Last Thursday, Chinese publisher Oasis Games invited me to a media event in Manhattan to try out its launch window lineup of PlayStation VR titles. This included the waves-of-enemies shooters Ace Banana and Pixel Gear, and the mystery horrors Weeping Doll and DYING: Reborn. There was another game, an arcade space shooter called Mixip, but we didn’t get the opportunity to play it. Unlike the rest of the lineup, Mixip doesn’t have a release date yet.
I started out with Pixel Gear, which is due out on October 20. It was my first time wearing the PlayStation VR headset—my first time trying out a virtual reality headset in general, actually. It took me a second to adjust, but after fitting it to my head, I felt comfortable and immersed. I was handed a single PlayStation Move controller. After getting past the title screen, I found myself standing atop a platform in a world made of voxels. You can’t walk around in Pixel Gear, but you can look around in 360-degrees, which you’ll need to do in order to take care of the onslaught of enemies that will start coming your way. I peered over the edges of the platform to see a black, bottomless abyss. Reactionary Sal was slightly startled, but sensible Sal remembered I was standing in front of a TV in a hotel suite.
(Pixel Gear, developed by Geronimo Interactive.)
The game began, and skeletons and bats (some carrying pumpkin bombs that drop when shot) started coming my way from the enemy’s castle stronghold. I was equipped with a single, unlimited-ammo pistol (with a laser sight for accurate aiming) and a special skill that builds up over time. I was advised to hold off on using my special skill until I really needed it, so I complied. Using the PlayStation Move controller, I aimed at the skeletons and bats, and shot at them with the T button. In addition to the aforementioned enemies, the battlefield was populated with knights, Frankensteins, and ghosts, sometimes carrying hearts or coins that by shooting increases your health or racks up your spending money. While both shooting at and destroying enemies, I also had to shoot at enemy attacks coming my way to prevent from taking damage. You need to continuously check your surroundings as enemies approach you from all sides (except from behind you). I looked to my left at one point after being reminded I should be on alert only to be hit in the face with a fireball. I won’t lie, it made me jump back a little.
Completing a wave brings you to a break screen, where you can choose to continue and buy one of three items. I bought a machine gun and continued to the next wave. To switch guns, you press the Move button to bring up a four-slot weapon wheel, and use the controller to aim at the gun you want to switch to. Unlike the default gun, other guns don’t have unlimited ammo. After more enemies than I expected starting rushing my way in the next wave, I switched to my machine gun and pressed Circle to use my special skill. It was a maybe 10-second skill that allowed me to fire at the enemy onslaught at normal speed while they moved in slow motion. It proved effective, as I quickly cleared a greater part of the field.
(Pixel Gear, developed by Geronimo Interactive.)
It wasn’t before long that I reached the boss. He was a lava-filled, golem-looking creature. Unfortunately, the game didn’t want me to win, as all of my attacks on the boss were ineffective. This was a bug I encountered that I was told would not be present in the final release. Rather than go through the waves again to try at the boss one more time, we ended the Pixel Gear demo there. It was fun for what it is—a cartoony, arcade shooter—and if appropriately priced, I could imagine myself picking it up and playing it every now and then to kill time, especially when friends are over.
Next up was Ace Banana, a game with a similar premise due out on October 13. I didn’t play this one myself. I brought along my girlfriend, who decided to make shooting plungers at monkeys her first virtual reality experience. In Ace Banana, players take on the role of a Banana Archer out to stop the monkeys from stealing (and probably eating, those heartless primates) your stash of warm-faced bananas.
(Ace Banana, developed by TVR.)
Using two PlayStation Move controllers, you’ll mimic the functions of a bow and arrow, with toilet plungers acting as your arrows. The further back you “pull,” the further your plunger will fly. While movement is limited in a way similar to Pixel Gear, you have the option to warp between several positions with the press of a button. Enemies arrive in waves. The first wave consisted of normal monkeys, which need a single hit to take out, and clown monkeys, which require two hits. In the waves that follow, you get different variations of monkeys, like construction worker monkeys wearing hard hats that require more arrows to take down. Just like your standard gun in Pixel Gun, your arrows are unlimited. Eventually, she reached a mechanical monkey boss who got the better of her. She was disappointed yes, but said she gives the game two bananas up. “It’s a good family game and is kid-friendly,” she said. “Plus, they said there’s multiplayer, so you can defend your bananas with your friends, too. That’s a good friend. Someone who helps you protect your bananas.”
