and when itís useful, to shuffle closer to something etc / adjust your reach. Could allow you to adjust over time. Something like the Abode games maybe?

The Adventure Starts Here!
I do like Moss, for example, which doesn't give me those issues. But it doesn't help that the headset throws me initially into that "room" with the grid behind it. Then I start out with an unresolved small bit of panic in my subconscious.

I did buy both the Abode games, so I'll try those too. I have plenty of games that fit the description to help me. I just have to find time/inclination to force myself to get past that weird initial feeling.

I also have to be sure I'm the only one home. My husband has this way of ending up standing at my office door (which is behind me when I sit at my desk) without me noticing he came upstairs. He scares me every time he does this. The thought that he could be back there while I have the headset on just adds anxiety. Ha! So I play only when he's at work or otherwise not here.

So many stupid little issues for me. I'll get back into Moss first, I think. It's such a cute, beautiful game.

Nice forum and absolutely outstanding. You can do something much better but i still say this perfect.Keep trying for the best.
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro

there's a frog in my snake oil
Iím 10hrs+ into The Under Presents, and I finally understand the First Act of the story...

This is a good thing

there's a frog in my snake oil
Review: Red Matter

The biggest selling point here is that the game looks absolutely spectacular at points. This almost can't be over-emphasized. The Soviet-era architecture is a wonderful setting (and even turning over tiny wooden astronauts in your future claws is all good too). There were times when I was gawping around, as I adjusted some laser puzzle, genuinely feeling like I was in some Bond villain's lair

Every other gravity-defying hop it takes falls short though unfortunately.

The setting is undercut by the woeful pastiche of oppressive Soviet culture throughout, which was never witty or insightful, just fired out of a blunderbuss at you. (In pellet form, via the tortuously-slow text of your translation device)

The locomotion system fitted well enough with the lugubrious tone, with its 'low gravity leap' version of teleportation. And when deployed for minor puzzles it was effective. The walking scheme felt like a late addition though, and although preferable for getting about, was remarkably slowwwwww.

This may be a personal thing, but I also find walking sims with simmering danger in the background kind of annoying. If there's a hanging menace, give me occasional action sequences to actually tackle or dodge the danger. Without that catharsis all those ominous musical scores and sudden sound effects, no matter how effective, just get a bit wearing. I did find tracing the stories of some of the protagonists, to explain parts of the environmental ire, effective on that score, and the game did build towards some slightly active sequences. But earlier sections were a trial on that front.

The biggest negative of this game though is that the majority of the puzzles just... weren't... great. There were a few highlights towards the end, with some grand sets and a few neat wrinkles. But the vast majority were of a 'find tab A for slot B' tier. With one notable wild leap in difficulty (some form of number substitution puzzle that I had to cheat on).

The 'horrer-esque' twist in the storyline, and the powerful aesthetic, mean it's worth pushing on through. But really at points, it was more a case of 'let's get this done and see the next bit', rather than a challenging search for a eureka moment, which is what you really want from puzzle scenarios.

Worth the ride ultimately at 3hrs. But if you visit this planet, go mainly for the views...


there's a frog in my snake oil
Review: The Under Presents

This is a pretty magical use of VR.

Story Time:

I've now finished the 'murder mystery' storyline at the heart of it. This bit is really easy to explain...

You're a ghostly presence on a boat journey, listening in on all the conversations, trying to piece together what's happening. Occasionally able to steer events through witnessing them, and capable of the odd intangible act, you eventually start taking jaunts into the protagonists' minds...

Although the first act was pretty prosaic initially (and the act of 'clicking' to make characters coalesce more like busy-work than fun), it proved to be full of onion layers to peel back, rewarding return visits once you've reached the 'end' of the tale.

There's a fey-ness to the overall story arcs that won't be to everyone's taste, but as the magic-realism stepped up, and you suddenly found yourself in someone's distant memory of Cuba, it become a very diverting nest of worlds indeed...

There's some repetition here, as you make sure a conversation is definitely relevant (the 'witness list' can be a bit glitchy), or re-tackle a dream-sequence puzzle. And if I was to aim a real barb at the whole thing, it's that the puzzles themselves are pretty uneven, and the opaqueness of the weaker ones can be more frustrating than challenging. This is exacerbated by failure dumping you out of the whole story mode, a 'loop of shame' which isn't ideal.

The sheer wonder and whimsy of the better transitions washes a warm sunshine glow over the experience as a whole though.

