VR Roundup: Virtuoso, Hitchhiker: A Mystery Game & République (Anniversary)

Virtual reality is alive and well, and we can’t wait to see what 2022 has in store for us when it comes to announcements of what’s coming to the new PlayStation VR headset. We shouldn’t forget about the excellent games that are still coming out before then though, so join us as we explore Virtuoso from Fast Travel Games, the VR version of Hitchhiker – A Mystery Game and République, which has finally arrived on PlayStation VR.

Virtuoso

We’ve been covering VR for a number of years now, and a few developers have certainly made a name for themselves as specialists in this niche. Survios and Vertigo Games come to mind, as does Fast Travel Games. The developer and publisher behind games such as Apex Construct, Budget Cuts 2, Wraith: The Oblivion and The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets is back with another new VR exclusive title: Virtuoso.

Virtuoso reaffirms Fast Travel’s reputation as one of the most interesting publishers in VR out there, adding yet another very different experience to their already diverse portfolio. It was developed by Really Interactive, and was built around the concept of playing musical instruments in VR and building your own music with it. As such, we have a hard time seeing Virtuoso as a “game” – it instead walks the line between an experience, a toolbox and a videogame – but without many of the elements you’d usually associate with the latter. There are awards for doing well, no scores that tell you how you’re doing, and no objectives. This is a sandbox experience, so if you don’t enjoy getting creative then Virtuoso probably isn’t for you.

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What also helps is an affinity for music – electronic music, in particular. While there’s a good range of instruments available to you – from drums to synthesizers to a keyboard – the included samples lend themselves best towards the creation of upbeat electronic dance music. And if you’re into the genre, then Virtuoso is incredible addictive to play around with. You can lay done basic strings first, then add a melody, and before you know it you’re finishing up a track with some beats. It teaches you how to layer all these on top of one another, but other than a few tutorials you’re free to do whatever you want with its toolbox.

The instruments in Virtuoso have been simplified and in some cases completely redesigned to work well for novices and/or people playing in VR with motion controls, so don’t expect a synthesizer to have a million little sliders, buttons and switches that you need to precisely operate. There’s a lot you can do here, but it’s not presented in a way that’s daunting to the point where you quickly want to give up. Quite the opposite, Virtuoso is the closest I’ve gotten to playing Jean Michel Jarre’s famous light harp.

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What you build, you can also share, and Virtuoso benefits from letting you download other people’s creations as well. You can just listen to these, tweak them to your own liking, jam to them as you’re performing or even use them in your own productions. It’s great fun, and will only get better as more people start uploading stuff – especially when they’re making “Virtuoso versions” of famous songs that you can then work with. Sure, it’s hard to call this one a “game”, but it definitely is a lot of fun to play around with and for the moment it’s replaced Beat Saber as our top “music” pick on the Quest.

Hitchhiker – A Mystery Game

When we originally previewed and reviewed Hitchhiker – A Mystery Game, we really enjoyed its immersive storytelling. Its first person perspective helped, so when it was announced that the game would be getting a VR adaptation we were naturally very excited and eager to play it. It’s out now for the Quest and Rift headsets, and we played the Quest version.

hitchhiker

Content-wise, the VR version of Hitchhiker is exactly what you get when you pick up the flat screen versions of the game. You get the same storytelling, the same conversations and the same weird plot twists – so if you’re played it already then there isn’t too much mystery to this mystery game anymore. It works great in virtual reality though, as you’re mostly seated as a passenger in a car, listen to the driver next to you and interact with the conversation or objects around you at somewhat regular intervals – while being free to just look around or even outside the car in between.

What’s slightly immersion-breaking is that sometimes the (otherwise excellent) voiceovers get cut off when the game hits some kind of trigger – something you wouldn’t expect to see in a game that was finished for other platforms quite a while ago. What’s also a shame is that, as a VR game, Hitchhiker is a rather lazy port. While much of the game is passive in nature, with you just sitting still, there are moments where you interact with things inside the car. You’d think this would be a great chance for added VR immersion, but the game usually just uses your hands as a laser pointer to point at and manipulate things. A missed opportunity, because more tactile responses from the environment would have made the experience better.

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As such, Hitchhiker in VR works best as a narrative/storytelling experience. If you haven’t played through its story already, then we highly recommend it. As a gameplay experience, however, it’s not as immersive as it could have been.

Republique – Anniversary Edition

Long before they developed Iron Man VR, Camouflaj was responsible for République – one of the most innovative stealth games you’ll be able to find with a narrative that lends itself very well to the times we live in. With a lot over overwatch and control that happens through technology, you follow lead protagonist Hope in her quest to escape. You’re an active spectator here, as the game’s premise is used in a clever way – you tap into video feeds and hack into security systems to help Hope out, and the game starts out with Hope directly looking into the camera to ask for your help.

republique

It’s an immersive experience by design, so when Camouflaj announced they were coming out with an Anniversary Edition we were extremely excited that it also marked the debut of the VR version for PlayStation VR. The game had previously launched for PC-based headsets and the Oculus Quest, but PSVR players hadn’t had a chance to go the VR route with the game yet.

We reviewed the original PlayStation 4 release here, which goes into more detail about the game’s plot and controls – both of which are unchanged in the Anniversary Edition. What you do get, and this is exciting for those who already played the game in one of its earlier incarnations, is documentary-style commentary from the developers, which goes into some interesting tidbits relating to the game’s development.

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In case you’re confused about which anniversary they’re celebrating here, then we understand. It’s been six years since the PS4 launch and about eight since the game launched on iOS. It’s been almost ten years since the game first surfaced on Kickstarter though, so we’re assuming that’s the mark we’re looking at. It also explains why République is starting to look a tad dated, though its older and less detailed visuals make it a great match for the PSVR’s capabilities. In a period where the industry is slowly moving towards the PSVR2 this is one of the most exciting releases for Sony’s original headset in recent months, so well worth a look. The anniversary edition comes in three flavors though: a flat screen one, a VR one and a bundled pack that contains both versions – just a heads up before you head to the PlayStation store. And we don’t know what Camouflaj is currently working on, but we’d absolutely love it if they took another stab at the techno-thriller genre and built it from the ground up for VR this time around.

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