Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot Review

Released 2019
Platform PSVR (Reviewed), Steam
Publisher Bethesda (Website)
Developer Machine Games (Website)
Arkane Studios (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Virtual Reality Experience
Shooter
Light Puzzle Solving

It’s a polished VR Experience packaged as a game – I thought we were past this stage, though?

When I saw the announcement for Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot, I was very intrigued. Wolfenstein has had an excellent reputation since being rebooted, and I have wanted to play them for a while. With the release of Cyberpilot and Youngblood last month, I thought this would be the best time to jump in.

Starting things up

You start the game in a room seated in a chair. Looking around, it felt like I was in Wolfenstein: Youngblood. The same model assets are being used in both games, and it makes VR look amazing.

Then you hear the voice of your resistance contact, the narrator and guide for the game. You go through some fairly standard VR intro malarky, and then you are in the game.

You are not allowed past this room. The door says so! :p

What you aren’t into though is into the Nazi killing. That threw me a little bit at first – isn’t this a Wolfenstein game? Shoot first ask questions never?

Instead of shooting, you’re tasked with reprogramming a captured Panzerhund. Again, reasonably standard VR fluff, but well-executed on the whole. Remove a panel with the crowbar, pull out the circuit board, listen to more talking, re-insert the circuit board – it’s all stuff VR has you doing already.

Repairing electronics rarely involves crowbars normally...

Then you get into the combat – well, almost. You get into a tutorial showing you how to move and use the Panzerhund, and then you are into the shooting phase.

So how is the combat?

Not bad – not bad at all. It was fun looking through the eyes of some of Wolfenstein’s harder enemies. The panicked reactions of the soldiers as they realise that their robot ally has turned on them is satisfying to see. And see it you do – graphically, I cannot understate how polished Cyberpilot is.

Using the Move controllers, having autonomous left and right-hand movement makes you feel like a badass. Walking through the streets looks and feels impressive, even if the level design is a bit linear.

The lighting effects are hard to show in a still, but the flamethrower looks amazing!

You don’t sound very enthused though, but you are saying it’s good?

Yeah, you knew the ‘but’ was coming.

There are three types of unit to control, of which the Panzerhund is the first. The next level has you flying a drone with an emphasis on stealth. It felt different from the Panzerhund, but it was another “wait for everything to be explained in unskippable sections” as outlined earlier before you got to do what you wanted.

The last robot is the Zitadelle and was, in most ways, the experience I was most expecting. Rockets on my left arm, minigun on my right, go and mow everything down.

By now, I thought the first three levels were the tutorials for the actual game – something fairly standard in a lot of shooters again. So then I started on the fourth level, where I got to jump between all three robots to complete specific tasks.

Rockets or bullets. Why not both?

Here I was, happy to be finally playing the game – and it was over. There are only four levels to the entire game.

Story wise, there was a bit of a twist (no I’m not going into it) but even that felt rushed and out of place.

Bottom line, this felt like the start of a great game that was rushed to meet an artificial deadline. If this had stayed in development another year with a more fleshed out story and levels, it could have been a great game rather than a good experience.

How are the Controls?

With the Move controllers, everything worked pretty well overall. Tracking was good for the most part, and I didn’t have to recenter myself very often.

The most annoying control issue I had was repairing with the Panzerhund and Zitadelle. In the cockpit, if you put your right hand down to the right and fire, Cyberpilot would often assume you were trying to dock the virtual controller to the frame and initiate repairs.

The other problem I had was the tutorials. They are unskippable and relatively slow. It felt like they were making sure you knew everything you could and couldn’t do in the game.

With the PSVR trying to help you lock onto things, repairing accidently happens a lot

So imagine my surprise when I accidentally find out 10 minutes before finishing the game I could strafe. That would have been nice to know earlier in the game!

So it’s not worth it?

No, by all means, grab it – just not at its current price point, and know that it’s not a game in and of itself.

Cyberpilot is fun enough – if you know it’s only a short term experience.

There are a variety of different challenges to try for in the trophy list, but they feel like they are there for completionists rather than fun things to do.

I do regret getting the physical copy. I bought it for AUD$40 from EB Games, mainly because I added it to my preorder for Youngblood. It’s AUD$30 on the PlayStation Store, and I think it will either be a PS Plus add on or half-price shortly.

Once Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot hits the AUD$15-20 mark, I think it will be better value for money and can recommend more people play it. But by then I think the hype will be gone, so interest in the game will have probably died off to the point not as many people will try this game as they should.

There are little things to discover, but not enough to make you play Cyberpilot again and again
JohnHQLD
Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot

Final Thoughts

I don’t regret buying Wolfenstein: Cypberpilot at all. It looks so good, and the fun was there. Not enough to make a concerted effort for a platinum trophy, but it was fun enough. The seeds of an entire spin of series for Wolfenstein are sitting here, waiting to be nurtured.

What Cyberpilot doesn’t have is longevity. It’s like Batman: Arkham VR – it’s a polished and immersive experience, but that is all it is – an experience. This far into the PSVR lifecycle, I was hoping for more.

While the idea of Wolfenstein in VR is appealing, I don’t think that the PSVR is capable of doing it justice. Cypberpilot is a positive experiment and something that I would like to see Bethesda expand on. I will happily get the next game in the Wolfenstein VR series if it happens, but I would recommend picking up Cyberpilot when it’s on sale.

Overall
6/10
6/10

Pros

  •  Amazing Visuals
  •  Each robot feels different to control
  •  Entertaining especially for new VR players
  •  Lots of trophy challenges to complete

Cons

  •  2 hours tops to complete
  •  Unskippable Tutorials and Exposition
  •  No secrets or collectables to promote level exploration
  •  Controls can be awkward

Last Week’s Gaming – July 29th, 2019

The Pretty Clever Lords of Waterdeep had a Rapid Response to the incident in the Blue Lagoon

It was another great week of gaming! I have a lot of new games coming in via both retail orders and Kickstarters, and quite a few games launched last Friday and I got to play two of them!