A Journey With Strangers:

When not in the story realm, you pace around a mysterious multiplayer zone. There's a structured introduction, as a grand compŤre leads you into its grubby cabaret folds. And he'll pop up again at unexpected moments. But you're left foraging through its abandoned sand dunes with other players... trying to figure out its many mysteries.

I've spent hours in this bit, and I like it a lot, but I'm no closer to understanding what the hell is going on . Echoes of the story mode are buried like fossils, cabaret acts serenade you, while silent online companions tutor you in the flexible magic system for summoning items. (I'm very good at producing salt cellars...)

I'm not sure if I'll pursue it all the way to its conclusion, but I have enjoyed the free-flow co-op, and pursuing personal lines of investigation. (And refreshingly there's some silly physics 'sandboxing' potential here too, which the storymode denies you in the main, as its 'jellified' interactions with props have no real impact on the whole).

I find some of the more end-game recipe memorisation a bit much. But I'll see if I can't have a proper session of unlocking some of its more perplexing aspects. Or at least figure out what the cheese mask is for...

What's the Secret Sauce?

There's a blend of successful techniques from other games here. From the miniaturised diorama prodding, to the Journey-style multiplayer (with bonus hand gestures and body language emoting), to the magic realism twist on the 'rewind time' murder mystery.

Not all experiments can work. Ironically the 'distend the world' teleportation technique was borderline nauseous at first, but it was trippy too, so I stuck with it. And other downsides are familiar from their prior game, Virtual Virtual Reality. Circling back to retry an impenetrable section is not always that ideal...

At its heart though, I think these guys just understand VR's power to transport...


there's a frog in my snake oil
Thought you'd appreciate what four months of virtual lockdown does to my virtual reality headset...
Now put a scary set on the back so your fella thinks twice about sneaking up on you

there's a frog in my snake oil
First Looks:

Scanner Sombre

Picked up an old save half way through. (I'd stopped because I was OCD-inching my way along, painting in every cavern, and not much was happening...). Wasn't expecting the particularly beautiful moment of repose they throw at you in the middle, after some prolonged building unease. Absolutely badass in VR. Something about the way you can appreciate the scale of a giant cavern, cast in rainbow scan lines. That and the locomotion technique changing, and a few other tweaks, at that point.

Groundhog Day: Like Father Like Son

The set up works here (grumpy groundhog son as nihilistic vlogger). It's a bit of mixed bag though. Lovely art style in many ways, but pretty basic face animations etc. The little puzzle moments are pretty straight-forward, but teasing out details from characters to unlock more options is appealing. The dialogue shortcuts you unlock do pare down the repetition, and the scenes evolve a bit as a result... but I am feeling the loops never the less. Only 4 real locations to toy with at the moment.

Creed: Rise to Glory

Iím still sweating!

I can see why some donít like the stamina limit, but the training 'montage' that sets the level for each fight is a fun warm up at least . Generally just liking the effort thatís gone into making each fight a step up the 'story' rung.

Just playing on the standard difficulty, and finding the overhand punch a bit OP since the guy in the 3rd match showed me its utility. (Basically they never really block their crown). Just breezy sweaty fun for now.

Only thing I donít really like is the standard natural locomotion, which makes back-peddling tricky. (You have to put your hands behind you to start a reverse motion. Not ideal in the middle of a fight!)


there's a frog in my snake oil
Review: Scanner Sombre

A strange, and indeed sombre, experience, but a great fit for VR in many ways. As you delve into the bowels of a cave network you reveal your environment by layering up data from your hand-held scanner. It's both eerie and hypnotic.

If in practice often just a mix of busy work and anticipation. Which is why I eventually put it down for a bit. But I'm glad I went on one more spelunk...

Although the caves are periodically littered with the remnants of prior cultures, very little happens for large swathes of your progress, and you're often left with nothing but the expanding emptiness in front of you, which your mind rushes ahead to populate with dangers and designs...

There's the odd jump scare in there, and some of the more overt horror prompts occasionally lean towards the hokey. But on the whole the reliance on sound and anticipation can be very evocative, and blends with the claustrophobia of the cave setting and its unseen expanses. The stalactite droplets hitting depths to your right, the sudden shift of material underfoot, the whistling of a tighter passage up ahead...

As narrative elements start to accrue they lean towards telling by showing, with occasional inner thoughts providing historical steers and glimpses of the protagonistís state of mind.

