Red Matter, Vertical Robot’s acclaimed VR puzzle adventure, was only just announced for Playstation VR very recently with a tweet last week – which made sure we didn’t have to wait long to play it. It’s out now in Europe and heading to the US next week, and we jumped at the chance to explore it and write this review.
Chances are that any title you come across with the word “Red” in it has something to do with either sci-fi or communism. I’m exaggerating (and aware of RDR 2), but Red Matter is actually a rare combination of both as it takes place against the backdrop of a sci-fi version of the cold war. You travel to an abandoned space station on one of Saturn’s moons to try and uncover what happened there, and you quickly start running into clever logic puzzles as you start your mission.
Vertical Robot’s puzzle adventure has one of the most mature control schemes I’ve encountered so far, with multiple control methods available to you. I rarely enjoy anything but smooth locomotion, but in Red Matter you kind of drift forward in zero gravity rather than whisk yourself from spot to spot, making this “long jump” option feel much more natural and comfortable. Want to use teleportation or smooth locomotion instead? You can do that too, and there are several options to turn with more on the way in an upcoming patch.
Interacting with the environment, with a pair of Move controllers, also works well and makes most of the puzzles literally feel like a “hands on” experience. You use a mix of your hands and grapplers, and constantly have visual cues available for the controls if you look down – a nice alternative to a button layout tucked away behind a menu option when the game is paused.
Red Matter plays smoothly also due to a steady framerate, something it achieves despite excellent visuals – some of the best we’ve seen so far on Playstation VR, especially from a smaller studio. There are high resolution textures, good lighting effects, and a great visual style that’s retro-futuristic with elements of Soviet-style history as well as plenty of science fiction nods. In a way, this combination of new and old reminded me of Bioshock, and that’s not a bad comparison to be able to make.
This game plays out very differently from Bioshock though – it heavily emphasizes puzzles over action, even though there are a few sections of mostly casual platforming involved as well. The puzzles are definitely the main draw though, and I found them to be very well designed. They never feel like they’re too easy, and when you get stumped there is pretty much always a way to uncover clues as to the solution by exploring more – I didn’t have to resort to an online walkthrough once.
My playthrough took me just under five hours and although there is little reason to play the game again, I really enjoyed my time with Red Matter. It may not be a AAA production, but it’s a game that’s hard to fault and it also doesn’t have a AAA price point. Highly recommended as a VR purchase this holiday season.