Travel may interefere with my gaming this week, but with the original Doom trilogy, finihsing Final Fantasy X and waiting to start Fire Emblem: Three Houses I will have some solid replacement games waiting in the wings!

It has been far too long since I got Lords of Waterdeep to the table. It was a mix of new players and a couple of veterans, and everyone had just as good a time.

Lords of Waterdeep takes a long time to play, especially when learning. But two brand new players jumped in and played the full expanded game (to accomodate 6 players) with no issues at all.

It was a fun night, with breaks for dinner and desert making for a long but very social night. Expect to see more on this game over time, it still makes me happy to play 🙂

Lords of Waterdeep is my most 'blinged' game, hands down.

Playing solo, I am still enjoying That’s Pretty Clever on my phone. But I am thinkign of a Roll and Write night for my games night, so I pulled out the physical version again.

That was for 2 reasons. First, you quickly forget how much admin the app does for you! Secondly, playing the physical version takes longer and I wanted to get a feel for how long a game may take per player.

My biggest gripe is I was concentrating so much on those things, I made very poor decisions. Maybe I should take a bit longer and go for a much better score!

I pulled out the physical version for something different, even though I was playing solo

Another Alpal special that I would never have even thought to look for – and it’s a Reiner Knizia game!

Very similar in a lot of respects to games like Through the Desert, Blue Lagoon has players exploring land and collecting resources. A lot of players start turning away at such a description, but Blue Lagoon is surpricingly accessible for all players.

Want to claim a chunk of land as yours? Have more people on it. Want to have explored the most? Have people on every island. Add set collection for the resources, and you have the trademark ‘everything gives you points somehow’ of a Knizia game.

Another Reiner Knizia classic - simple yet deep, with the top 3 spots within 6 points of each other

We had a four player game, and even on the very first game almost everything clicked quickly for everyone. You play in two stages, and there are slight placement changes between the two, but it’s a game you can teach and be playing wihtin five minutes every time.

I have been looking forward to this since it’s announcement. Rapid Response is the latest addition to the Pandemic universe, and is designed by Kane Klenko of Fuse, Flatline and Flipships fame.

A real time turn based race against the clock, players have to strategise, carry out their turn and hope luck is with them against an unstoppable force – the timer :p

Instead of using cards like normal Pandemic, players roll dice and use worker placement type mechanics to create enough supplies to save a town after an unnamed disaster.

I was worried this would have the same initial 'huh' factor as Fuse and Flatline. There was nothing to be worried about.

Every time the timer runs out (every 2 minutes), you lose a token and a new city has a disaster you must deal with. Every time you save a city, you get a token back, so there is no downtime in this game!

We played until we cleared the first card without a timer to make sure we had the mechanics and the like nailed down. We also played without the crisis cards – extra machanics to increase the challenge!

Unlike explaining Fuse and Flatline to new players, Pandemic: Rapid Response seemed to click a lot better and work a lot smoother out of the gate. Look forward to a formal review in the next few weeks!

Gloomhaven (Steam)

You knew I was going to give this another go. Or thirty.

Nothing has changed since I played last week, but I am still really enjoying the ability to jump in and just clear a dungeon.

I am thinking of resetting and playing with all 4 available characters, but that will be in a week or so. I am having fun just finding my feet with the systems again.

One thing I did do differently was move Gloomhaven to my ultrawide screen, and I am glad I did. The extra screen real estate works nicely, and it the UI doesn’t feel strange like some other games.

It's a little thing, but I really love the little touches already present - like the adventure 'map'

Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot (PSVR)

Both games coming out Friday interested me for very different reasons.

Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot has you strapped to a chair and using the move controllers as virtual control sticks – both in and out of the game.

The first level has you controlling a panzerhoung – a giant robot dog with a flamethrower, and the second level has you controlling a drone with a cloak and short range zap.

I only finished two levels, but I have played enough to know I want to finish it. I don’t know if I want to platinum it, but we will see.

Flying a drone through an enemy office. That guard is about to get a shock :p

Fair warning though – in the drone level, I got my first case of VR motion sickness in a very long time. It may have been because I was playing standing while my ‘body’ was seated, but it defninitely happened. I will let you know how that goes as I play more.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood (PS4)

The other Wolfenstein game, Youngblood, had me as a co-op shooter I could play with Rabbit. Thanks to the buddy system, I only need to buy one copy of the game, and I can play with any of my friends – with some restrictions. I will talk more about that during the week.

Playing at the moment in offline mode myself, I am surprised how much Wolfenstein: Youngblood has drawn me in. I can stealth almost every area, but the run and gun gunplay is satisfying when things go wrong.

If all zeppelins had nightclub casinos, I am sure they would be a lot more popular!

Developed with Arkane Studios, the Dishonoured and Prey mechanics are very much present and fit right in. Stealth, collectables, great level pacing – it’s all here.

If I can setup a regular game partner session time, I think this might be my first Arkane platinum – I am enjoying it that much!

Horizon Chase Turbo (PS4)

Back in the day, I could mostly fit in the arcade Out Run machine at my local shopping center – the one with the car you sat in and moved as you steered. It was different, it was fun, but I never quite had the drive (hah puns!) to finish it.

Last weekend, I sat on my couch and had the exact same experience, minus the moving chair.

You can grab Horizon Chase Turbo on PlayStation Plus for July still (for a few days anyway), and if you would like to kick back with an OK racer with nostalgia feels, it works? Personally, I will just fire out Burnout Paradise again next time I want a race.

This is very much old school racing - even down to the graphics

Beat Saber (PSVR)

Yep, switched back to the goold old PSVR for a bit this week after playing the Vive for a couple of weeks.

