We’re looking at three brilliantly creative titles today, with the Quest release of Carly and the Reaperman, Hitchhiker and World Splitter.
Carly and the Reaperman (Quest)
To this date, Carly and the Reaperman by Odd Raven Studios remains one of our favorite VR experiences. When we reviewed it after it launched for the PlayStation VR platform, we especially liked how it used the television screen as a way for a second player to cooperatively play together with the VR player – still a relatively unique mechanics not used enough in the VR sphere.
When it was announced that the game was coming to the Quest, we were wondering if it wasn’t going to feel like a reduced version of a beloved game because of the Quest’s lack of a secondary screen. There’s a lot that the Quest can handle, but we were worried that all we’d have to play with was the single player mode, which is fun but unremarkable compared to the excellent co-op experience.
Luckily, the developers have found smart ways around this limitation and still offers co-op – and it even does so in a number of different ways, giving a slightly different experience each time depending on your setup. The easiest option to set up involves sending a friend a code to help him/her take over one of the protagonists – an option that’s fairly basic and relies on voice chat.
Another option you have is to download a PC/Mac client and have your co-op buddy control their part of the game that way, but there’s even an option where you join forces with a second player who’s also in VR. This of course requires two headsets to work, but it’s a great experience where you’re both transported to another world and cooperative in ways that are even more immersive than they were when using a flat screen.
Is the Quest version even better than the PSVR one then? That’s certainly down to personal preference and how you want to play. It’s a bit trickier to set up on the technical front so it’s slightly less accessible (and slightly less stable at launch, it seemed), but when it clicks it’s a stellar VR experience for those looking to play together.
Hitchhiker, from Mad About Pandas and being published by Versus Evil, is another game that we fondly remember – although it didn’t come out until this past week. We previewed the game back in 2019 after Gamescom, where it ranked as one of our most pleasant surprises of the year. It seemingly vanished from the limelight for a while after that, but recently resurfaced and was now a multi-platform release for all major consoles as well as PCs.
In popular culture, hitchhiking is almost always associated with something weird and/or ominous – the new Hitchhiker game is no exception. It’s very much story driven with limited interactivity in the traditional videogaming sense, as for most of the game you’re just a passenger seated alongside a driver, listening to their stories and sometimes interacting with something in the car or noticing something you pass by.
One of the initial mysteries is your own identity and why you’re hitchhiking. Then, you start realizing there’s more at work here – why does the mysterious driver next to you know more than he should? Hitchhiker is all about interactive storytelling, and it’s a great ride to be on if you like a good mystery.
The game is divided up into five chapters, each one being a new ride with a different driver. You eventually find out they’re all connected to the unknown story surrounding our protagonist, often in strange and unexpected ways – it’s a very Twilight Zone-like tale at time, so if you’re a fan of similar narratives you know what you’re in for.
Both the writing and the delivery of the narrative have been done very well, immersing you in the story and drawing in non-gamers as well. The visuals aren’t anything spectacular, but the voiceovers are top quality and the characters interesting. There are some visually creative cutscenes as well that help break the cycle of ride-alongs for either narrative twists or just general weirdness, and even though Hitchhiker doesn’t feel “next gen” and has limited replay value, it’s a ride we wouldn’t have wanted to miss.
We reported on World Splitter in preview coverage earlier, but the creative puzzle platformer from NeoBird and Bumble3ee has now been released on the PS4, Nintendo Switch and PC. An Xbox One version will come out a little later.
The ability to engage with two different worlds at once isn’t unique to gaming, but the way it’s been implemented in World Splitter certainly is, even though the core objective is rather formulaic. In each level, your little guy has to get to the end, and pick up/save as many colorful friends of yours as you can while doing so. This doesn’t change during the game’s 60 levels, though you can play them in different ways for additional objectives – some that emphasize speeds while others rely on efficiency. You’ll also notice that portals, switches and new enemy types are gradually introduced, but the objective stays the same.
The main thing that is constant throughout all of that, however, is how you can move the dividing lines between dimensions in real time. These divisions are straight lines, and you can change both their position and orientation for different results. This can eliminate obstacles for you, create new ones, or even raise the floor you’re standing on (though you can also make it vanish and fall into a pit of lava). I’d almost say it’s the core control mechanic for the game even though you’re actively controlling a little guy on the screen as well – partly because his platforming abilities are quite limited and thus rely on your world-bending skills.
These skills can be helpful, but they have a downside as well – you can crush your little guy between wall elements from different dimensions, or expose him to an enemy that wasn’t previously a danger. There’s a lot of multitasking going on between controlling both the rifts between worlds and your character at once, and it can lead to frustrating deaths – sometimes because the physics can get a little glitchy as worlds don’t line up great and you can get caught between them or be launched towards places you don’t want to be.
Because there’s so much to wrap your head around in World Splitter, it can be hard to find a good “flow” while playing. That comes with frustrations, but the upside of that is that I never got bored with the game and its mechanics. Although the core premise remained simple enough, at one point I was juggling four different dimensions, gravity inversions, portals and enemies – the puzzle enthusiast in me was quick to forgive that it doesn’t always organically flow together and I had fun getting to the end of the core campaign.