In The Garden of Eden, Baby
HIGH The ‘diorama-vision’ of my robot sidekick must be seen to be believed.
LOW Falling off a cliff because the game thought looking at it meant walking towards it.
WTF OMG pangolins are the cutest things I’ve ever seen.
I’ve reached the point where I’m no longer impressed by PSVR’s ability to place me inside virtual spaces.
After a month of mainlining half the launch lineup, I’m now able to accept the experience of being transported into another world as a thing that I regularly do, which now gives me the ability to look at the VR games I’m playing a little more dispassionately. I can now examine their successes and failures based on criteria other than Wow, I’m surrounded by dinosaurs. So, when I say that I was utterly charmed by Robinson: The Journey, please understand that this isn’t the comment of someone overwhelmed with the newness of the experience — there’s more to this game than just immersion.
Robinson is the story of a boy named Robin, the sole survivor of a spacefaring colony ship that crashed on arrival. Over the course of a year on this strange new planet, Robin has built a life for himself in the rough alien environment with the help of a busybody AI sidekick and pet T-Rex.
As the adventure begins, the time has finally come for Robin to go looking for answers about how he ended up in the sole functional life pod on a ship with tens of thousands of pioneers, and whether there’s any hope of rescue coming. Naturally, this means first-person exploration, which takes place in a gorgeously-rendered environment.
Robinson‘s world is incredibly lush and believably alive. In addition to the huge and varied amount of plant life, every surface is absolutely crawling with creatures. From the bugs in nooks and crannies to the birds that fill the sky, there’s never a moment when the player isn’t surrounded by animals to be marveled at and cataloged. While there are only twenty-odd distinct types of creatures, the developers have done a great job of creating a wide variety of subtypes — butterflies range in size and color, snails have distinct shells, every raptor has its own unique array of plumage, and so on. It rarely feels like the devs are just repeating the same animal over and over again.
The game also does a great job with environmental puzzles. Robin is armed with a gravity gun, and players will spend a lot of time assembling bridges and opening up passages.
The controls are easy to learn and surprisingly precise, especially since the control scheme is obviously a bit of a compromise — Robin’s scanner/gravity gun bears a striking resemblance to the Move controller that the game doesn’t require, and a good amount of time is spent on freeclimbing that would probably be improved by having the player reaching with a Move controller in each hand. That’s not to say the freeclimbing isn’t great, though — instead of reaching, players simply look where they want to put their hand, then pull one of the triggers to latch on. After a few minutes I was scaling cliffs with ease, amazed at how well the PSVR was creating a genuine feeling of height.
…In fact, when I was a few hundred feet in the air and dangling from a narrow ledge, the stunning visuals and strong sound design made me nervous to a degree that no other game has ever triggered. Plenty of adventure titles have asked me to let go of a ledge and catch another one five feet below, but it’s never been as heartstopping as it is in VR.
While exploring the world is great, Robinson: The Journey does have a few drawbacks.
Content-wise, it’s a little thin for a full-priced game. I saw nearly everything it had to offer in just five hours, and while the story is satisfying on its own, an obvious sequel hook makes the whole thing feel like a prologue to the genuine experience coming at some undetermined point in the future.
There are also a couple of navigational hiccups I was forced to work around — the player can decide whether they want to use the thumbstick to turn in increments, or smoothly as in a traditional FPS. I’ve never experienced the kind of seasickness some report from the FPS setup, so I always opt for the greater control it allows me. The problem is that there’s no way for a player to turn off the ‘walk in the direction you’re looking’ feature. So, while my natural inclination while walking forward is to look around and examine my surroundings, doing so constantly (and frustratingly!) changes my course. I quickly developed a workaround, but not being able to gaze left and right while walking forward broke my immersion.
Robinson: The Journey‘s developers have built a world worth exploring, and armed players with all the tools necessary to do so. While I wish the adventure was a little larger or that its price was a little more reasonable, it absolutely delivers on its premise. Thanks to PSVR, I was able to solve puzzles on an alien planet (that looks suspiciously like prehistoric earth) while hanging out with a heartbreakingly adorable baby T-Rex. This is the kind of experience that virtual reality headsets were designed for, and one of the best available showcases for the technology.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Crytek. It is currently available on PSVR. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PSVR. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E and contains Mild Fantasy Violence and Mild Language. It’s really, really mild… Like a couple of ‘damns’ and that’s it. As for the violence, it’s mostly just dinosaurs menacing the player and each other. Also, you can fall to your death. There’s a bit of a somber tone to the game at times since it’s about the lone survivor of a disaster, but by and large, if your kids are old enough to use the PSVR (14+) then they can absolutely play this game.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: While there aren’t many vital audio cues, the lack of subtitles are really going to make the game difficult to play. Not only will you miss most of the plot, but in a couple of stealth sections the player’s robot buddy instructs them on when to move in order to avoid being seen. With no subtitle to accompany that audio information, these sections will prove incredible difficult to beat.
Remappable Controls: Players can choose which type of camera movement they want, but no other controls can be changed. The game is played with the dual shock 4 controller.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
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