Beat Saber is still excellent, and you should definitely play it. That hasn’t changed.

Bonuses for PSVR – the screen noticably doesn’t have the ‘screen door’ effect like the Vive does. The headset is more comfortable to wear overall, but it still has the annoying cable that must lead in front of you.

Well that was a terrible cut - but it was a cut!

Bonuses for Vive (w/ wireless adaptor) – No cable, except for a small cable to a battery pack. Obvious increase in precision tracking. Level Editor on PC which I will be messing with in a couple of weeks 🙂

Basically, I don’t think I will ever get sick of playing Beat Saber. I am giving serious thought to finally doing a semi-concentrated platinum run on PSVR though.

What about your week? I hope you had a great one!

What games did you get in? Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Do you have a Gen Con wish list?

Shout out in the comments, on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until tomorrow,

JohnHQLD

Doctor Who is coming to VR this September – Don’t Blink!

I bet there is a play on ‘Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey’ somewhere.

Yesterday I told you about a VR experience that I hopefully have running by now. This week, there was another bit of VR news that had me fanboying all around the place.

Doctor Who is coming to VR, and includes the voice talent of the Doctor herself Jodie Whittaker.

Take a look at the teaser below.

Gameplay wise not much is known.  As the player, you will be helping the Doctor by collecting some Time Crystals (Discovery technobabble anyone?) to repair the fabric of Time and Space as we know it.

Basically, I am thinking another escape room type scenario with the Doctor giving you the background and the crystals the prize.  We will have to wait and see though 🙂

And the wait shouldn’t be too long apparently – it looks like it is all coming this September to PC (Vive, Rift and now the Steam Index I guess?) as well as PSVR.

The screens look quite good so far, but I am guessing these will all be from the higher res PC versions.

The original need of Police Boxes may have passed, but we all hope they are bigger on the inside
I am unfortunately not up to date with the latest series, but the inside of the TARDIS looks amazing
An everyday Laundromat. What could we find here?
Ahh. Play with the timeline, and find out.

But with promises of bad guys old and new and support from the BBC, hopefully The Edge of Time will shape up to be a quality Doctor Who experience.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Are you ready to enter Virtual Virtual Reality?

Inception says there are four layers.  Why do I feel like Tender Claws is prepping a ‘Hold my beer’ moment?

Another Virtual Reality game is coming from PC to PSVR this week.  This is a move I am enjoying keeping an eye on, as PSVR is tending to get the better ports of a lot of games.  This makes sense as PlayStation VR players outnumber Rift and Vive users by quite a margin!

The game if I can even call it that is called Virtual Virtual Reality.  In a lot of ways, it might be better described as one of the VR ‘experiences’, but it’s one that has always had my interest.

Before I even try to get into the why I am intrigued, check out the PSVR launch trailer:

In a bizarre Job Simulator type way, you enter the world of an Activitude employee, using VR to make their clients lives better. Or at least more enjoyable.

In the game, you don different VR goggles to enter different worlds as requested by Activitudes clients. Your task: help the AI master ‘Chaz’ deliver on the companies promises. Sounds simple, right?

Except there is a bit of a mystery to unravel. As you enter different worlds, you start to piece together the history of Activitude and the world you are in.

From all accounts, you can finish Virtual Virtual Reality in a couple of hours.  It was one of the early Virtual Reality gems after all. The story apparently has a great message on the Virtual World with slices of humor and warnings, but the pacing seems to have been the biggest downfall originally.

With all this in mind, I am hoping for a sub-$15 price on the PlayStation Store this week, but we will see.  If you have a Rift or a Vive, you can nab it on Steam for AUD$20 – and the Steam Summer Sale is surely only a few weeks away!  I am sure to play this in one form or another in the next little while 🙂

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Astro Bot Rescue Mission Review

20190102 AstroBot
20190102 AstroBot
Released 2018
Platform PlayStation 4
Publisher Sony Interactive Entertainment (Website)
Developer Japan Studio (Website)
Homepage PlayStation.com (Website)
Players 1
Category Virtual Reality
Platformer
Collectables

The little bot that could

One of the first ‘games’ you get (or should get) with PlayStation VR is called The Playroom VR.  Essentially a few mini-games showing off the VR tech, The Playroom VR is a great introduction to different nuances of VR gaming.

One of these mini-games is Japan Studio’s Rescue Robots.  The idea is simple – you control a single robot through a 3D world and try to find all your missing friends through the level.

The catch – you are actively in the game.  Your avatar is a (relatively) huge vacuum looking robot that floats through the level on a set path.  Your controller is visible on the screen at all times, as it is part of the game.  You can shoot out a rope and grappling hooks to create tightropes and pull down walls.

It was a very immersive experience and a highlight of the package.

Robots Rescue PlayRoom VR
Rescue Robots was definitely one of the most popular Playroom VR mini games

And now Rescue Robots is all grown up

Now, Rescue Robots has evolved into its own game – Astro Bot Rescue Mission.

The basic gameplay is almost identical, but a bit of polishing has happened.  On starting a new game, you get to see the Bots and their sentient mothership attacked by an alien.  The ship is ripped apart, and the alien makes off with the ships PSVR visor.

So you control Astro, captain of the ship, and set off to explore five different worlds and find your friends.

Story-wise, this will never win awards.  It’s all a thin premise to get you where you need to be for the platforming, and that is where Astro Bot Rescue Mission shines.

On the surface, it’s a very straightforward platformer.  Control Astro and explore the stages, collecting coins and finding your missing crewmates.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission Opening
The more of your crewmates you save, the more greet you on the opening screen

Some crew are out in the open, some are hidden in various ways.  The great sound of the game lets you hear the bots cry out for help, and the 3D sound makes it easy to home in on where you should be looking.

What it doesn’t do is home in on how you should be looking – and that is a great element of Astro Bot Rescue Mission.

