Three very different releases today, as we explore VR sailing with MarineVerse Cup on the Quest 2, check out the narrative-driven walking sim Ghost on the Shore and dive into a quick platforming diversion with Explosive Candy World.
MarineVerse Cup (Quest 2)
VR continues to be a great platform on which to explore the boundaries between ‘game’ and ‘experience’, and MarineVerse Cup is a good example of that as it aims to bring a sailing experience to those with Quest 2 headsets. Developed in Australia by sailors and engineers, it certainly has plenty of promise of authenticity.
The opening moments of MarineVerse Cup are certainly atmospheric, with beautiful blue water in front of you and shorelines in the distance while the gentle sounds of water and wind surround you – all that’s missing is a slight breeze, so I considered setting up a fan to create that as well. It’s a great starting point for the game’s tutorials, which were more than welcome for me as someone who’s never sailed before.
And while I don’t think I’m ready to set foot aboard an actual sailboat and take it out to sea, the tutorials are quite in-depth and teach players a lot of the ins and outs that are involved. It may veer a bit too much towards the sim end of things for a novice like myself, but if anything it did instill me with a sense of respect and understanding towards those who competitively race during events like the olympics.
This attention to detail is probably MarineVerse Cup’s greatest strength and weakness at the same time. Sailing feels involved enough to satisfy enthusiasts and it’s a great starting point for those who are curious about the sport, but at the same time it’s not as thrilling as other games that focus on racing – which MarineVerse Cup does. The nature of a sailing race is that boats tend to be spread apart and overtakes are rarely close encounters, which doesn’t make for exciting moment-to-moment gameplay in the sense that many car racing games do. There are a few mini-games where you collect stuff, but they don’t exactly amp the excitement levels up to 100 either.
Sailing your boat by yourself involves multiple tasks and positions, and multi-tasking between them is pretty exciting once you get the hang of it, but ultimately you’ll probably use the included controller shortcuts to coordinate everything without “physically” moving around the boat. It’s a tad immersion-breaking for a VR game in that sense, but I caught myself not walking to teleport myself just to make a small adjustment every few seconds.
MarineVerse Cup is a solid intro for those interested in sailing who can’t engage with the sport because of logistical and/or cost reasons. It’s far from the most exciting racing game out there, but a nice example of VR bringing an otherwise exotic sport closer to home. Enthusiasts will probably enjoy the sensation of going for a quick sailing trip while at home, even though it won’t compare to the real thing.
Ghost On The Shore (PC)
Developed by Belgian studio “like Charlie” and published by Application Systems Heidelberg, Ghost on the Shore is a narrative-driven exploration game that we first discovered when we played a demo during one of the digital trade shows of the past two years. It’s out on Steam now, so it was time for a closer look.
While a title like “Ghost on the Coast” would have rhymed well for this game, it would have also sounded far too silly for what is ultimately a serious and emotional tale that deals with issues like loss over a timespan of roughly four hours. You play as Riley, who discovers a mysterious island and sets foot on it to explore, only to find a voice suddenly talking to her from inside her head – spurring you and narrative on.
On the island, you’ll encounter ghosts, all of whom are part of your journey around the island. You’ll find remnants of past lives (such as diaries) as well as choices to make, which ultimately lead to different endings. Most of the story elements that you find in the game world though, such as diary entries, will be the same – making your choices more a matter of interpretation than radically different paths across the island.
This isn’t a big issue because the writing is quite good, with well-developed characters that I wanted to know more about, so I was always keen to find and check out the things they had left behind in their mortal lives. This is an important part of any walking simulator, and as such Ghost on the Shore is a success, and even though I’m not sure if people will go back for the alternate endings it’s nice that you can shape the story to your own liking somewhat – interactivity is another benefit for a game in this genre.
Presentation-wise, Ghost on the Shore certainly isn’t the most impressive game out there, especially within its genre – which is known for delivering rich, detailed and atmospheric visuals. When you consider that this is a game being released a whole decade after Dear Esther, you realize that the strength of the game lies in its narrative, not its visual delivery. Luckily, the audio and voiceover work is good and adds to the story, which is well worth exploring for fans of narrative-driven walking simulators.
Explosive Candy World (PS4)
Eastasiasoft’s latest console release is Explosive Candy World, which was originally developed and released on PC by Marcos Game Dev and then ported over to consoles by Ratalaika Games. And, thematically, it certainly fits with some of Eastasiasoft’s recent releases, which include the likes of Cake Invaders.
Explosive Candy World is a retro-flavored platformer with physics puzzle elements. Its core mechanics are simple, but the game gradually builds on these over the course of the game. It also doesn’t waste any time on some kind of plot or narrative development, so it’s pure gameplay all the way – the kind that’s inspired by arcade and mobile games, in a way, because Explosive Candy World certainly breaks from the traditions of regular platformers.
For one, there’s absolutely no running or jumping here, usually the first two things that come to mind in the platforming genre. Instead, explosions are your preferred method of traversal through a candy-filled world that would make even Willy Wonka jealous. The way this works is that you essentially rocket-jump your way towards an exit portal in each level, aiming at the ground or obstacles that are in your way and need destroying until you get there or fall to your death and restart. If you liked Midnight Deluxe, you’ll certainly enjoy this one as well.
Explosive Candy World isn’t the longest game and hands you a platinum trophy way too soon (although this is a probably a plus in some players’ books), but it does manage to introduce new mechanics regularly that keep things fun – such as candy that sucks you into it and lets you launch yourself again from mid-air. That makes it a short-lived but fun little diversion, despite its far from impressive visuals and mobile-like mechanics.