Released by ARTE – previously responsible for the excellent A Fisherman’s Tale – Gloomy Eyes is a narrative-focused VR production that’s now available for the Oculus Quest.
Produced right from the start as a VR-only production, Gloomy Eyes is a bit like Invasion and Allumette, which for many (PlayStation VR) headset owners are probably some of the earliest examples of VR that they’ve seen because they were free experiences. They’re both animated shorts that use virtual reality to transport you straight into the scene rather than just showing you the story, and Allumette especially is a lovely example of how storytelling can work in VR using an animated diorama.
ARTE’s new production isn’t free, but it’s available at a budget price and its runtime is quite a bit longer than what you get with something like Invasion – which is only about five minutes long. Gloomy Eyes isn’t quite at feature length either, but runs for about 30 minutes – enough to cut up the story in three different chapters so you can dive in at different times.
In the story, the sun has vanished because it got tired of humans, and this has prompted the undead to rise up and start walking the earth. This has been going on for ten years now, and the new leadership has banned zombies – now forced to live in hiding. They only come out at night when the hunters have gone to bed, and this is when we’re introduced to Gloomy, a young zombie boy who ends up meeting a mortal girl called Nena and forges a special bond with her. It’s a tale of forbidden love, social inequality and fear – issues that resonate with our own reality.
The narrative is told using voiceovers, which in the English version are done by Colin Farrel. More impressive is the way that the visuals support the narrative though, with a clever and (thematically) fitting use of light and darkness to direct your gaze at where the story is currently unfolding. Virtual reality is also used to great effect, with the “stage” wrapping all around you as characters move through the world and different part of the background are lit up as they’re relevant to the story. It creates a sense of focus and direction that goes hand in hand with the immersive nature of VR storytelling, making this one of the better examples in this niche genre so far.
Gloomy Eyes also supports hand tracking, which was recently introduced to the Quest but is obviously not an integral part to the experience here. You can select your desired language at the start and that’s about it, but it’s nice to not have to bother with explaining the Touch controllers when using something like this as a VR showcase.
These types of non-interactive productions aren’t for everyone and some might discard it in favor of the free examples out there, but if you’re interested in VR beyond just gaming and wonder what the medium can do – this is a great way of showing you in a much more content-rich environment.