If you think of yourself as a camera moving around on a dolly, that would be fairly correct.  But you aren’t fixed in your seat.  There will be times you will want to stand and look ahead or behind you for secrets and hidden paths that your initial view hid with perspective.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission Exploring the World
So the little guy looking up is Astro, the guy up inm the air is one of your crewmates, and the big huge thing in the screen is you!

And that’s just part of it.  Some of the bots are hidden, but not all of them are calling out for help.  Some are quietly lazing around, minding their own business until you knock something or turn around to see them.

This kind of thinking is slowly introduced through the levels of the game.  In the first level, the fact that a bot in it that is lazing next to an enemy subtly teaches you that just because enemies came from there, doesn’t mean that a crew member can’t be around.

Then you get into the environmental controller bonuses.  Some levels give you different ways of interacting with the world directly.

The first tool is the grappling line, similar to Rescue Robots.  Create tightropes or pull down walls to make Astro new paths.  Shurikens are another bonus, allowing you to embed them in certain walls to make platforms.  Another is a water hose, letting you grow plants and vines as paths in the Garden levels, or cool lava to make a path in Volcano levels.

And of course, there is the old fashioned mini-gun ball launcher, to knock over everything in your way 🙂

Astro Bot Rescue Mission New Item Unlocked
Trouble from above? Mini ball blaster unlocked! You have to play yourself, it's not all on Astro!

But it’s not just the gameplay

Astro Bot Rescue Mission is a great traditional platformer with not so traditional twists.  And as I have said, the story isn’t going to win any real prizes.

But the characters.  Initially, you think ‘Oh cute’.  But I actually started caring about not only the Bots but the ‘enemies’ stopping me and the others that help you along the way.

Having Astro look at you and wave as it makes its way around the level was fun, and a few times I actually found myself waving back!  This is a world that you don’t think about when you start playing, but truly pulls you in completely.

The cutesy graphics style may make Astro Bot Rescue Mission look like a kids game, but don’t let that fool you.  There is a lot happening here, and the simpler graphics not only establish the world but let it play smoothly on the PlayStation hardware.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission Cute little game
There is no way you can say the characters don't have personality

On the whole, the controls worked great.  There were a few times that I would go ‘out of field’ with the headset, but just moving back fixed that and it never happened at a critical moment, only when I was physically walking around exploring.

Once you put the PSVR on, you are in the world of Astro Bot Rescue Mission, and that is an accomplishment in and of itself.

So what’s wrong with it?

Honestly – not much.  The controls have a little bit of a learning curve, as the direction you push to send Astro is relative to where you are looking.

The biggest complaint I would have is the game length, and even that is a relative complaint.

There are five game worlds, each with four levels and a boss.  Once these are cleared, there is one ‘final’ boss – the alien from the start.  This is a pretty short game to get to the end overall.

But there is a lot more to do.  Each level has a chameleon you have to find, and finding these unlock challenges.  This adds 26 extra levels to the game, adding a couple of hours overall.  It’s a welcome addition and requires skill and practice, but unfortunately, it also feels a little like padding.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission Challenge Levels
Just when you thought you were done...

There is also a ‘grabber’ mini-game where you spend your coins.  This lets you rebuild levels inside the mothership to play and explore in.

Grab a bomb, waste some coins.  Levels can be replayed to farm coins, so it’s not a massive issue, but the mini-game is more for novelty than gameplay value.

That said, I have put Astro Bot Rescue Mission on the ‘I am going to Platinum this’ list for 2019 – and hopefully before the end of January!

Astro Bot Rescue Mission In The Mothership
When you get the grabber items, you get pieces for fun mini levels in the Mother ship. Ride an abducted cow anyone?

Even though the game is relatively short (a dedicated day to finish everything is my guess), it is a lot of fun to play and well worth the price of admission.

As long as it’s on sale.  AUD$55 is a bit much I think for the amount of game you get, but the AUD$31 until 19/01/2019 is pretty much spot on.

But there really is no better way to understand Astro Bot than by playing it yourself.  And while it’s not as good as having the controller in your hands, below is my first video of 2019 – finishing the first level of Astro Bot Rescue Mission with all the secrets!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Astro Bot Rescue Mission

Final Thoughts

It’s fun, immersive, and has that ‘one more go’ factor that makes great games great.

In small doses, Astro Bot Rescue Mission might even be a good trainer for getting your ‘VR legs’ if you experience motion sickness in VR.  Either way, a heap of fun and another great game from Japan Studio.

MORE PLEASE!!!

Overall
9/10
9/10

Pros

  •  Lots of fun
  •  Great use of VR systems
  •  Great start to a potential new franchise
  •  Friendly learning curve

Cons

  •  Can cause Motion Sickness
  •  Relatively Short

Tetris Effect Review

Tetris Effect Feature
Tetris Effect Feature
Released Tetris Effect
Designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi
Publisher Enhance Games (Website)
Home Page Tetris Effect Home

Over 30 years later, Tetris is still a game that holds its own

Many years ago, I got a Nintendo Game Boy for my 16th birthday.  The huge grey brick was still very new, and the thought of playing different games anywhere was magical.

The Game Boy came with Tetris, arguably the greatest game ever made.  The simple gameplay allows players to enter a Zen-like trance, where only you and the tetrominoes exist.  Clearing rows of blocks is a satisfying experience, and the inherent ‘Try Again’ challenge still works, even today.

Bring on the Tetris Effect

Such was the popularity of the original Tetris (no matter the platform you played it on), people started noticing something odd.  People started to report dreaming of tetrominoes and seeing interlocking patterns outside of the game.

For example, people started seeing how items on a supermarket shelf could be stacked differently to form single shapes.  You may look at some buildings off in the distance, and imagine the shape you ‘need’ to complete the rows.

