Relax, Examine, Reflect: Chill, Immersive Fieldtrips in ‘VR Walking Simulator’ (Review)

VR Walking Simulator is something simple: Players will take a nice and quiet walk through the woods in virtual reality with an ingame polaroid camera to capture photos of a variety of levels.

The idea of games with no objectives or enemies is interesting, but it means there’s not much to keep most players engaged after they’ve explored each map. I’m aware some people like to relax in VR headsets and meditate, and I wonder if VR Walking Simulator would work for that. The music and background noises are perfect as they are relaxing and mostly quiet.

I should probably add that the VR version of the game worked perfectly for me, but when I tried changing the settings the game went a little crazy, and because of the camera interface, I ended up with a LOT of Steam screenshots of myself stuck under the floor. Once my pure panic stopped, I was able to figure out how to adjust the settings to work for me, however. There is also a non-VR version that runs very smoothly, complete with the camera for screenshots.

The developer of VR Walking Simulator has made something special here – I feel like I would love to see more of this sort of thing in the future, though maybe with a little bit of busywork? I’d love to spend more time exploring these lovingly crafted levels, especially if there was a little more to do in them.

I recommend VR Walking Simulator but buyers need to be aware there are only so many maps, with not much to do, other than explore some eye-pleasing open spaces while maybe taking some pictures.

Played using a copy sent by the developer through Steam’s Curator Connect platform – Follow me on Steam at  IndieSamAdonisReviews for under-appreciated indie games, neat VR experiences, and all sorts of other funstuffs! I’m also on Twitter!

‘Time Hacker’ VR Game Review

Time Hacker by Joy Way is an enjoyable VR puzzle game that seems designed for those of us with short attention spans. Time Hacker is about a secret agent who can freeze time, and hijack the minds of his enemies – so he can force them to kill their co-conspirators. It’s a silly concept, but it works really well, especially in VR.

Swinging my arms wide to freeze time, then waving a hand to hack a badguy and aim his arm to shoot his buddy; this was all done in one smooth motion, and felt entirely badass. Of course, as the game progresses more quirks are thrown onto enemies and players are given additional options for takedowns.

The game’s developer, Joy Way, has created this quickly paced game with puzzles that can be finished in seconds. That is, assuming the player is familiar with the level, its enemies, and its hidden traps. With the benefit of time hacking (And the game’s excellently optimized performance) we can quickly reload and retry levels, or even edit them with the game’s Sandbox mode.

 I did find that many of the game’s puzzles could be easily solved with little effort – though there were a few exciting exceptions. I’m still stuck thinking back to this one level I didn’t solve that involved a crashing jet, a pile of explosive barrels, and several distressed civilians.

One thing Time Hacker does right, is its presentation. While yes, the game looks lower budget in its interface and cartoony style, I think that was an excellent decision. It gives the game an overall B-movie feel, which I think is perfect – we need more B movie games in VR, especially puzzle games. So, thank you for that Joy Way!

I do recommend Time Hacker, especially to lighter puzzle game fans. If you’re looking for something super hard and complicated to solve, this probably won’t do it for ya. Interested readers can download Time Hacker from Viveport Infinity or through Steam.

Note: Time Hacker is still in Early Access, and this review could change down the line. If my opinion on the game changes massively I’ll be sure to update this post.

Follow the IndieSamAdonis Reviews Steam Curator page for all sorts of interesting VR experiences and adventures.

‘Curious Alice – ViveARTS VR’ Review

Curious Alice is a very nice little VR adventure, created by ViveArts for its showing in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s “Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser” exhibition. While I might not be able to make it to London to see the incredible looking museum, I can certainly afford a Viveport Infinity subscription for my Oculus Quest 2 to play the Curious Alice experience.

The art of each level of Curious Alice is hand-painted with a whimsical and psychedelic look that just smells perfectly on-key of the trademark Alice in Wonderland absurdity we’ve grown accustomed to over its portrayal over the years. The game’s music was perfect as well, though, I can’t give full credit to its sound design – there was an issue where in one scene a voice line kept playing on loop if I didn’t press a button right away. I do suspect this issue was to blame on the consideration of running an actual-world showcase alongside it, but it doesn’t remove the frustration.

