Pop-Up Pilgrims Review (PSVR)
For the purposes of transparency, this review was created using a code provided by the company or their respective PR company. The use of a review code does not affect my judgement of the game.
Pop-Up Pilgrims is something that grabbed my attention when I first saw footage of the game, I believe that games that use 2D elements in VR can be just as enjoyable. But, did Pop-Up Pilgrims bring something interesting to the VR platform?
The story in Pop-Up Pilgrims is only really brief, the Demon King has stolen ancient scrolls and it is yours and the pilgrims job to get them back. This is played out in prologue by the use of captioned drawings, this is not played out and audio based in anyway. Going through this part is about as brief as the story – however, when you have game like this one a deep story is not really required.
What I feel is required in a game like Pop-Up Pilgrims is addictive gameplay. If you are of the age where you can remember Lemmings, the games brings similar and just as addictive and also frustrating gameplay to that. Pop-Up Pilgrims is certainly classified and a puzzle platformer, where your main objective is going to be guide the pilgrims to the gates out of the level. Which are sometimes open automatically, but at times you will need to feed a statue green orbs which are placed around the level to open the gate.
Where there is only a few ways to guide the pilgrims where you want them to go, you will really need to look about the level first. The basics are you are in control of a cloud, you select the pilgrim you wish to control with this cloud and can make them jump, hence the platform element. The only other way your going to control them is by placing clouds and selecting a direction – but this is not always available to you. In order to have this ability you will need to collect some orbs to please the cloud God floating above the level, this will then allow you to place these clouds. The orbs needed might at times be placed inside rocks, that you will need to jump your pilgrims into to collect.
The stages will also have some control over your pilgrims. This is shown by a leaf on the end of the platform, where ever this leaf is pointing to it will direct your pilgrim in this direction when they reach this. However, these will never guide your pilgrims across a platform, just back and forward a level – it is 100% your job to jump them over to the next platform.
This might all sound a little simple, but the game will start to also throw enemies your way. Some may poison your pilgrims and others may kill them. As you get later into the game more and more enemy types are introduced, and you need to really pay attention to the placement of these enemies. As you progress through the game you will be granted the chance to make Pilgrims either Archers or Warriors, this will come in handy for clearing some of the enemies and for the final level of the worlds. Why the final levels of the worlds? I hear you ask; well at the end of each world you will face a boss battle. The only issue I found with the boss battles was they become quite repetitive, because it’s all a bit rinse and repeat.
Those are the main mechanics of what you are up against when completing the levels, however, there is a mix of something that can make it a lot more frustrating. This is… the game is very trial and error, but to make things worse if a pilgrim dies it will not be available the next level, and this reduction makes it a lot harder to progress. Not only down the fact you have less Pilgrims and all of them dying will fail the level, they also mount to points if they escape. This is so important and getting a pilgrim out is not going to let you move onto the next level, you have to score a set number of points. These points are collated by number of pilgrims escaped and also the collecting of sacred octopus placed around the levels. There are three tiers for your scoring bronze, silver and gold – you will need at least that bronze to progress.
You can earn pilgrims back in some levels, but this is not every level. In the levels you can coins will be placed inside rocks, like the previously mentioned orbs. So you will need to smash these coins out and deliver them to a chest in the level, each coin will grant you and extra pilgrim for the next level. This is the only way you are going to get them back.
The game does also offer a couch co-op mode, where the player outside of the VR can control a pig. Although you will have to be careful which friend you play this with because they can help or hinder you and your pilgrims. It was nice to see the team introduce some co-op elements to the game, but it certainly feels like an after-thought rather than something that was planned from day one.
The Pop-Up part of the game’s name comes from the design of the presentation of the game, with them really feeling like Pop-Up levels. Where this is a really strong part of the games look, overall the presentation is a bit of a mixed bag,
Visually the game reminds my of the old style Japanese paintings, and this is something I really like about the game. The pilgrims, enemies and the platforms that build up the levels are all 2D – but placed in a 3D space. This offers the player chance to lean in and see between the layers, which really gives that Pop-Up book feeling and really is important because some of the collectible octopus mentioned in the gameplay could be hidden. One other thing I liked about the visuals is the team at Dakko Dakko have brought a different look and colour scheme for each world, making each one feel different. This is done by varying colour schemes, some bright and some dull – but they all look nice.
Unfortunately I didn’t feel the use of the audio was that strong, and this is where the overall presentation became mixed. Like with the design of the levels the background music will also change, but these all sound a little similar – which makes it become a little repetitive. Also, there is no change in the pacing of the music for the end of world boss battles, which for me should have been a bit more intense to set that boss battle feeling. The only real use of other noises are the sounds from the pilgrims as they jump and the noises from the enemies. I just feel the audio could have been used a little better.
When it comes to controls in the game given what you are doing it’s a very simple scheme to pick up. In order to take your control of the pilgrims mentioned in the gameplay, there is a little cloud in the game where you just look at the pilgrim to select it. You then move your head it shows the direction the pilgrim will go if you press the jump button – so if it is going right and you need it to go left, select it look in that direction and press jump (L2) it will jump that way and change its path. The only other way to control them is the aforementioned cloud placing, this is done by holding R2 and pressing on the analogue which direction in order to place that arrow, and those are the two control mechanics.
Now, there is one issue that comes with this simple mechanic, when you have a large amount of pilgrims still alive and in a big group, it is very fiddly and difficult to know which one you are selecting. Which in turn might lead to you losing a pilgrim, resulting in less for taking on the next stage.
While playing the game you can play it in either a standing or seated position, but given how the game works I can’t see why you would play it in anything other than the seated position. The game only comes with support for the Dual-Shock controller, although given the way the game controls I could only see trying to map the controls to a move controller being a fiddly mess. So, the team made the right choice in only offering Dual-Shock support.
Overall to get through all of the worlds on offer it will take you around six hours to complete the game, given it’s trial and error gameplay. However, if you are wanting that platinum trophy that comes with the game, expect many hours more. This is down to the difficulty of some of the trophies and the challenge they will bring with them – especially that complete all the worlds without losing a pilgrim.
I am always interested in seeing new ideas come to the VR platforms, and this is something Pop-Up Pilgrims brings. It made me reminisce of my days playing Lemmings, and I feel if you were a huge Lemmings fan this is certainly for you. However given the trial and error gameplay it may not be suited for everyone – as this can make it all become repetitive and frustrating. You will also find the game eases you into it, but around the fourth world you will hit a difficulty spike, adding to this aforementioned frustration.
Playstation VR Exclusive
Developer: Dakko Dakko
Leave a comment