Generally harmless, it nevertheless started research into the phenomena that playing Tetris for 30 minutes a day could help with cognitive skills.  Take that video game objectors!

Tetris Game Boy
This is where it all began for me. Tetris was around before this, but many hours were spent looking at a screen smaller than this picture! *Image from Nintendo UK

Of course, while all this is interesting, it doesn’t explain why Tetris was so popular.  All I can really tell you is that for me, Tetris is a kind of competitive jigsaw puzzle.

Think of any game that challenges you, and that feeling when you complete that challenge.  Never scored over 100 in Ticket to Ride before?  Got through the High Road in Crash Bandicoot without dying?  that feeling of satisfaction is addictive, isn’t it?

And this is where Tetris for me on the Game Boy sat.  As my score got higher and higher, I was rewarded with dancers and larger and larger rocketships launching.  It was fun to watch, and when I finally got the Space Shuttle, I was in heaven.  I still remember running around Lake Eppalock looking for my parents to show them.

Getting higher and higher scores was satisfying, but I could also play at lower speeds longer and just enjoy relaxing with the puzzle that is Tetris.  I could challenge myself or just sit back and relax, it was the game I needed it to be at the time.

Tetris Game Boy Shuttle Ending
This was the ending you hoped for back in the day. But it never stopped me from seeing if there was one more... *Image from Thumbnail https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofWVtZ9O0Yc

The more things change…

I am happy to say, at its core Tetris Effect is the same game I fell in love with almost 30 years ago.  There are a couple of new mechanics and game modes, but Teris is just Tetris, and I love it for being that way.

But don’t think if you have played Tetris before, you shouldn’t play Tetris Effect.  While the feel of the game has remained the same, so much more has happened here with the latest iteration.

But I don’t have PSVR

You can play Tetris Effect just on the PS4, and it is a great experience.  But you will be missing out on quite a bit.

For example, looking at the pictures I grabbed for this review, you can see a pretty game with various backgrounds and layouts.  What you can’t hear is the amazing soundtrack that goes with Tetris Effect and becomes part of the experience.

And that is what defines Tetris Effect – it’s an amazing experience.  Playing in the dark with headphones on will allow you to immerse yourself and enjoy, but playing Tetris in VR is just special.

Tetris Effect Gameplay 1
I have pushed the game back, but being able to turn your head and be in this room as you play is amazing

The PSVR difference

VR allows you to immerse yourself in new worlds – this has been discussed before.  But in Tetris Effect, with good headphones and the headset, you become part of a magical tapestry.

It sounds arty and full of hype, but this is one of the few times I really can’t explain the feeling any other way – Tetris Effect is a great example of gaming as an art form, with art in the traditional visual and/or audio context.

Playing a level with Dolphins swimming is beautiful.  There are no other words for it.  Then the music pitches as you clear rows, and the Dolphins react playfully cheering you on.

The sensation is distracting because you are playing a game but just want to watch the dolphins play.  But you keep playing to watch what else the Dolphins do.

The sensation of zooming through the waters or skimming on top of the ocean is indescribable – you need to experience it yourself.

Tetris Effect Mountain
Some areas like Space and Sea begin dark, but you can also get majestic views like this

The Journey

The main mode of Tetris Effect is called Journey mode, and it is fitting.  Traditional gaming wise, you can consider it the campaign mode.  Each level has it’s own visual and audio style to go with it.

The very first level has you playing at the bottom of the ocean, with neon sea creatures swimming around you as you progress.

Complete 36 lines and you are taken to a ‘cyber Egypt’ level.  Rather than the bottom of the ocean, you are in a darkened room with the illuminated outline of the playing area before you.

As you progress, outlines of hieroglyphics form and travel towards you.  Complete this, and you are whisked to a red Zen world where your movements create sound.

Tetris Effect Under the Sea
It is so calm and peaceful, and as you continue you begin to see larger and larger sea creatures as well!

No two levels are similar, and each is an amazing experience.  The Journey moniker is well earned indeed.

But.

While visually each level is different, there are changes and modifiers in each level or world as well.  Some will increase the speed of the blocks as you progress, either in score or number of lines.

Some levels will suddenly increase the speed insane levels.  Sometimes this is permanent, sometimes you just have to ‘survive’ the wave.  Each level is truly unique, but just like the visuals and audio, you need to learn how each level behaves.

Tetris Effect Journey Mode
Explore the galaxy in Journey Mode! I may have hit a level I need to practice though 🙂

The Zone

Many players and I describe the Zen-like trance that you fall into when you get into a game of Tetris.  Tetris Effect adds to this with a new mechanic known as The Zone.

It’s pretty simple – create lines and fill up a Zone meter.  When you activate the Zone, it begins counting down but tetrominoes stop dropping, giving you a much-needed breather.

Each line you complete drops to the bottom of the pile, also allowing you ‘fix’ some previous errors.  This also has the benefit of allowing you to create groups more than Tetris – Decahexatris (16 lines) is my current max, but I hope to improve soon!

Tetris Effect The Zone
Entering the Zone isn't just metaphorical in Journey - you can create awesome combos and high scores!

No time for Journey?  Enter the Effect mode

Tetris by itself is already a challenge, and the different modes on display through Journey mode are different.  But sometimes you just want to play Tetris, and this is where the Effect modes come in to play.

The description is ‘play to suit your mood’, and it’s very apt.  Want the challenge of clearing 150 lines offered in Marathon, but can’t quite get there?  Practice in Chill Marathon, that just clears the stack and starts again.

Only have a few minutes?  See how many lines you can clear in three minutes, or go for your highest score in the same time.

The most masochistic I have gotten is a mode where the tetrominoes drop in time with the music – you have no control over it.

Tetris Effect Space Station
How quickly can you make 40 lines? It takes longer than I thought

A gorgeous example of Yin and Yang

Tetris is a great game to calm and challenge yourself.  Everything in Tetris Effect rewards you in some way, but those rewards can also be a negative.