I really enjoyed Curious Alice, and will definitely recommend it. Interested readers can download it from Viveport or Steam for Vive or Oculus headsets.

‘Rayman Mini’ Review

Rayman is a long-time running series that has earned its street cred over the years. I only started playing them as recently as Rayman Legends on Xbox One, but something about the games really caught my attention. Rayman Mini on Apple Arcade made me hopeful that it would be another whimsical adventure full of fun moments. Unfortunately, I was not prepared for Rayman Mini to disappoint and frustrate me as much as it did through its artificial feeling barriers and cheap feeling controls.

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‘Butter Royale’ Review

Butter Royale, freshly posted to Apple Arcade as of January 24th, is a heck of a surprising game. Perceptive purveyors of the Apple Arcade platform may have noticed a significant battle-royale sized hole in the platform before Butter Royale’s release. Developer Mighty Bear Games has done an excellent job with the game, creating a completely safe environment for younger audiences to enjoy the genre inspiring so many Fortnite-alikes. Butter Royale is certainly a promising new entry to the Apple Arcade platform!

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‘Kings of the Castle’ Review

Released on Apple Arcade on January 17th, Kings of the Castle is a solid and enjoyable first-person parkour game. The pitch for Kings of the Castle is straightforward – it’s a multiplayer parkour racing game, like if Mirrors Edge met Mario Kart. Or more accurately, since this is Apple Arcade territory, imagine the ramping speed of Hot Lava with the competitive racing of Sonic Racer. Continue reading

‘Pilgrims’ Review

Amanita Design, the game development team behind Machinarium and the Samorost series, have always been producers of non-traditional adventure games. To quickly summarize them, one might say they are known for following their own rules when making the weird point and click adventures we all keep falling in love with. The latest game released by the team, Pilgrims, seems to be another great entry in their library.

One of the self-imposed rules all the games released by the team so far is that there can be no comprehensible dialog, spoken or written. This means Pilgrims must establish player objectives and tools without telling us what they are. Unlike most non-verbal games, which would use camera angles and other visual cues to give players an idea of what to do, Pilgrims keeps things pretty open to interpretation. The most direct the game gets is when speech bubbles containing an item appear, to indicate something a character currently has or wants. How to get the item, or even if it’s worth getting, is up to the player.

In practice, Pilgrims can be completed in less than fifteen minutes. But with all the different ways players can reach the ending, this calculates to a game of a decent length. It was pretty fun thinking of different ways to be creative to reach the goals that I was setting for myself by assuming what the game wanted me to do. Unfortunately, with this wide openness there comes a lot of potential for wasted time. I think the most perfect example of what I loved and disliked about Pilgrims comes from a helluva story about my first playthrough.

To make a long story short, I ended up helping a Devil kidnap a Priest and sent them both to the underworld. But this didn’t affect my main objective at all, from what I could tell. A completely unnecessary condemnation, an arbitrary arbitration of a man’s soul. The funny thing is it was all done by me just combining random characters and inventory items, all up to the point where the priest is tied up and being carried away by the demon. I had very little idea what would happen at first, and as I was more successful and it all dawned on me, my opinion on the game cemented.

Pilgrims was a pretty fun game. It doesn’t do as much with its animation as the team’s previous game, Chuchel, but everything came together much stronger. Games like these that are so dang close to perfect make me feel very positive for the future of adventure games.

Played on Apple Arcade.

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‘The Hex’ Review

The Hex is the sort of game that pulls me in to confound and amaze me. It’s this weird little mashup of genres that is the newest labor of love developed by Daniel Mullins Games, creator of Pony Island. To describe the Hex in detail would spoil many of the exciting twists and turns the game takes, so I apologize to readers for not going into in this review. Spoilers, the game is a tightly designed and enjoyable experience.

