Out right now and exclusive to the Oculus Quest platform (with a Rift version to follow) Mare is Visiontrick Media’s long-awaited puzzle-driven adventure that is one of the Quest’s more striking experiences.
With a very casual or “lite” approach to puzzle gameplay, Mare walks the boundary between a traditional videogame and a VR experience, but its excellent visuals (especially by Quest standards) through the delivery of wonderful art and design should sway those interested on either side of that fine line. It’s easy to draw comparisons to games like ICO, but I found that the slightly minimalist visuals combined with a great sense of style and visual design also reminded me of the more recent The Falconeer.
Part of that, no doubt, is also because Mare features a mysterious artificial bird and a young girl as its main protagonists. You control the bird, and where you perch down defines the direction in which the girl will walk next. That sounds overly simplistic, but it’s the core mechanic for the game and plays out in creative ways throughout the game’s eight worlds/scenes. While the road towards a perch might be blocked initially, traveling towards another one first can open up new pathways as you circumvent obstacles that way.
In addition, you also need to keep your friend safe from an ominous race of shadow-like creatures that inhabit the fantasy land in which everything plays out. And because simply guiding her in your general direction would be a bit too simplistic, you can also interact with objects in the environment, triggering switches or using bolts of lightning. In some cases, this will result in a jolt for your friend, which can be necessary in order to progress as it urges her on, but it does feel slightly at odds with the concept of friendship or at least a mutual bond.
As with many VR games, Mare is slightly short on content, and can be completed on a single charge of the Quest headset. There is a bit of replay value in the ability to go back and find collectibles (which, randomly, are cats). And although that might sound a bit vague, it’s actually quite fitting with the main narrative for the game as well, since Mare definitely doesn’t spell out the story for the player and keeps many of its notions abstract and up to the player’s own interpretation.
Much of the story is told visually, and as such it’s Mare’s excellent audiovisual presentation that ultimately leaves the biggest impression. Puzzle fans will find the level of challenge underwhelming and the narrative can be a bit abstruse, but undertaking the journey is a VR experience few Quest titles have achieved so far.