Here’s our review of P.O.L.L.E.N, a sci-fi adventure with Oculus Rift support. We actually first learned about P.O.L.L.E.N last summer, when we met with Finnish developer Mindfield Games. About nine months later the game is out as part of the first batch of Oculus Rift games coming out since the release of the consumer version of the headset.
When we first tried out the game, it was on a development kit version of the Oculus Rift, but the experience was excellent. We had actually already tried dozens of virtual reality games at that point, and felt P.O.L.L.E.N was one of the best examples we had seen. The VR aspect was never used as a gimmick, but instead added a layer of atmosphere to the game that reminded us of movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey.
In P.O.L.L.E.N, you explore a space station on one of Saturn’s moons, eager to find out what happened to one of the crew members who went missing from there. The game makes extensive use of flashbacks that show you how life at the station was in previous times, and this is how the game’s story is told and how you understand more and more about the station around you. Exploration is encouraged, and there are lots of items you can interact with that are not story-related. Instead, they provide a sense of a real living space – even when you’re the only living person there.
Though told in an interesting fashion, the game’s storytelling isn’t up to the level that we had hoped. This is a shame, because the setting and atmosphere that have been created definitely lend themselves to some great options for sci-fi stories. Instead, P.O.L.L.E.N offers up a story that never truly grips you and ends in a somewhat abrupt and bizarre way. This hurts the game in terms of how enjoyable it is as a narrative experience, which is a shame.
What P.O.L.L.E.N leaves us with in the end is a great promise. It’s a must-try experience if you have an Oculus Rift device, as it effectively transports you to a distant place among the stars. If you don’t have the option to play in VR then you might want to wait until the price drops a bit – its shortcomings as a game will shine through a little too bright in that scenario. In short: P.O.L.L.E.N is a great VR experience, and a just okay game experience.