Once they unlock the overview map you can see the wonderful sculpted world, with the areas you paid most attention to in stark relief. Like a storified version of your journey. Even if not much happened beyond eerie tension for long passages

Although I wasn't sold on the story arc by the end, or on all of my time spent rustling around in the noisiest raincoat in the world, there are some wonderful highlights along the way. One section right in the middle, after a build of eerie tension, used a shift in locomotion and the scanner rules to great effect, providing a fairly awesome sequence. It felt like discovery. And felt pretty damn amazing in VR.

It's worth noting that this is an experimental build, and very buggy at points. I had to tab in and out to even get the opening sequence working, it was possible to teleport out of the map at certain points, and it failed to load & black-screened on me on about 6 other occasions.

Overall though, worth the struggles. An intriguing trek through the unknown.


there's a frog in my snake oil
First Look: Paper Beast

Oh wow, I think I'm going to like this! 😄

I was not expecting the absurd meta opening, featuring interactive J-pop.

I was more expecting the arid repose of the digital sandlands I found myself in afterwards, with oasis spots of paper life. The creatures are realised, and narratively introduced, in some great ways. They're also slightly unsettling as they snuffle past you, or lunge, or just mark their presence by the strands of web they leave behind. Or are they roots? Or whiskers? I guess I'll find out...

I seem to be in some kind of staged world introduction, where you puzzle your way through objectives by figuring out and manipulating the creature's various tendencies and abilities.

Promising stuff

there's a frog in my snake oil
Have mainly been playing more kinetic stuff in the evenings (Creed / The Wizards), but every time I drop into this it's been pretty magical & transporting...

Just a vibe vid with no major gameplay / spoilers

there's a frog in my snake oil
Review: Creed: Rise to Glory

This is a weird mix of budget and glossy. It's super short, consisting of just 9 boxing matches in a lightly storified arc. Characters don't turn to face you, and look generally gormless, but having Rocky as your trainer, and duking it out in the increasingly spiffy gyms and grander arenas, is all pretty glam. Especially as the Rocky theme tune starts to play

The opponents do offer a reasonable range of styles, seemingly preferring certain punches, combinations, and broader strategies. Some variety in their reach means you have adjust to that too. (A few of them tower pretty absurdly over you, but at least it makes ducking under a swing to trigger a slow-mo riposte that much easier )

A few novelty rounds also dramatise aspects like fighting a 'wall' boxer who plays the long game and takes you to the final rounds. And some core conceits like the 10-count recovery (you have to 'run' your disembodied consciousness back into the hallowed ring...) are all pretty neat, pleasingly stylised, and additive.

And hell, your training sequences are basically montages

Although that's also a core bugbear that some have with it as a kinetic workout game. The training sequence essentially sets your stamina level for the next match. When your stamina's gone your punches become ghostly, and you have to defend to build it up again. This can be a bit pants. (Although the option to use your 'own' stamina to dodge back and around punches is still in play, allowing for a periodic recharged ripostes).

On the grounds that I enjoyed the training build up a lot (ducking under Rocky's training pads after a run of jab training etc), I'm ok with the system on balance. Although one huge buggy annoyance is that it kept re-centering me further and further into the training kit as the montage progressed. (Meaning I had to keep inching back to be in the right position for each flash session).

I'm also ok with it being a pretty short and simple conceit overall. Because playing it for any length of time was some genuine cardio and I started sweating out both my room and my headset . I'd imagine it's even better (and 'worse') on that front if you have full roomscale to dance around your opponent. (I pretty much had to stay rooted to the spot. The 'running arm' locomotion is fine for the mini-games, but not so good for the ring. Putting your hands behind you to start back-peddling is a baaad idea :/)

There are some other minor issues. (Once an opponent showed me that the 'overhand' attack could bypass a lot of defences I used that a lottt). And I'm not sure the top difficulty adds much more challenge or nuance, beyond them always having a killer KO blow in the wings. At least going by my extra rounds against the classic characters they've added anyway. (Mr T does not look like Mr T... But I still need to beat 'giant Dolph Lundgren doll'.... )

But I'll definitely drop back in for some more daft 'movie moment' exercise. Well worth a wish-fulfilment sale buy


there's a frog in my snake oil
Review: The Wizards

Another game where some decent gloss can't stop some indie grime showing through.

The hand-gesture spells are decent enough, and are given a nice spin in the later stages by enemies who are shielded against certain flavours, meaning you have to make some quick decisions about range and who to take out first. (Although honestly, the enemies that just spam you with some undodgeable mind magic are always the first port of call. It's just about dealing with the rest of the field as you get to them).