Made enough lines to see the horses gallop across the plain?  It’s beautiful, and they gallop right in front of you.

Get about 4-5 levels into Journey mode as a first-time player, and get used to the increased speed factor over time.  Then to have the speed triple or quadruple without warning can cause veterans to rage quit.  It really is just a case of learning the levels and their little quirks, but first impression wow it feels like a cheap loss.

But this is truly a first impression issue.  If you know that the game will occasionally lull you into a false sense of safety then thump you, then you can prepare for it.

I also wish there was a soundtrack released for Tetris Effect similar to Beat Saber.  I could listen to the first level for hours – it’s truly hauntingly beautiful.

So while it may sound like Tetris Effect will frustrate and annoy, it does so in a way that only dangles the challenge carrot before you – and you will want to keep going.  And going.

Tetris Effect Dolphins in the Way
So the area is dark because it is early in the level, but you can see the dolphins starting to dance before the play area already

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Tetris Effect

Final Thoughts

I haven’t really talked about the gameplay of Tetris, as the gameplay is pretty much a part of our culture now.

While there are some frustrating aspects to the gameplay, perseverance and practice will help you overcome – and you will want to.

Tetris Effect is more than just a game – it’s a project of beauty and love that offers more and more the deeper you go.  If you have only heard of Tetris, give this a go – you will thank yourself that you did.

Overall
8.5/10
8.5/10

Pros

  •  It’s Tetris
  •  Multiple modes to suit your mood
  •  Incredibly immersive experience with VR and Headphones

Cons

  •  The scenery can be distracting
  •  Sudden multi-level speed increases are frustrating

Beat Saber PSVR Review

Beat Saber Feature
Beat Saber Feature
Released 2018
Developer Beat Games (formerly Hyperbolic Magnetism)
Publisher Beat Games (formerly Hyperbolic Magnetism) (Website)
Category VR Rhythm Game
Light Sabers!
Homepage beatsaber.com

Beat Saber is now ‘Official’!

A few months ago I did an early access review of Beat Saber, played on an HTC Vive setup.

On the whole, everything I said then holds up now, even on a new platform – PlayStation VR or PSVR for short.  Simple, accessible gameplay with great music and well-designed levels coupled with easily the most completely immersive physical experience in VR makes for a fantastic game.

And now the ‘full’ version is out, and first on PS4!  PC users don’t panic, Beat Games has confirmed an update to PC in the next few days, but with even more features like Expert+ (for all you freakishly good players out there!).  Expect to hear more about that when it’s released. 🙂

What is the same

Donning the VR headset and being transported to a TRON like world with your definitely not light sabers because trademark at the ready, you feel instantly badass.

Then you do the tutorial, and the helpful voice tells you how to play. Slicing through the block, the slight feedback from the controller feels satisfying.  It’s what you thought cutting through an object with a plasma sword would feel like.

You may miss a cube, or mix colours up, but you finish the tutorial.  You feel amazing – and it was only a handful of cubes.

Beat Saber Campaign Challenge Complete
It's not the tutorial, but a campaign challenge just completed. Those fireworks are so satisfying!

Then you drop into the game and start swinging to the time of an amazing soundtrack.  Now I am a Jazz and Blues fan primarily, I don’t like Dance or Techno as a rule, but I love the Beat Saber soundtrack.  It’s infectious.  You pick up when to swing from the timing of the beat, and you can feel from the tempo when things are about to calm down or go crazy.

The soundtrack is conveniently also up on Spotify!  I have made a playlist of all the ‘official’ songs, and there is a link at the end of the review if you want to have a listen.

No matter what level you play, going through a couple of songs you start to sweat a bit.  You aren’t controlling a fighter doing moves with a button press – you are carving up the notes.  You start to notice the weight of your sabers – they aren’t controllers anymore.  Five minutes in and you are starting to work out how to flick your wrist in time with a shoulder turn to get the saber back for a new swing.

You start to play on Normal and get new challenges like more walls and cubes coming in tighter groups.  A flurry of information flying at you, there is only one course of action – swing.  End those cubes and watch your score soar.  The first time you finish a song with an S rank you feel unstoppable.

Beat Saber Obstacles and Challenges Increase
Walls, Ceiling Blocks to duck, Mines to avoid, and then insane levels of blocks all mix in on the higher difficulties

Penny Arcade did a strip that describes the feeling of playing vs how you look perfectly, and you can see it here.  People that haven’t played before may look at you strangely, and people that have played smile knowingly and cheer you on.

I cannot imagine anyone looking as awesome as they feel playing Beat Saber without the PC tech that lets you film yourself ‘inside’ the game like you see on YouTube.

This player is really quite good – but imagine how she would look just throwing her hands around in the air without the benefit of seeing what she sees in game?

But when you play – you honestly just don’t care.  It’s amazing, it’s satisfying, and it’s something you want to play again and again.

The Changes

So the core gameplay is the same.  It’s amazing and wonderful and a great time.

But that doesn’t mean that new features haven’t been added as well.

The most obvious change to start with is the Campaign Mode.  It’s optional, but a great way to begin playing and challenging your skills.  The Campaign mode is simply a series of levels that unlock as you complete them, with the ‘standard’ songs on offer but with modified gameplay enabled.

You start playing with a song on easy – probably like you would if you went straight to the ‘standard’ free play mode.  Experienced players will fly through it, but if you are learning it’s a good place to get a feel for the game.

Beat Saber Gameplay Modes
Choose your play mode! Freeplay is where I have spent the most time, but that will be changing

Finish the level, and you are normally presented with two options to progress.  You can see what is coming up before committing to the level, and so far I haven’t found an ‘easy’ or ‘hard’ option – just different challenges.

A couple of stages in, you have to start getting a minimum score that is fairly easy to obtain.  I’m not trying to say you should blast through the level on your first try, but if you can get to the end of the level you should hit the score.

