Category Archives: Oculus

The Unique Aesthetic of Wilson’s Heart and Monument Valley 2

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Monument Valley was a very interesting and aesthetically pleasing project when it released so it stands to reason that the sequel should and would be as well. Although there are several new gimmicks and ideas in play for all intents and purposes you’re looking at a continuation of the same game and same vein of design. This isn’t a bad thing at all.

What you may not be expecting is for me to compare the beautifully crafted visuals and puzzling gameplay of Monument Valley and its sequel to that of the monochromatic, dark and occult filled visuals of Wilson’s Heart. A virtual reality adventure and a downloadable game don’t always have much in common but starting today I’m making a connection between these two in particular.

It’s not so much that they have anything in common rather it’s the fact that both push the boundary of visual presentation in one way or another, or perhaps even in several ways in some instances. Functionality notwithstanding, each of these games is a thorough experience that relies heavily upon visual input and context. The ways in which you’re able to perceive specific stages directly impacts how you’re able to accomplish or complete them in Monument Valley 2 whereas the ways you’re able to react to and interact with the Lovecraftian occult setting and situations within Wilson’s Heart directly influences your experience as well.

Perception and reception are very much an integral part in the game making and game playing processes. Look no further than these two titles for confirmation of that one simple truth. Puzzle games are notorious for requiring players to adhere to a strict and often steep learning curve however this is all down based upon the expectation that if you show somebody how to do something and slowly walk them through whilst holding their hand, eventually they’ll be able to fly through the task on their own later. Continuing along that train of thought, if you see somebody place a blue and orange portal and then go through one and emerge from the other then naturally you’ll pick up how the specific mechanics perform in context as well.

How we perceive the world around us often differs with regard to specific stimuli in the environment and a whole metric plethora of other factors that may be involved from the womb until the tomb. There is no “one way” to perceive a situation or pick up on a particular aesthetic value or visualization as fate (and apparently science) would have it. And that’s why both Wilson’s Heart and Monument Valley 2 are two of the most recent and most intriguing views into both perception and reception in terms of visual effect and resonance for me personally. Sure, I could’ve taken the easy way out and chosen a game such as the aptly named Perception or perhaps even What Remains of Edith Finch but then that would be cheating don’t you think? We knew all along that those two games would purposely distort reality and offer a surreal and uncharacteristically and aesthetically challenging adventure.

In many ways the visuals of Monument Valley and Monument Valley 2 on the whole just have this air of surrealism yet it’s presented in such a uniquely tangible way as well. You see beautifully rendered and colored backdrops and the simplistic yet ultimately complex and multifaceted levels of the castles and stages and they just make you stop and think and appreciate the art style for a moment or two. Wilson’s Heart on a more cerebral level forces you to think in much the same way but it has more to do with the monochromatic visuals and old, campy horror vibe than it does with the surreal Cthulhu vibes the game gives off for the duration of its screentime. Sometimes it’s simple ambiance and principle that give quality to a project or perhaps that render it admirable or even redeemable when it would otherwise be a loss in terms of gameplay and presentation.

On one hand we have Monument Valley 2 which is most definitely a game that I would consider to be both pretty and unique but on the other you have Wilson’s Heart which is something rougher around the edges and yet no less enjoyable that some other dark and unique tales such as Outlast or Amnesia. Wilson’s Heart may derive some success from the level of camp it attributes to old B-movies and old school monster flicks and yet it is also ultimately a visual and presented success due to the vibes it can tap into akin to independently developed horror projects of recent fame and fortune.

Sometimes it’s impressive what you can compare yourself to and not just what you can showcase in your own unique way. It’s about connections and perception just as much as quality and reception. Cheers.

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Games I Didn’t Review in 2016: Chronos

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Last year was a busy time for me- in fact, this year and every year for the past four or five have been incredibly busy. Therefore, it only makes sense that I approach the veritable heap of a backlog of reviews that I owe the universe. These are titles that I’ve played and already formulated opinions on, and yet for whatever reason I could not find the time to review in full. However, I will write some brief remarks regarding each game that I decide to do this for. Essentially, my goal is to provide ample detail- although avoiding spoilers to some degree, in regards to the overarching plot lines or major details of the games themselves.

Chronos is an intriguing game in many ways. It was one of the headlining titles for the Oculus Rift and has received excellent reviews to date. It sits somewhere around an 80/85 percent out of one hundred. It isn’t your traditional virtual reality experience, and when I say this I mean you can actually see a playable character as with any traditional third-person role-playing game. While there are light role-playing mechanics present within the game, the experience is mostly atmospheric and not necessarily deep enough to rival anything like The Witcher or The Elder Scrolls in terms of questlines or overall narrative prowess.

The story seems to draw on some ancient roots of Greek and Roman mythology and the title may even allude to such as well if you think about it- as well as the passing of time. You take control of a hero on a “lifelong quest” to purge their homeland of an almighty evil and to delve deeper and deeper into a mysterious labyrinth which is central to the plot. Another interesting thing in regard to time and the title itself is that said labyrinth only opens once a year and if you fail to delve deep enough to uncover its secrets you will be cast out until the next time it chooses to open. At its core, Chronos is an adventure game first and foremost and as such it offers plenty of thrills and gorgeous visuals.

Leveling, as with most role-playing games, is an important part of your adventure. However, Chronos approaches this in a way that sort of reminds me of Fable and yet is totally original in its own right as well. Each adventure into the labyrinth ages your hero as they must wait to return another year should they fail in their quest. Obviously, things are not going to be easy enough for you to just run through in your first year- so coming back is completely in the question. As you age you start to lose stamina and agility and gain other attributes like magical prowess. It’s a neat and refreshing give or take system and it definitely changes the way you play as well.

As with many of the Oculus Rift launch games and with virtual reality adventures in general, Chronos isn’t necessarily a very long game. That having been said, it is probably one of the lengthiest and best virtual reality projects I’ve yet to play in my own experience with the consoles with provide VR. Most people should clock in anywhere from twenty to thirty hours on it and could definitely see more than that if they make a goal of finding every single secret and scrap of lore within the adventure. The attention to detail, the solid mechanics, and the overall aesthetic experience have such a level of depth and attention to quality gaming that it really pleasantly surprised me.

Gunfire Games deserves all of the praise they’ve been getting for Chronos and I definitely would recommend it to anyone interested in playing a few VR titles in the future. Once the price for VR headsets and equipment goes down a little bit and there are other quality titles to accompany this one in your collection, you should definitely make a point of at least attempting to play it whether adventure-RPGs are your “thing” or not. In my mind, it’s at least a solid 8 out of 10 and definitely worth the time and effort.

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Milly Schmidt

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