Also available on Oculus Rift and Gear, Virry VR: Wild Encounters was just released on Playstation VR. Here’s our review.
While VR has had a great influence on gaming, with a ton of new and exciting experiences as well as the ability to add layers to existing formulas (Resident Evil VII is a great example of that), the platform is not just about games. Releases like the Chernobyl VR Project have shown that VR can also be used for meaningful and educational experiences that have relatively little to do with traditional videogaming. The Virry VR brand falls into that category as well, and after last year’s release of Feel the Wild we now got a chance to go hands on with Wild Encounters, a brand new entry in the series.
If you played the first Virry VR title on Playstation VR, you know what to expect. Very low on traditional gameplay with just a few small ways to let you interact with it, the Virry VR titles are experiences rather than videogame. In this case, they’re the VR equivalent to an African safari trip that lets you get up close and personal with a range of animals – and it even lets you “interact” with them or even feed them.
These animals aren’t digitally recreated in 3D, but rather brought to life by 360 degree videos that were recorded at a wildlife park in Kenya. This makes for extremely high quality visuals, especially when compared to today’s VR games, but of course limits the amount of interactivity you can have. In Virry VR you can feed the animals, but it’s just a shake of the gamepad to help trigger the feeding video. It’s really too bad that Playstation VR isn’t suitable for young children, because I’m absolutely sure they’re get a big blast out of these scenes.
The way each animal encounter is structured is like a mini documentary with a wildlife expert who tells you about the animals and its behavior, which you can then see for yourself and sometimes trigger. Breaking the fourth wall in a way, some animals will have an extra interest in the camera system that was used and will try to eat it – which is a reminder that there’s a camera and that you’re not just sitting there in the wild with these animals.
A little like the lower-budget VR equivalent of a David Attenborough-narrated documentary, Virry VR: Wild Encounters can be interesting and even mesmerizing at times. You see some of these animals up close and behaving in a way that’s far more authentic than you would in a zoo. You do end up running out of content to watch quite early on though, as you’re looking at far less than 10 minutes of footage per animal spread over a few scenes. If you crave more content, and more dynamic content, you can also subscribe to the live cameras that stream footage straight from the preserve in Kenya, though this comes with an extra monthly fee.
However interesting, the pricing structure is what will hurt Virry VR: Wild Encounters the most. With a lot of 360 degree video material available for free, even if it’s of a lower quality than the footage in Virry VR, people will be less likely to take the plunge. For some reason Wild Encounter is also currently priced at a price point that makes it three times more expensive than the first title, and this doesn’t include the live camera subscription. I’m afraid this will alienate all but the true die-hard wildlife enthusiasts out there, which is a shame because the content in Virry VR, however limited it may be, is of an excellent quality and certain to bring a smile to your face. The 360 video approach also makes it a great showcase when demonstrating your VR headset to people who easily get motion sickness and/or aren’t interested in gaming – but the original Virry VR does the same at a fraction of the price.