The Hex is a series of short stories; for each main character there is a game genre that is explored and commented on. As the narrative progresses, we go into different worlds to play short segments in different playstyles. One world is a platformer, another is a turn-based RPG. It’s impressive that scenes in The Hex can be so massively different in playstyle and tone from each other, but always recognizable as consistent to the full game’s aesthetics.

I found the dialog writing to be relatively unimpressive, as a comedy it felt inspired by Rick & Morty at times and would sometimes get a slight chuckle out of me. Mediocre humor aside, the main story and its twists and turns were certainly intriguing enough that I was compelled to see much of the story in the game. What is so impressive to me about the game is that it received such a strong following that fans spent months to find a secret ending that was hidden in another tiny Steam game altogether.

It would be a mistake to dismiss this game after looking at its bobbleheady art and initial gameplay. It would be a mistake to stop playing this game before getting to the end and seeing all its mechanical and story twists and turns. Heck I think it would be a waste to stop playing this game before seeing the secret ending that forum users spent months working towards.

Readers can buy The Hex on Steam.

A Pleasant Trip to the Oceans in ‘Abzu’

Aquarium fans are in for a treat with 505 Games’ published sea exploration game, Abzu. Developer Giant Squid takes us on a journey through their game in a “walking simulator” style reminiscent of ‘Journey’ from thatgamecompany. The twist here is that we’re swimming through a series of levels that are each designed to portray parts of Earth’s oceans.

Despite the change from hiking shoes to flippers, the game still behaves like a traditional walking sim – explore each level to find a small list of collectibles, while experiencing a cinematic narrative. Abzu is very good at not telling the player much as there is not a single line of dialog throughout the entire experience. But this isn’t a game about interacting, it’s about observing. And holy heck do we get to see a lot of cool fish!

I don’t have an exact number of how many species of fish appeared in Abzu, though I can imagine there are a lot. And they all were animated to swim like they would in the wild! It’s this crazy amount of detail that makes me so excited about this game. It’s the sort of experience that makes me hope that some day I will be a dad or an uncle or anything really, just so I would be able to share the experience of playing this game the first time.

My biggest concerns and disappointments come from the bits of Abzu that try to be extra dramatic. At one point we find abandoned deep-sea mines, which you would think would tense up the situation. All they did was slow down the player character for a couple seconds and make a loud noise and bright flash. While I understand not wanting to make the player go back to a checkpoint, I feel like this compromise could have been avoided by not including the dang things.

Before and beyond the frustrating explosives, I found Abzu genuinely a pleasant experience. I enjoyed seeing all the takes on different sea creatures in Abzu’s cartoony art style. Personally, I think the nautilus was the coolest, but that’s only because I couldn’t find any cuttlefish. I definitely will recommend Abzu to fans of walking (swimming) simulators, as well as casual gamers with an interest in aquariums or marine biology.

Readers can find Abzu across a whole bunch of storefronts, including Steam, Xbox, and PSN.

‘The Turing Test’ is a Well Crafted Puzzle Factory

I played through The Turing Test recently through Xbox Game Pass, and I’ve been thinking about it since I finished it. The visuals of Turing Test featured an industrial theme, with everything you see feeling factory produced. The most unique looking puzzle areas you see are just rooms with different colored lighting. Every few puzzle levels we will encounter a human-inhabited room which usually looked a bit more lived in, with notes and personal items scattered about.

The plot of the game is straightforward – we are trying to reach the end of this maze to find our crewmates. As we progress through each of the puzzle rooms, we get to hear our player character, an astronaut named Ava, will talk to TOM, our computer friend about the difference between humans and artificial intelligences. 

The story is interesting, because it has almost nothing to do with the puzzles. The idea is that yes, you can switch between controlling Ava as a traditional first-person game, or as TOM who can only see through the eyes of security cameras or drones. But honestly, this whole story that’s established of the team on Europa and human morals? It could be replaced with a completely different story, and no one would know.

I feel like that’s part of the good and bad with the Turing Test. It’s versatile, like a mass-produced product. You can take it apart and exchange some of the lighter stuff, but the bulk of the experience will still be strong. Bulkhead did a great job on the puzzles here, and I’m excited for their future.

Played on Xbox Game Pass.

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