Release roundup: 2076 – Midway Multiverse, The Dead Tree of Ranchiuna & Gav-Gav Odyssey

With 2076 – Midway Multiverse, The Dead Tree of Ranchiuna and Gav-Gav Odyssey we’re checking out three very different games in this roundup of new releases. 2076 brings the classic side-scrolling arcade shooter to VR, The Dead Tree of Ranchiuna is a narrative-driven walking simulator and Gav-Gav Odyssey a puzzle adventure about three dogs in space. Read on to find out more.

2076 – Midway Multiverse

We’ve gotten to know Ivanovich Games as a specialist in VR games that draw inspiration from classic arcade titles. Operation Warcade was a take on Operation Wolf, 1976 – Back to Midway channeled Capcom’s 1942 and Pangman was, well – you get the idea. Their latest game is 2076 – Midway Multiverse, a sequel of sorts to 1976 that really runs with the popular multiverse theme to present us with a sci-fi arcade shooter.

There’s a big difference between 1976 and 2076 though, and we’re not talking about the 1000 year difference that puts this one into sci-fi realm. Where 1976 was a vertical scrolling shooter like 1942, this follow-up goes with a horizontal approach and feels much more inspired by the likes of Gradius. It’s a change that works great in VR, because the new perspective feels like it has more depth and at times it’s like steering a spaceship through a diorama.

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The story ties into the whole multiverse theme by claiming that your actions in 1976 tore a big hole in time and space and created a ton of alternate realities in which Hitler actually won the war – the very thing you were trying to prevent. He also took to space, so now you’re up against the Nazi Galactic Empire. And yes, the game knows how silly the premise is, and presents it in a cheesy way.

It’s safe to say that Ivanovich Games tried to implement every single VR lesson learnt over the years into this game – for better and for worse. The “immersion zones” where the action briefly switches to a first person perspective are back, and they’re still thrilling even though they don’t look as good as the side scrolling parts of the level. That’s mostly on account of the side scrolling gameplay looking excellent though – this would be a decent looking shooter on the flat screen and it’s Ivanovich Games’ best so far.

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Where the game stumbles is when it goes into its most immersive mode, with all the options turned on. Here, you’re expected to steer your spaceship through each of the 100 (!) levels, take out the enemies, switch to first person now and then, but also use motion controls to interact with the environment. Remember that diorama comment from before? It feels even more like one when you actually have to reach in and manipulate things. It’s a novel idea, but in practice it feels like too much to handle at once and we were perfectly happy just treating this as a VR take on the classic sci-fi arcade shooter. A big recommendation if you enjoy the genre and wonder what it’d be like in VR.

The Dead Tree of Ranchiuna

Eastasiasoft has only recently started working with Tonguç Bodur, but The Dead Tree of Ranchiuna is already the third title of his to make it to consoles. And, as with Drizzlepath: Deja Vu and Lucid Cycle, the end result is a visually gorgeous journey that plays out as a walking simulator. Dreamlike imagery and a surreal storyline means that if you enjoyed Bodur’s previous games, you’ll probably want to play this one as well. At the same time, this is a game that won’t pull you in if the other ones didn’t gel with you, even though it features more ‘traditional’ gameplay elements in the shape of puzzles.

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The Dead Tree of Ranchiuna casts you as a young man who returns to his childhood home, only to find out that the village is now completely empty – a stark contrast with the past, which is laid out through visions during your playthrough. And although the locations that Bodur has realized are often gorgeous and dreamlike, the story itself is rather dark and most of the characters that feature in it are far from likeable.

Despite being rather linear in nature, the game is designed like a mystery – one where you slowly unravel clues that help tell the full story – one with many emotional undertones as the narrative explores themes like friendship, loss and betrayal. It’s unfortunate that the character models and (voice) acting don’t match the quality of the environments here, but it’s an interesting journey that’s about the length of a feature film with some minor padding in the shape of a few small puzzles.

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There are certainly better games in the genre out there, but Bodur’s knack for creating impressive audiovisual environments shines through yet again, and The Dead Tree of Ranchiuna has a budget-friendly price tag that lets fans of walking simulators enjoy it without breaking the bank.

Gav-Gav Odyssey

Originally developed by HugePixel, Gav-Gav Odyssey also received a simultaneous launch on consoles thanks to ChiliDog Interactive. It’s a quirky little puzzle game with small platforming elements, with a dash of ‘minigame compilation’ thrown in as well. It’s out for PCs as well as all major consoles, and we tested the PlayStation version.

Gav-Gav Odyssey has a ‘puppies in space’ sci-fi theme to it, though the narrative doesn’t extend very far beyond an opening act in which three dogs are shot down and two of them now need to be rescued. The game then unfolds in three acts, each of which presents the player with a specific type puzzle to complete. In a way, you’re getting three puzzle games in one, which isn’t a bad deal when you consider that this is already a game that’s being sold at a budget price.

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The first puzzle type is a top-down sokoban-like block sliding puzzle, though here you’re not manipulating blocks but barking at chickens, who will then move away from you and into what’s hopefully a useful spot – often activating a button for you. It’s nothing overly new, but it’s a proven formula and presents players with a few fun puzzles to solve – as does the second puzzle section.

Here, you’ve already found one of your puppy friends, but you’re in separate mini mazes – yet you control both dogs simultaneously. These are easily the best and most fun puzzles in the game, where a move towards the exit for one dog might spell doom for the other one – thus really testing your problem-solving skills.

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The third puzzle section is perhaps the most creative of the three, but it falters in its execution. Here, the action switches to a side-scrolling platformer, where you have to make boxes drop in order to advance past obstacles. Weight matters, as some boxes will crush others and get you stuck. The problem here is that timing becomes a big factor, as you can’t just place boxes at your own pace but have to trigger their drops by walking underneath them, which is often a finicky and frustrating experience.

For its budget price we can’t complain too much, but it’s unfortunate that a solid-though-somewhat-generic puzzler ends on a low like this. With about two hours of gameplay this is an easy trophy list for collectors though, and some of the puzzles are definitely fun to figure out and solve.

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