I haven’t hit any yet, but I can imagine near the end of the campaign I am going to need minimum scores that require SS ranks to pass – the highest level in the game awarded at perfect play levels.

Then as you progress you get a maximum number of misses or bad cuts you can make.  These aren’t too bad for me, but again new players will have an achievable challenge laid out before them.

Beat Saber Campaign Layout
It's a kind of 'Choose your doom' feeling when you first see the campaign mode, but multiple paths and challenges let you find your own way through

The ones I am on at the moment and is presenting a challenge is Disappearing Arrows.  Up until now, each cube has shown an arrow with the direction to cut in.  This still happens, but after the cube is ‘locked’ the arrow dissolves forcing a memory aspect to kick in.

Now, this may seem a little too much especially early in the game, but to me it’s also a great teaching tool.  Just like in chess, you want to be thinking three cubes ahead, with the pattern worked out for the one you are slicing and the next few.  Disappearing Arrows forces this kind of thinking, and I think is an amazing way to help players improve.

These ‘modifiers’ aren’t just in the campaign either.  You can activate them in the Freeplay game mode to make your life easier or more interesting.  Depending on what you enable, you will also receive a score modifier to match.

Mastered Hard, but Expert is just that bit too much still?  Speed up Hard and get a score bonus, or slow down Expert and take a score hit.  I know I will be doing this with a few of the expert songs initially to give me that slight breather while learning the patterns – I think it’s a great idea!

Beat Saber Modifiers
Modifiers work both ways - you can make it harder if you mastered the level, or easier while you are learning it

The Tech and how Beat Games mastered it

So this is a weird one.  I have said (and maintain) PSVR is great for putting VR in an affordable price bracket – but this means compromises were made.

The HTC Vive and Oculus Rift have great tracking technology, and the Vive also has a wireless adaptor coming soon.  This is going to be the best way to play Beat Saber hands down.  The downside?  This kind of setup will set you back around $3,000 even with the ‘old’ Vive assuming you need to buy the computer as well.  Also, you will need a large open area to play in.

But Beat Games has tuned Beat Saber on the PSVR to work well even in ‘sub-optimal’ configurations.  What do I mean by that?  Well, it all comes down to set up.

Without going too far into it, there are some golden rules you should try and follow.  You should have a wide and clear area – move the coffee table full of reflective items out of the way.  You should also set up a VR camera about 10-15 cm’s above the players head and point the camera down slightly.  This will allow the camera to see your entire body and feet.  This means you also have to be a certain distance away from the camera as well – if you are only 45 cm from the camera, you are in trouble.

A lot of tracking issues can be traced back to camera placement, and that isn’t exactly the customer’s fault.  There isn’t too much detail in the PlayStation manual on any of this, other than ‘change the position and see’.  There is also the little issue of even putting the camera on top of a large TV, some people are still taller than this setup, leading to a cone where controllers regularly move out of.

Beat Saber PlyaStation Camera Setup Guide
PlayStation's setup guide works for games you sit and play like Moss, but not for anything you stand up and play

For various reasons, not everyone can have this optimal setup though.  For some, the distance they need to put the camera to maintain area and angle is too far away for the camera to pick up properly.  For myself certainly, if I drop my hands too far (in a normal ‘hands at side’ position’) tracking is lost completely.

Beat Games has managed to not only track within the cone relatively high speed changing movements, but instantly re-acquire ‘lost’ sabres.  This is the sort of care and design I wish all VR developers could put into their games, and definitely explains a lot of the wait for the PlayStation version to come out.

Most games on PSVR I am resigned to saving and restarting every hour or so because of tracking glitches.  Beat Saber has none of these problems, and I am throwing my hands around 10x more than any other VR game out there.

There will always be compromises with a single camera VR system – I’m not trying to sugar coat a problem.  But Beat Saber is by far the best tracking implementation of a game I have played in PSVR bar none, and extensive work has been done to minimise the impact of any technical limitations of the hardware.

So if you have a reasonable space in your living room (which most of us have, to a varying degree of reasonable) Beat Saber will work well in your play area.

Beat Saber Best PSVR Setup
Job Simulator actually has the best image I can find, but if you can see all of yourself in the 'Check Your Environment' Screen that's the goal

Those compromises I spoke of playing in PSVR?

The Move controllers are also just that little bit to… something?  The feeling of holding and swinging them isn’t quite as good as the Vive controllers, but way better than the Rift.  I also find with my right hand especially, I keep knocking the X button pausing the game mid-swing.  With more practice holding the controller this should get better, but I have only done it a couple of times on the Vive ever.

The other issue is the PSVR headset itself.

The first PSVR unit has a cable that pretty much has to run in front of your body – you can’t turn your back to the camera to have it flow behind you.  This is annoying occasionally as you feel the cable hit into you, but dropping the cable behind you to come back out between your legs helps with this.  This is where the cable runs in the second unit, but the cable still gets in the way.

The Vive headset feels more comfortable with better weight distribution.  The PSVR also isn’t great for people with long hair – you need to spend the extra time pony tailing up to keep everything out of the way and gripping correctly.

PSVR Comparison
The cable and headphone position may be slight, but it is a marked improvement

Each of these is a minor annoyance though and given the cost difference between PSVR and Vive very easy ones to live with.  Purely because of my house setup, Beat Saber is going to see significantly more play on PlayStation than Vive going forward – unless I want to play at the same time as Rabbit, then I will be sent upstairs to the desktop 🙂

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Beat Saber

Final Thoughts

I love Beat Saber.  It’s a great game that gives you a sense of immersion and total satisfaction that very few games can match.

Platform-wise, I prefer the Vive BUT I will definitely be playing it more on PSVR.  The ease of setup and room to move outweighs the technical improvements of the Vive in this instance.

