The Lost Bear by Odd Bug Studio and Fabrik Studio is a creative new take on the platforming genre, and available now for Playstation VR.
After what seems like a steady stream of Rift/Vive-to-PSVR conversions, it’s great to see and review an original title on Playstation VR again. A traditional side-scrolling platformer with a few light puzzle elements, The Lost Bear perhaps isn’t the most obvious choice for a VR project, but it’s been realized in a way where VR actively adds atmosphere to an otherwise fairly traditional experience. If you’re looking for a comparison, then perhaps Pinball FX2 VR is a good example of how the gameplay is identical to its non-VR counterpart, but VR adds a terrific sensation of “being there” by conjuring up elements that take place all around you.
In the case of The Lost Bear, you’re seated in a virtual chair and watching the action unfold on a private theater stage in front of you. That may sounds somewhat similar to Playstation VR’s cinema mode, but the experience is quite different this time around. When things happen on stage, they can also interact with the theater where you’re sitting in – like when fireflies come at you after first interacting with the story on stage. It’s wonderfully immersive and in a way that not even 3D IMAX movies can recreate. Having said that, you’re still mostly viewing the game environment and rarely directly interacting with it.
You play as a young girl called Walnut, who has lost her teddy bear and sets out to find it. You travel through dream/fantasy-like environments in a beautifully designed and rendered game world, and the story reaches its conclusion after only about an hour of play. This is definitely on the short end, even for a VR title, but I suppose you could say that the developers went for quality over quantity this time around. Whether that’s worth the asking price it up for you to decide, but it’s definitely a game worth experiencing.
A large part of that is the immersion and audiovisual presentation, but it’s also in the way that its developers have managed to redefine how a very traditional videogame genre can be reimagined for VR. The game only makes limited use of the VR/motion controls we see in other games – allowing you to interact with a few levers and switches but otherwise sticking to a delivery where you’re a spectator to your own adventure. It’s the way it’s all presented that makes the difference, and I’d love for this to be a part of the future of cinema as well – it’s the kind of experience you sometimes get in theme parks (with “4D rides” that create extra immersion), but I was happy to experience it at home.
Trimming away the wonderful presentation, The Lost Bear is a fairly standard platformer with a few interesting puzzles thrown in as well. There are far better non-VR puzzle platformers out there though, so don’t go into it expecting to play the next Limbo in Virtual Reality. Instead, anticipate a fairytale-like experience unlike any other and you’ll come away enjoying the game – despite its very short playthrough length.