It’s been a while since we did a VR roundup, highlighting some of the VR releases that we’ve been getting excited about. We’re changing that today with reviews of Carve Snowboarding for the Quest, a look at the recent release of Gadgeteer and news of the Quest port of Operation Warcade!
Until we had played Descent Alps, we would probably have thought that snowboarding wouldn’t really work in VR. But when you combine that experience with the fact that some of the people behind the classic 1080 Degree Snowboarding are behind Carve Snowboarding, excitement is what you get. The game’s out now for the Oculus Quest thanks to Chuhai Labs, and we’ve been having a blast with it.
Obviously, snowboarding seems like it would be a bit more challenging than skiing, since the positioning of your feet isn’t tracked and that’s much more of a thing here than it is when skiing. And yes, Carve Snowboarding can be challenging for this reason, and it’s less fitting for a gentle cruise down the mountain than Descent Alps is. Luckily, the game comes with plenty of thrills to make up for it.
Those thrills don’t come easy though, as you’ll be spending your first hour or two learning the ropes and getting comfortable with them. Part of that is learning how to NOT go with your intuition and use hand movements to control your feet instead. Things start off easy enough as you position yourself sideways as if you were on an actual snowboard, but things get more complex as you need to remember to move your front and rear hand as if they’re feet. Later on, you’ll even be controlling the tilt of your board this way, but stick with it and you’ll find it extremely rewarding in the end.
Of course this wouldn’t be virtual successor to 1080 if there weren’t aerial tricks. Jumping up in the air is done by throwing your arms up, and once airborne you need to use the grip buttons to magically transform your ‘hands/feet’ into regular hands again and grab the board for some tricks. Again, something that takes some getting used to, but great fun to pull off.
Carve Snowboarding can be played in either Time Attack mode, which is all about finding the quickest route down, or in Freestyle, where you get points for the tricks you land and grinds you perform. The latter is where you’ll see the biggest improvements as you get more and more comfortable with the controls and slopes – all of which have multiple avenues of approach.
Because of that, experimenting is encouraged, and you can pull off plenty of moves that aren’t in the tutorial phase either. Getting better also makes it easier to earn medals, which in turn will unlock additional slopes for you – which are the biggest unlocks in the game although there’s also plenty of rider/board customization to be done.
I think something that would make a game like Carve Snowboarding even more fun would be some kind of VR arcade setup with a real board to stand on, but obviously that’s not a realistic goal for home play. On the Quest, however, it’s a great experience that those with a fondness for games like 1080 Snowboarding and Descent Alps will definitely want to pick up.
Gadgeteer (now on PSVR)
Gadgeteer, from Metanaut, has been out for a while on the PCVR/Oculus platform, but was recently ported over to PSVR. Since we hadn’t taken a look at the game before, this was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up – especially because Crazy Machines VR has been one of our guilty pleasures for quite some time now.
Inspired by games like The Incredible Machine, Crazy Machines and other Rube Goldberg-like puzzle games, Gadgeteer takes another stab at recreating the concept in VR. It does so in two major ways: puzzle solving and creation, which feels like a winning mix because there’s little replay value in the included puzzle campaign but the freedom to create your own contractions makes for almost limitless fun. At the same time, the puzzle campaign is a great way to get used to some of the mechanics you can implement yourself, so they go hand in hand.
On PlayStation VR, Gadgeteer can either be controlled with a DualShock controller or using a pair of Move controllers – the latter is obviously the better choice of the two, but it’s nice to see controller support for those who don’t have Move controllers or simply prefer a regular gamepad approach. Both are functional, but with a Move you actually feel like you’re physically placing the parts of your creation into the environment – though at times it can suffer from the usual tracking issues that occur with these controllers that were launched back in 2010. The lack of a thumbstick also means that a combination of click turning and holding down a button to drag yourself around the environment are your only movement options, but because you’re never covering great distances this is easy to manage.
The game’s campaign features 60 puzzles, which are laid out inside a virtual house in a sequence – the end goal of one puzzle is the start for the next, which is a cool way of visualizing your progress. Hitting the start button for a puzzle will start things moving, after which it’s up to you to figure out how to make a little ball reach the end goal. Cue the use of ramps, domino blocks and other tools, which you’ll access through a ‘toolbox’ you hold up with your one hand while selecting and placing parts with the other hand. Some pieces you’ll simply put down, while others have to be suspended in time and space using a bit of ‘freeze’ magic – which keeps them in place once you hit start. Useful when building a bridge, not so much when you’re hoping to knock one thing into another.
Gadgeteer looks relatively simple, which means it’s probably a really solid fit for the Quest as well in terms of performance. It’s great on PSVR, emphasizing a realistic physics sandbox over photorealistic graphics, though the puzzles themselves look sharp inside the headset as well. This isn’t just true for the main campaign, but also applies to the creation suite – which gives you access to the intricate and not-so-inspired machines of others as well. As such, Gadgeteer provides almost limitless fun, and we really hope we’ll a sequel at some point – with even more puzzle pieces, obstacles and conundrums to get creative with.
Operation Warcade is out on the Quest
Over the past few months we’ve seen Ivanovich Games release a number of their VR games on the Quest through the Oculus AppLab. Many of these were inspired by classic arcade experiences, and now they’ve finally ported the game that started it all for them – Operation Warcade, a shooter inspired by the arcade classic Operation Wolf.
Operation Warcade is a title we’ve previously covered when it launched for PlayStation VR, and our review talks about the gameplay and how the classic arcade cabinets with guns mounted on them were turned into a VR experience. It works great on the Quest as well, partly because of the excellent Touch controllers that give you more of the sensation of holding a gun than the Move controllers did on PlayStation.
The game also performs well on the Quest, though we tested on a Quest 2 and can’t confirm if it’s issue-free on the first Quest as well. As with the classic arcade experience you’re mostly firing away at a (virtual) flat screen, but the action also switches to first person for some of the ‘immersion zones’ we’ve come to expect from Ivanovich Games – putting you behind the wheel of a vehicle or even jet plane. Don’t expect this to feel like Call of Duty because Operation Warcade looks very plain in comparison, but it’s a fun take on a classic arcade concept that’s hard to find these days.