Switching gears from the wave-based shooters, my final two Oasis Games PlayStation VR experiences were horror titles. I wasn’t looking forward to this part. I was at a mall outside of Philadelphia late last year where they had the Paranormal Activity virtual reality game demo on display at the entrance to the movie theater. I was fully intent on playing it, but “opted out” at the last minute. Luckily, Oasis Games’ offerings didn’t end up being too scary to handle.
(Weeping Doll, developed by TianShe Media.)
Weeping Doll, due out on October 27, was the first of the two horror titles I played. In it, I took on the role of the maid of a luxurious, albeit creepy manor. I started in the front hallway of the home. A creepy doll sat atop a chair. Using a DualShock 4 controller, I moved around a silhouette of the maid to warp to different locations. I had free control of the silhouette, and once I got her in place, I simply had to press X to appear where I had placed it. This system was designed to allow free movement around the house while preventing any potential motion sickness.
Using the shoulder buttons, I opened the door into the living area and proceeded through it into the dining area. The dining area was dressed in birthday decorations. I stood by the table and leaned in to read the name Youko on the birthday cake. I was sad that I didn’t have any real cake to eat, so I pressed on into the kitchen to get the cake out of my mind. It was about this point where the demo glitched out on me and I had an “out of body” experience. The maid’s character model is supposed to be in the place of the player, but for some reason she was out of place. I turned to my left to see her standing just inches away from my face and I freaked out a little. We reset the camera and got it fixed up.
After hearing a noise in the living room, I made my way back. The stairs, which were previously blocked by furniture, were now free to access. I made my way upstairs, where I completed two puzzles. One had me matching heads to bodies of samurai dolls and placing them on platforms atop a fire place, and the other had me finding the number code to the lock on a dresser to obtain the gear necessary to unlock the closed door in an escape room. At one point, I had to turn off the faucet in the bathroom tub, draining the water and allowing me obtain the key from a(nother creepy) doll that floated to the surface.
(Weeping Doll, developed by TianShe Media.)
At the end of it all, I found myself chasing a little girl, likely the abused girl mentioned in Oasis Games’ official description of Weeping Doll. I was unable to catch her, as she disappeared around a corner each time I followed her. But she did always lead me to my next destination. The demo ended when she ran downstairs. I asked the Oasis Games representative if I could continue following her and find out what was going on, only to be told I could continue unearthing the mystery when the game launches next month. How unfortunate. Weeping Doll will be a two-to-three hour experience. I really enjoyed what I played and am looking forward to picking it up when I get my PlayStation VR headset.
The final demo was the shortest of the batch. DYING: Reborn, due out in January 2017, is a horror-puzzle escape room game. Unlike the previous three games, you have completely free movement using the analog stick on the DualShock 4 controller. That said, moving around in this one made me a little motion sick. But motion sickness, of course, varies per person. Try not to be me.
(DYING: Reborn, developed by Nekcom.)
I found myself in a dark room. In the center, there was a bed with some sort of vent above it. The door at the front of the room was caged in. And on the door itself was a box with a coin slot. On a table at the end of the room, I found a bottle, which shaking gave me a coin. Next to the table was a piano and some sheet notes. Playing those notes, which were the notes to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” unlocked a compartment containing a set of pliers. Using those pliers, I broke the chains on the cage blocking the door and the cage lowered into the ground. Then, I dropped the coin into the coin box on the door, which opened the box to reveal a three-letter password input. A poster next to the door read “Mur,” hinting to complete the word with “der” (that’s “Murder,” by the way) and solves the puzzle. On an old television on the floor of the room, a message started playing from a character the protagonist seems to care about. The door then opened, I proceeded through it, and the demo ended.
I enjoyed the little time I had with DYING: Reborn, but in the interest of time (I was the last appointment of the day) my demo was mostly guided. Oasis Games told me that it plans to launch DYING: Reborn as a three-chapter game for PlayStation VR, and as a six-chapter game for PlayStation 4 and PS Vita. (These are just the chapters it contains. It won’t be released in episodes.)
Oasis Games has an interesting lineup of PlayStation VR titles joining the platform’s launch window. I’m curious to see how they’re received and hope that they’re priced well enough for people to want to check out. And I’m personally happy to see China-developed games embrace the PlayStation VR platform as some of its first titles. I can definitely see myself picking up Weeping Doll, and one or the other between Pixel Gear and Ace Banana. As for DYING: Reborn, I wish I could have seen more. It gives off a bit stronger of a horror atmosphere compared to Weeping Doll, which may be a bit much for my tastes, but I would like to play more regardless. In the daytime.