Beat Saber is a huge amount of fun, and it’s not something I can show just by telling you it’s great.  There are VR around in major cities now, as well as a dedicated Beat Saber Arcade machine now – seriously, if you are even a little curious, hunt one down if you don’t know anyone with VR and try it.  But be warned – you may become hooked!

Overall
9/10
9/10

Pros

  •  Who doesn’t want to swing swords at things?
  •  Music and level design is incredibly appealing
  •  The game is what you want it to be – change it to suit you
  •  Physical Activity without going to the Gym!

Cons

  •  VR is expensive. Hardware outlay (even PSVR) is an investment.
  •  Needs a lot of space
  •  Not a ‘group’ party game (e.g. Mario Party)

The Soundtrack link I mentioned?  You can listen to the player here or follow this link to open up the playlist in Spotify on the web.

Beat Saber PSVR is out and it’s amazing!

Beat Saber Wouldn't you just duck

Beat Saber is on PlayStation, and now I know why it took so long!

A while ago I took the plunge and bought the HTC Vive.  One of the games I was keen to get into was Beat Saber – basically Guitar Hero with Light Sabers.  Really, do you need more of a reason?

Now I enjoy Beat Saber, but playing in my study is fun, but hard.  I need more room than is available, and I have to hold back.  But the announcement of Beat Saber coming to PSVR was made a while ago, and we have been waiting.

And waiting.

But that wait is over, and it’s here.  And it’s AMAZING.

Now I can play in my lounge room where I have so much more space, without having to move my desktop or VR gear.  And that wait we had?  It’s now VERY apparent what was happening behind closed doors.

Beat Saber PAXAUS
Ahhh Beat Saber. Angel Voices Hard with no walls was great! Best overheard comment - "it's not as easy as he makes it look"

There is a full review coming on Tuesday, but that will be when the Black Friday sales are over – and there are some nice savings on the PSVR hardware.

If you are on the fence on VR at all – let this sway you.  The experience matches the PC version perfectly, and tracking has not been an issue for any session I have played.

Normally when I play ‘stand up’ VR games after about 40-50 minutes I start getting weird bugs where tracking just drifts off independent of what you are doing.  Beat Saber, with it’s far more rapid movement than any other VR game I play on PSVR, has this nailed – even on the base PS4.  No pro required here!

New songs, new game modes, new play modifiers – it’s all here, and it’s a great time.  PC owners don’t worry – all of these changes are ‘coming soon’, with the buzz this week!  Expert+ is on the way (for you freaks that can play like that!).

So yes, overall a glowing review will be coming Tuesday, but if you were thinking of getting yourself a treat or looking buy something for the PlayStation owner for the holidays – do it.  Take advantage of the sales and grab the PSVR.  There are already some really great games out there, but this is a game that is instantly fun!

Until tomorrow,

JohnHQLD.

Beat Saber PSVR Finally has a release date!

Beat Saber Feature

Beat Saber Upstairs, Beat Saber Downstairs

So I have written a few times on Beat Saber and why I enjoy it so much.  This is close to the perfect VR entry game, and one of the primary reasons I bought a HTC Vive.

Well this morning on Twitter, there was some good news for people waiting for the PSVR version:

PlayStation VR is without a doubt the best selling VR hardware to date, and the fun of Beat Saber seems a natural fit.

The developers have been working on this for ages even delaying PC content to make sure the PlayStation experience is at least on par with the Vive and Occulus experiences, and at long last we finally have a shipping date – and it’s about 2 weeks away!

With the exception of Pokemon Let’s Go coming out next week, I see Rabbit downstairs playing on the PlayStation while I play upstairs on the Vive where there isn’t as much space.

So I will still have the PAX Aus memory of playing to compare the PSVR experience!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

PSVR is turning 2! And we can get Borderlands 2 come December!

Borderlands 2

I love it when we get the presents for someone else’s birthday

So I have talked about VR a few times on the site.  As a technology, it is amazing – and it can only get better.

October 13th is PlayStation VR’s second birthday.  I enjoy PSVR and I can’t wait for games like Beat Saber to come to the platform, but PSVR has a similar problem to it’s bigger siblings in the Vive and Rift.

This problem is big game experiences.  Beat Saber is great, and I don’t mind firing up Operation Warcade and Time Carnage for a bit of fun.

Harls is thinking of finally finishing Farpoint, so I may have some more multiplayer fun with the aim controller soon.

But while these are all fun and great to play, with the exception of Resident Evil 7 there is no big gaming experience.  There are games you can play for a while, but even the amazing Moss is really just a series of isolated experiences.

Time Carnage 05
Shooting waves of incoming dinosaurs is more fun than it should be!

Something out of the blue has been announced to help remedy this though.  Available December 14th, the still fun to play loot collecting absurd shooter Borderlands 2 is coming to PSVR!

*If you feel like being completely irresponsible, have a drink every time you see Virtual or Virtually in the trailer below:

From the video, there seems to be the ‘teleport’ movement mechanic in play.  I am hoping I can play with just the controller, as Resident Evil 7 gave me no problems moving around like this.

With the tease of Tiny Tina, I am assuming that the VR version will include all of the DLC which will be hours of play in a very replayable experience – finally!

There is a downside though.  It looks like the VR version will be solo play only at this stage.  The idea of running around a new environment with Harls and a couple of others doesn’t look like it will be happening – at least not together.

But it’s still early days, and all of this will be confirmed prior to the release.  Apparently, in some countries, Borderlands 2 VR is up for preorder now. Not in Australia on Wednesday morning when I am writing this though.

This is a great step for PSVR, and as such there will be bits of news all over the place on this one.  I find it funny though, because I recently fired up XCOM 2 and Borderlands 2 to test my new 1080ti (yes 1080, not a typo) and both have had news this week.

I should fire up more old games and see what happens…

Until next time,

JohnHQLD