Path of the Warrior, the VR beat ’em up game by Twisted Pixel of Wilson’s Heart fame, just received an update that adds online multiplayer to the game. Time to dive in and see how it plays – the game is a cross-buy for the Rift and Quest, and we spent most of our time with the Quest version.
Obviously, the traditional side-scrolling beat ’em up isn’t the most obvious choice for a VR adaptation. Games like Double Dragon, Renegade, Streets of Rage and nineties classics like Final Fight are so tightly connected to a sideways view of the action that it’s hard to imagine it in VR. This isn’t the first take on the genre though, because nDreams already gave us Bloody Zombies – which used VR as a clever way to explore the environment for a visually striking experience (and one that could be played together with non-VR players as well).
Twisted Pixel’s VR approach to the genre is quite different from what we saw in Bloody Zombies. While that has a somewhat traditional 2D ‘left to right’ level design, Path of the Warrior shifts the action to a first person perspective where you literally become (rather than view and control) your fighter. You have a choice between a male and female character, though both feel more or less the same while playing.
You can throw a variety of punches and you can also kick your opponents, although the game is heavier on the punching than its arcade inspirations, for obvious reasons. Punching is intuitive, with different motions resulting in jabs, hooks and uppercuts. Kicking is done with the press of a button on on the Oculus Touch controller so that’s quite a bit less immersive, but it can help you clear some space between you and your enemies.
Speaking of immersion, let’s dive into those punches a bit more. While it’s fun to physically knock down the gang members that come at you, the punches you throw act more like triggers for predefined animations than in-game reflections of what you’re actually doing. If you’ve played a boxing game like Creed before, you’ll know what I mean – this results in all punches of the same type looking identical, which is a bit of a missed opportunity when you try and get a little more creative with your movements.
There are plenty of other fun ways to engage with enemies and the environment as well, just like there were in the arcade classics that came before. You can pick up items to smash people over the head with, or you can even grab the enemy and throw him around the room – which is very satisfying indeed.
Movement, besides a few small steps you physically take while fighting, is handled by the thumbsticks on the Touch controllers. You can also opt for incremental turns if you prefer that in terms of VR comfort, but I had no issues with the smooth locomotion at all. Because of the recent patch to the game I was also able to play it in online co-op, which (as with the arcade beat ’em ups) is a lot of fun to do but does require a second headset (unlike co-op in Bloody Zombies). Physically seeing your buddy in the game space with you is a nice twist though, as it enables you to position yourselves in ways to help spread the enemy attacks or tackle that challenging boss with a new strategy.
With 5 levels, Path of the Warrior is short – but let’s not forget that most of the arcade inspirations for the game could also be completed in under an hour. From that perspective, the two to three hours spent completing the game is good value for money (it’s priced at a modest 20 Dollars/Euros). The biggest thing holding back the game is the limited scope of variety in your attacks and enemies, but it’s a fun first step at a game of this type in first person VR.