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The VR Diaries #2: The Great Oculus Outage of 2018

Welcome back to our VR Diaries series, where we collect a few mini-reviews and experiences available for VR to peruse at your leisure. We’ll have full fledged VR software reviews coming up soon – along with essential accessories and guides to get the most out of your new toy. 

Normalcy has been restored to VR with an emergency patch turned out by Oculus early this morning. The app is working fine again and we’re all free to abandon our real lives in favour of a much more exciting one. Oculus have confirmed that anybody who has used a Rift from the 1st of February this year will be receiving a $15(or regional equivalent) credit to their account as a goodwill gesture – we’ve yet to see if “equivalent” means exchange rate, but the company says we should see the credits within the next seven days. Considering the nature of the fault it’s an appropriate gesture that has done a lot to placate the community. Now it’s all up and running again we can continue our VR Diaries (inbetween rounds of Robo Recall) so here we go – LINK START!

VALKYRIE BLADE

I’ll always remember Valkyrie Blade as the first disappointing VR experience I’ve ever had. The room loaded, I weightlessly hacked at a Dragonborn lookalike until he fell over, and then the game glitched and left me stuck in a room with a glowing sword and blue balls. Upon reload it became apparent that I killed the first guy before it could complete the swordfighting tutorial which had just caused the whole thing to quit. Pacing myself, I let the tutorial play out before dropping into an arcade-y Viking-punk slashfest. It’s fun – and free – but I never felt the same sense of depth and scale that I did when the broken bots lunge for you in Robo Recall, or Killer Croc slamming himself into the shark cage in Batman VR. It might not be fair to compare them as Valkyrie Blade wasn’t made by a massive studio and is offered out entirely for free, but slashing, dodging and parrying blows doesn’t have enough feedback to feel satisfying and your character often lunges forward after a kill, which leaves you disoriented in awkward places. The fast paced swordplay feels more like Fruit Ninja than a brutal battle to the death, and that just put me off after several attempts to get it right. Worth a shout if you don’t mind a lack of finesse in the controls – graphics are nice, and it runs smoothly (most of the time).

Time played: Just under an hour. 

BLACK BOX

Short but powerful, this Rift experience is free and aims at offering a glimpse into the Syrian child refugee crisis. It only lasts a few minutes so it’s hard to write a paragraph without ruining it, but what I will say is it’s fantastic to see people using VR for this – so far I’ve used it strictly as a games device, dropping into weird and wonderful worlds for novelty and distraction. Using it to put you at the center of a terrible thing is brave, and I would welcome more moments like this – or even an extension of the existing one over time. It’s one thing seeing this stuff in videos or newspapers – quite another being face to face with it.

Time played: 7-8 minutes.

GHOST IN THE SHELL/SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING/LOST

In a similar vein to Black Box these short experiences aim to put you in the middle of a movie. I’ve lumped three in together because they all weigh in at about five minutes a piece and set out to do similar things. Ghost in the Shell and Spider-Man are straight up promotional whereas Lost is more like a demo of what the Rift is capable of, akin to standing in the middle of a Pixar movie. Spider-Man goes the interactive route, letting you shoot webbing at various things and swing about in a limited capacity, Ghost in the Shell works well as a brief scene walkthrough, but the goal is pushing sales, and it shows. This is all free content you’ll probably mill your way through before you take the plunge on one of the paid-for games, but Lost is an essential. The other two – well it depends on how much you like Spider-Man or a plastic facsimile of Scarlett Johansson naked.

Time played: About 5 minutes each. 

LUCKY’S TALE

I’ll admit, Lucky’s Tale wasn’t high on my list amongst the Touch freebies, but after spending some time on it I can see the charm. It’s different to the console version, Super Lucky’s Tale, with the same colourful palette and rounded edges. 3D platforming games just seem to work in VR – there’s a greater sense of depth and your character’s position. It does take some getting used to – the comfort level is marked as “moderate” on the store and I experienced some minor motion sickness. It wasn’t enough to break any immersion but I felt a little ill when I took the headset off. This fades over time, and that’s why the general advice with VR is to start with short sessions to get yourself accustomed. It’s wonderful to look around the world you’re jumping through, and Lucky’s Tale would surely delight any kids at heart (Not any actual kids, though, because who’s up for strapping a £400 headset to someone who’s primary concern is just how sticky they can get it one day).

I’ll probably break procedure and give Lucky’s Tale a full review in the future, but for now, I’ll just say this – if Lucky’s Tale is sat in your library, overshadowed by flashy shooters, give it a whirl. It’s a nice return to gaming basics on a new platform, and a good display of what’s to come with more developer support. Maybe Sony will follow suit and demand a Crash Bandicoot VR so we can realise how bad we are at videogames all over again.

More VR Diaries coming soon! Next time – The Nvidia VR Funhouse, Toybox, Quill, Medium and more! Catch up on the previous diary here.

 

 

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