PSVR2 might not arrive until February 22nd, but there are already plenty of VR projects worth looking into. Today we check out three of them, with Dyschronia: Chronos Alternate, Chernobyl Again and Townscaper VR.
Dyschronia: Chronos Alternate review (Quest)
After Tokyo Chronos and ALTDEUS: Beyond Chronos, Dyschronia: Chronos Alternate is the third title that developer MyDearest is releasing in the Chronos series. It’s already out for the Quest headset, but is getting a flat screen version for the Nintendo Switch as well. If you enjoyed Beyond Chronos, then you’ll want to dive into this (six hour) mystery too.
The full title for the game is Dyschronia: Chaos Alternate – Episode 1, and this first part of the story takes you to a futuristic utopia called Astrum Close. In a plot twist that reminded us of Minority Report, a system that prevents crime by reading people’s feelings fails when the city’s founder is suddenly found murdered. As Hal Scion, you and your robot buddy Lily have to figure out what happened and who was responsible.
Traveling around the city, you’ll be interviewing witnesses and other people of interest as you search crime scenes. As you do this, you can make use of your ability to touch objects and “see” some of the memories that are attached to them, delving into both the care and your own personal history (because as the anime norm goes, you suffer from amnesia yourself). Another neat mechanic involves switching between the normal world and the ‘augmented dreaming’ world where you can engage with people’s consciousnesses. There’s a Philip K. Dick vibe to it all that we really enjoyed.
Besides the investigation at the heart of the game, Dyschronia: Chaos Alternate also features simple stealth sections that feel a bit undercooked, but they don’t get in the way of the story. The Ace Attorney-like courtroom drama sections near the end, where you make and defend your case based on the clues you’ve uncovered, fare much better in comparison. Thanks to some great writing, the episode wraps up in a very engaging manner this way.
And as with previous MyDearest productions, Dyschronia: Chaos Alternate – Episode 1 convincingly puts you inside an anime visual novel through the power of VR. It’s still a visual novel so don’t expect a fully immersive and interactive 3D world, but lovely character models and some excellent voice acting and music bring this one to life, and we can’t wait to see the next two episodes.
Chernobyl Again preview (Kickstarter)
There’s always something special about the last appointment you have at a trade show – that moment where you realize it’s the last one after a few grueling days, before you can go home and let everything sink in. This year at Gamescom, that last meeting was for Chernobyl Again by Polish studio Vimagineo. It’s coming to Meta Quest 2, Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, and PC VR, and you can already find out more and support the project through the Kickstarter that’s currently running.
In Chernobyl Again, you’ll play the role of a Ukrainian scientist who’s discovered time travel. Your own reasons for this are very personal and lovely, as you’re hoping to see your parents again, but it doesn’t take long before the powers that be see much more ominous uses for your technology, hoping to alter the world order in their favor. Tied into this personal story and the political intrigue and conspiracies that this sci-fi thriller brings is the disaster at Chernobyl, which has you traveling into the exclusion zone with the ability to prevent the disaster from ever happening.
Part of the development team at Vimagineo was previously involved the with the impressive Chernobyl VR Project so it’s no surprise that you get to step into 3D-scanned environments here, but where that was more of a documentary-style production you get a fully realized game here with mystery, thriller and sci-fi elements, which certainly has us intrigued. At Gamescom we already went hands on with a demo for the game, and although our demo slot was too short to get a good feel for the gameplay we loved the atmosphere they’ve crafted for the game and can’t wait for a longer stab at the game. The demo build was said to already have 90 minutes of gameplay in it, so it’s definitely not going to be a short game when it launches – one to watch!
Townscaper VR review (Quest)
We never played the original PC-based version of the Oskar Stålberg-developed title Townscaper, but Raw Fury recently launched a VR version of the game for Quest and PICO headsets – we played the Quest one on a Quest 2.
In our Quest library, Townscaper VR is a bit of an odd one. While there are plenty of ‘experiences’ to be found on the platform, from documentaries to VR animations, the sandbox builder genre is an underrepresented one. Featuring very little in the way of gameplay and objectives, Townscaper VR offers just that – a dynamic set of building blocks that you can use to shape your own tranquil little town. And, as something you play for twenty or thirty minutes at a time, it’s surprisingly addictive.
Townscaper VR is essentially a diorama builder, and while the real process can be painstaking process that takes tons of time, it’s been made extremely easy here. Using your Touch controllers, you can easily select, color and place blocks on your virtual canvas. Depending on how tall you build, the game will turn it into single or multi-storey building. Place another one next to it, and they’ll automatically get connected. Make one of them taller, and you’ll start to see stairs.
With the option to also erase (parts of) buildings, you can make elaborate setups with arches, bridges and little houses that stand underneath giant archways that tower above them. It’s the fun you can have building a LEGO creation without following a guide, only much faster. Townscaper VR suffers a bit in terms of versatility though, as you’re restricted to building little town-shaped dioramas. Luckily, that turns out to be quite fun in short bursts, and a lovely zen-like VR activity.