Where we have seen some classic games translate well into the VR, this is not always the case. Colossal Cave is the next game to make the move into VR space, the question is can this original text-based classic make the jump into the medium?
The premise of the gameplay has not changed from the original, you will enter a cave to explore while trying to collect all fifteen pieces of treasure while trying to hit the optimal 350 point total.
The biggest difference is the game has moved away from text and made into a point-and-click adventure. When you start you will enter a cabin, which you will be store your treasures in and then soon be entering the shaft into the cave you need to locate all these treasures in.
As well as needing to locate the treasure you have to manage your inventory in order to collect the treasures you will find on your travels. This is made possible with finding points around the cave that will teleport you back to the cabin where you can drop your treasure off and then teleport back to those rooms within the cave. Meaning you can leave items you no longer need in the cabin as well or you can leave them about the cave and it will be highlighted on the map where you have left them.
Now you might be thinking what can cause you to not get the optimal run with full points? This can be a number of things along the way in your adventures. If you die in the caves you can either re-spawn with all your progress still in place or start from the beginning – with the re-spawning costing you points. If you require any hints they will also deduct points for giving you them, with the cost depending on the hint level.
As mentioned you will lose points for dying, there is a number of ways to die in the game. Falling of edges if you are not paying attention or not lighting up your path sufficiently or in combat. The combat is where I found an issue in the game, because the outcome is outside of your control. The enemy spawns and has the first attack, and sticking to the classic feel the game offers, the chance of them landing the blow is randomised – with it being an instant death. Meaning a good run can be ended by a random chance generated outcome. This did happen to me a few times in a row, with the worst being near the end of a perfect run.
The inventory and command system is handled by you bringing up your inventory, grabbing the item with your trigger and dragging it to either drop or use item. Now, if you are trying a run with no clues at first it is going to be really difficult – as the game does not offer any sort of idea what items are used for and to be honest without the review guide offered by the developers I would probably have been stuck on the first puzzle involving a bird for a long time.
When it comes to the presentation of the game unfortunately this falls flat as well. With the textures all looking uninspiring and flat – with very little lighting outside of the glow from your lantern not really offering any help in this area. Then the character and creatures you come to face to face with on your journey also looking dated and stiffly animated, adding to the visual disappointment. With the overall feeling being on par with games you expect to find on app-lab not a game costing the same as games like Saints & Sinners, Bonelab and Resident Evil 4 VR.
Where the visual presentation might not give a great visual experience, the games strong point is the audio design. With it really giving the feeling and immersion of being isolated in the cave system, by not including much music and using the environmental sounds very well. The final nice little touch is narrator with you through out the journey explaining settings, items and things you inspect using the script from the original game.
The comfort in the game is missing some options you expect to be present in Virtual Reality games, given the time it has now been available. The game offers two locomotion types, comfort that is recommended by the developer and the classic mode that uses the analogues.
The Comfort mode sort of replicates what you would expect to see on PSVR’s dated Move controllers. With trigger being used to move forward and grip to walk backwards on the left controller – and your inventory management being on the right controller. For someone experience with VR this really felt outdated and unintuitive. Then we have Classic that is missing some basics like vignettes and HMD-based locomotion – two things that can help with motion-sickness.
As aforementioned this is a point-and-click game, meaning you will inspecting and picking up items with the trigger and cycling between cursor types with the grips and the buttons opening your inventory and map.
Overall it took me around three-hours to get the perfect run with all treasure and maximum points. Do I think I will find myself returning the game again? Unfortunately not, personally I found it hard to keep going until I got the perfect run with how the game played.
I think the only way this game will have extended play time is if you were a big fan of the original and want that nostalgic hit.
REVIEWED USING META QUEST 2
For the purposes of transparency, this review was created using a review code provided by the company or their respective PR company. The use of a press code does not affect my judgement of the product.
With Colossal Cave being a game that laid the ground-work for what gaming has become, I really wanted to this to be a success in making the jump to the medium. Unfortunately the approach taken just did not translate in Virtual Reality, with it seeming like the team wanted to keep it as close as possible to the original – and point-and-click was probably the best way to portray this.
However, that way this has been handled in Colossal Cave VR, seems to have hindered the game with some of the mechanics used back then no longer being required. Then adding to this an odd control system and the decision not using what Virtual Reality offers like in game hands to interact with items – it really takes immersion out of the game. Topping this off with lacklustre visuals (again might have been a design decision to keep it as true to the original as possible), missing comfort options that are now a staple of VR and the high price-point it makes it really hard to recommend this to people.
Release Date: January 19th 2023
Developer: Cygnus Entertainment
Publisher: Cygnus Entertainment
Price: US $39.99 / CA $45.99 / €39.99 / £29.99