Oculus recently had to push back the release of Lone Echo 2, but there are still plenty of new releases for the platform to enjoy. Today we’re looking at three new games for the Quest, with Clash of Chefs, Puzzling Places and Ven VR Adventure all offering very different gameplay experiences for your headset. Here are our thoughts.
Clash of Chefs VR review
Flat Hill Games has just released Clash of Chefs on Steam and for the Oculus Quest. It was out in Steam’s Early Access program already, but this marks the launch on Oculus’ platform – which is how we tested it on an Oculus Quest 2 headset. Despite a strong sense of deja vu, we really enjoyed it.
If you’re relatively new to VR, then you’ll probably at least know games like Overcooked and Cooking Mama or any of the countless spinoffs, where you have to prepare food orders as quickly as possible. Chopping up food, assembling a burger – it’s stuff that’s a natural fit for motion controls in VR, so if you’re familiar with mechanics like that you can kind of picture Clash of Chefs already.
The game offers four restaurant types, and you’ll gradually unlock new menu items in all of them. But whether you’re working the American, Mexican, Japanese or Italian kitchen, the waiter at the restaurant will supply you with orders and it’s your job to fill them. You’ll have to do it quickly as well, because leaving a customer waiting means they’ll get grumpy and that hurts your score. There’s a practice mode that doesn’t punish you for being slow and that’s a good place to start and get comfortable with the various items you need to prepare, but the real fun comes from performing under time pressure. I would have liked an interactive tutorial for each individual recipe (like an interactive recipe book) even better, but not having to worry about annoyed customers is a decent alternative.
As with real life cooking, practice makes perfect, and going too fast on a dish you’re not intimately familiar with is a recipe for disaster. A small mistake can get your food turned down by the waiter, and fumbling around with the motion controls can cause you to knock over your food and/or ingredients as well. It’s part of the fun – or stress, depending on how you see it. Either way, it’s a game that builds on easy to understand mechanics and lets anyone willing to give it a go enjoy it thanks to gameplay that’s easy to learn, yet hard to master.
On the Quest, Clash of Chefs also has the benefit that the very similar VR The Diner Duo was never released for the platform. It’s a very similar title in terms of VR gameplay, with the difference that in Diner Duo you had another player taking on the role of the waiter on the TV screen – taking and delivering orders to guests. Clash of Chefs doesn’t have that option, but it does let you compete against other chefs thanks to its multiplayer option, which lets you either set a score to another players to challenge (or vice versa) or lets you go head to head with them in real time. The latter is a blast, but does require two headsets, which is a rare setup in most households and thus Clash of Chefs is best suited for those who have a few VR buddies online that they’re willing to have a showdown with. The game is a lot of fun, but if you already have VR The Diner Duo then the core gameplay is going to feel a bit too familiar and the biggest appeal then becomes the multiplayer aspect.
Puzzling Places review
For years now, we’ve been fond of VR games that take an otherwise almost mundane real life activity and turn it into something special with the power of VR. Tumble VR did that to block stacking, and the latest game to scratch that itch is Puzzling Places, from developer realities.io inc.
Puzzling Places takes the classic jigsaw puzzle and turns it into a 3D experience in VR, and while that may not sound terribly exciting you have to imagine seeing a broken up castle in front of you that you can piece together, only to then walk around it. In many cases, you can even go indoors and work on the interior of your puzzles – and thanks to a sense of scale these locations really come to life.
What also helps is the ambient soundtrack that plays with each puzzle and fits the environment you’re piecing together, further adding to the sense of immersion that you get. The game supports breaking up your puzzles in a varying number of pieces, so I’d advise starting with a low number to get to know the 3D models well before moving on to the more challenging puzzle variants – which add replay value and lasting appeal as the most elaborate puzzles will use hundreds of small pieces and will certainly take you a while to complete.
For the larger puzzles, the game offers several handy tools to help you make a little headway, like the ability to group pieces together that you know belong to the same area of your puzzle. If you have the room for it, you can also play with all of the puzzle pieces spread around you in 360 degrees, which is a great way of utilizing the Quest’s wireless nature for a game mechanic.
Obviously the Quest’s Touch controllers also let you pick up and rotate pieces however you like, and bringing them together to build a room, building or even entire landscape is addicting. There are 16 different puzzles at launch and hopefully we’ll see some more, but with the option to change how many puzzle pieces you want to use there’s already a lot of lasting appeal here. With extremely accessible gameplay that’s welcome to newcomers and VR experts alike, it’s easy to start playing Puzzling Places and lose track of time.
Ven VR Adventure review
Monologic’s Ven VR Adventure comes really close to delivering a Quest experience we’ve long been waiting for, and its Quest port is one of the best platformers for the system thus far. Back in time first though…..
One of the first-ever VR experiences we had was when we met with Oculus in their dev kit days, and Palmer Luckey presented us with a new game to play. Not having seen the title in print at that point, we thought “Lucky’s Tale” felt a little self-indulgent as a title, but that was our mistake. Either way, it showed us what VR could go for the 3D platforming genre, and Lucky’s Tale has held a special place in our hearts ever since. When the Quest was announced, we were hoping for a port of the game for Oculus’ new standalone headset, but unfortunately that never happened. Instead, we now have Ven VR Adventure, which is a solid take on the same formula even if it’s a little rough around the edges and lacks the polish of a game like Moss.
The titular Ven is the star of the game, and he looks a little bit like a Lombax if they had a full head of hair. Your people are the EKi though, and they’re under threat from bad guy Bruce Nelson – one of the most ordinary bad guy names ever in gaming. Ven’s adventure is spread out across three worlds and provides a total of 12 levels, and the level design was done very well. Having “VR” is a factor that makes for an easy pitfall when you just rely on visual gimmicks, but levels in Ven (we don’t know why it’s not just called “Ven”) are not just nice to look at and visually explore. Expect a good amount of challenge, well placed checkpoints and plenty of variation between the various locations, both visually and in terms of layout.
The core gameplay is also solid, though Ven’s mechanics don’t branch out throughout the campaign – where games like Moss and Lucky’s Tale gradually introduce new mechanics, Ven plays it too safe. Perhaps this is because it’s a smaller production from a smaller development team, but one area that can’t be overlooked is some awfully awkward camerawork. Even with the ability to physically look around corners and behind you, it’s hard to see what’s going on because of a fixed camera perspective that you’ll wish you could just move out of the way for a second.
They’re relatively minor issues that keep Ven VR Adventure from being one of the great VR platformers out there, but they don’t stop the game from being an entertaining action adventure that generally looks and sounds good and offers plenty of content with a five hour campaign to play through. We definitely hope to see more VR work from the team, so hopefully Ven does well enough to warrant a sequel.