Friday, February 16, 2024



Been on a big Space Shit kick on PSVR2.

First, I bought, played, and finished Red Matter. Now, Red Matter 2 was one of my all time PSVR2 faves, so when the original got the PSVR2 port treatment I was on board. And while it’s more limited than its sequel, it’s just as oddly engaging.

Red Matter 2 featured a mix of adventure game puzzle solving in a very chunky, very real environment, plus some low-gravity platforming and some shooting. Those last two were sequel additions. Red Matter is nothing but wanering around a base, figuring out how to flip switches, open doors, etc. with machinery that is in many ways, while not “realistic”, is also not “puzzly” in that way that video game puzzles often are. 

A lot of the equipment feels like it was designed to work for real, even if by a bored/insane pseudo-Russian cog in a totalitarian space regime. Part of that is that the game is incredibly tactile, and almost entirely jank-free, which helps a ton with the immersion. 

Now, I’ve played through two Red Matter games, and could I describe what’s going on in them? I can not. Structurally, the game is Objective Objective Objective Objective Objective Weird Shit, with the weird shit centering around the titular Red Matter and the experiments therewith. But the lack of explanation or closure is never grating. It’s charming. You’ll chuckle wryly at Red Matter, throw it a nod, maybe give it the occasional “you do you”, and flip some more levers.

Journey To Foundation is in some ways similar to the Red Matters, and in other ways couldn’t be more different. It has the VR requisite shooting, puzzling, and climbing, but it’s also pretending to be very driven by dialog and choice, in what I know predates Mass Effect but is still done in a very Mass Effecty way. Except less good.

It’s all VERY serviceable and compelling enough to get you through the length, but there are a few things that’ll keep you from being fully engaged. First, it’s very obvious from the jump that the Foundation are the goodies and the Empire are the baddies even though you work for the Empire. And while you’re ostensibly allowed to choose between them at various points in the story, none of them really “stick” and can be reversed by one final F vs. E choice. The game gives you a couple other choices along the way that are reflected in a final summary but you’ll catch on pretty quick that none of it really matters.

Second, it’s never broken enough to be broken broken, but it’s always broken enough to be distracting. There’s a gesture system that has you mirror various salutes to characters that feels like an ambitious idea they kept in the game even though it never quite works right and at one point is almost game-breaking.

Sometimes you have to pry a door open with your hands, which should be WAY more forgiving than it is, but instead reguires an amount of trial and error to find the seemingly random “sweet spot” that makes the game recognize that yes I want to push this door open and no I don’t want to wave my hands around it for 30 seconds when it’s literally the only thing I need to do to progress, thank you. 

Also, you have this superpower that lets you attack enemies minds instead of shooting them and it also replenishes your health. And for the ENTIRE game, the way it works is, yoiu can completely drain the first enemy of any group, but for every enemy after that, you can drain them 75%, and then they break the connection, and then you have to do it like 5 more times for like 5% drain before they break the connection again, and it’s WEIRD. It feels broken. And then at the very last combat sequence of the game, the “full power” gets “unlocked” and you realize they just broke it in a very clumsy, awkward way on purpose because it wrecks the difficulty and is way too powerful.

There’s a lot to like along the way, and some very ambitious VR design, and I realliy appreciate that every single climbing sequence is skippable for people who can’t be bothered (I mostly could - I like climbing in VR). But honestly I’d gladly trade one chapter of length and a bit of the ambition for a tighter, less buggy experience.

And now, thanks to a sale, I’m playing Hubris, yet another sci-fi VR mix of shooting, environmental navigation, and story. 

Hubris is more action-focused than either of the previous games, with lots more shooting and traversal focus than puzzle focus. It looks great, though, and has swimming, which for me is a first in a VR game. The puzzles so far seem to mostly rely on combining items in conveniently-located machines to “craft” new items for health or traversal. 

So far it’s pretty tight - the only real hitch I’ve found is that there’s often a “jump” rather than a smooth transition when you get to the top of a climb. Oh, and this is something I forgot to mention about Journey to Foundation too, there’s a lot of side shit for minimal to no reward. In JTF, you can do elaborate puzzles to open a locked cabinet and get… three lines of meaningless flavor text.

In Hubris yoiu can spot a difficult to access side path, navigate to it, and be rewarded with… a couple of salvageable items. Not even health items. And it’s early enough that I can’t even do salvaging yet nor do I know what they’ll give me. So that’s a little underwhelming. It is gorgeous, though. Doesn’t have the art design of the Red Matters, which combine stellar design with impeccable visuals, but Hubris ain’t ugly.

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