I did enjoy clearing some of the bigger locales and surviving the odd ambush, despite the wooden nature of the AI generally. But there was a general feeling of it all being too easy, even though I accidentally played the whole way without upgrading my spells. (Turning off the gaze auto-aim, with its horrible reticule, did help it all feel a touch more testing and free-flowing).

The plummy narrator is all fine, including his silly breaks through the 4th wall, but he's ultimately overly helpful, giving hints for some puzzles and combat encounters far too readily.

Then annoyingly he stays mute for the worst of the puzzle gating. There was a particular scenario involving 'door symbol toggling' which refused to display the state of the toggle (on or off). I've no idea why they chose to do that, but it turned it into a trial-by-error affair in ways it didn't need to be, and which didn't improve it. It was the only puzzle that was particularly annoying though. The rest were just on the tepid end of the scale.

I will give them points for varying both locales and fight scenarios though. The attempt to subvert the magic system in the third act, while not always successful, added some fun moments. And the initial use of 'hot plate' flooring was a nice touch.

Aside from some extra negatives (why are my footsteps constantly behind me??), it was just about a diverting straight-line adventure all told. And I actually enjoyed replaying some of it on game+ for a bit, with upgraded magic, faster enemies, and less HP. It was kinda fun for a while. Until I hit the tiresome puzzles again


there's a frog in my snake oil
First Look: Downward Spiral

Enjoying this abandoned space station exploration a fair bit!

It's got loads of those extra little touches that elevate a VR experience. Object physics, menu buttons on your arms, dials and switches everywhere that you can flip just for fun, big vertical spaces to clamber around.

The bots are enjoyable to tangle with in this environment. And although the graphics suffer a bit when you're not in claustrophobic 'Nostromo style' corridors, the scale is used to good effect...

there's a frog in my snake oil
Review: Paper Beast

This was a pretty magical French fancy all told.

Right from the off, as some interactive Japanese punk amused me while the simulation loaded, I could tell I was going to enjoy their off beats . You emerge into a series of sandy digital worlds, all beautifully framed, and then get led through their oddites by a range of origami companions.

You do immediately notice a graphical scrubbiness to the environments, but this is soon forgiven as you realise that each puzzle zone involves some form of environmental manipulation. Sands can be sculpted, water sources steered, animals herded into making resources shrink or reappear.

It's not that long, with the campaign clocking in at around 3 hours for me. But for prolonged periods I wasn't concerned with that, because each unlocked zone contained some new intrigue, and all I cared about was what the next den would hold. A couple of missions did lean on the same game mechanics in succession, but that was a rare downbeat, in what was otherwise a progression of genteel surprises.

There's very little in way of instruction, you just prod things until they make sense. But I also never hit any extreme walls of difficulty. If anything I often just carried on playing with certain realms even after the solution had became clear. (Making digital mud castles can be fun alright? )

VR just makes all of these elements more transporting. Moving amongst underwater swells, sculpting the land by hand, steering between the legs of some towering paper impossibility before it peers curiously into your face. S'all good

The bonus sandbox is cute, and searching out the nodes that unlock it in each level is fine. But I'm not sure how much time I'll spend with it, as it's purely a 'make your own fun' affair, setting life forces in motion and watching predatory forces herd their burgeoning growth, or just throwing a local disaster into the mix. It feels like it could really do with some guided challenges to make it sing. (Add a 'get a turtle as high as the sun' level or something and I'd be in there for hours ).


there's a frog in my snake oil
Review: A Ton of Feathers

Holy ****.

Some great voice work by the lone actor, and the power in some of the vignettes, makes this like being inside the most intense of radio plays. But you're there. And where you are is a very odd place indeed, flexing and fleeing around themes of existential dread as it does, only occasionally resting in dells of relationships and redemption. Playful one minute and pinned to the spot the next. Every single rule on VR comfort and presentation is broken at points in pursuit of that. And it works.

It's like crack for a VR addict. Someone just telling their stories first and foremost, not worrying about whether that means occluding your view, or breaking the laws of physics when they feel like that too.

The music was super fitting underneath it all. The whole thing was like a game / narrative made by Daniel Johnston, if I actually liked Daniel Johnston's stuff.

There's positional audio in there, and physics interactions at various points. But essentially you're the game object watching everything in the round.

I almost want to say it breaks some kind of fifth wall. Yeah, I liked it

(+/-) / unrateable [possible nausea]