As the October launch of PlayStation VR approaches, we're getting looks at the first wave of games for Sony's new PS4-compatible virtual-reality console, both massive (Resident Evil 7 Biohazard comes to mind) and small. I took some time to check out what indie developers are showing off at Sony's E3 press conference after-show event -- and I'm happy to report there are some real gems with a lot of potential happening in VR at E3 this year.
Billed as a strategy game, Tethered -- from developer Secret Sorcery Towers -- offers "god" experience where you're an omniscient being looking over a small floating island. Strange little islanders called "peeps" hatch here and there, and you're able to put them to work collecting resources, building structures, growing crops, defending themselves, and generally keeping balance in their world. Your peeps are adorable, dumb worshippers, and you'll get a kick out of ordering them around and watching their population increase. The short demo we experienced was a fun, whimsical romp, and there's something oddly soothing about learning how to manage your peeps and keep them safe (though it did get a little challenging keeping tabs on the whereabouts of each one as they began growing in number).
Here They Lie
I'm 99.9 percent sure live streaming is going to get a boost because of VR horror games, and Tangentlemen's Here They Lie will likely be one of the more popular PSVR launch titles with streamers and audiences alike. Is it because of the game's Lovecraftian-inspired horror themes, complete with terrifying half-rat men lurking behind doorways, waiting for you to cross the threshold? Yes. It's also because even though I saw that rat dude jump scare coming, I still screamed out loud when I walked through the doorway. You'll have to wait a few more months after launch for Resident Evil 7 Biohazard, so Here They Lie looks like it'll be just the thing to satiate our collective appetite for creepy sh*t when PSVR launches this fall.
Rez made its PlayStation 2 (and Sega Dreamcast) debut 15 years ago as an early standout in the "musical shooter" category. Now, developer Enhance Games is getting the gang back together (including Rez creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi) to bring Rez to PSVR. This isn't just a remaster, though; this time around, Rez has some new tricks up its sleeve with some fresh content for us to enjoy. The game's ridiculously good soundtrack has also been refreshed. Playing Rez Infinite in VR gave us a brand new perspective (no pun intended) on an old classic. Definitely worth looking into if you've ever enjoyed games like Amplitude or Frequency.
Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin
Double Fine might be hard at work on Psychonauts 2 after their successful crowdfunding run on Fig a few months back (full disclosure: I am a backer of said sequel), but they're also working on experiences like this one as a fun way to experiment with virtual reality without committing to a full title. Rhombus of Ruin kicks off immediately after the ending of the first Psychonauts, and our demo took place on the team's plane. We took control of Raz and used psychic powers like clairvoyance, telekinesis, and even psi blast to solve some simple puzzles and reacquaint ourselves with some old friends. Obviously, I'm in, but if you've never played Psychonauts, this might be a great entry point into the weird, charming franchise.
Gnog (pronounced "nog," if I'm not mistaken) was a really cool look at how a simple idea can transform when brought into a VR environment. The concept is reminiscent of old Polly Pocket and Mighty Max toys, where a box would open to reveal an entire world within. You'll spend time in Gnog opening up giant monster heads and solving the intricate puzzles inside them. If that's not weird enough, the art direction from developer Ko-Op is both strange and beautiful, and I often found myself enjoying the aesthetics of the little puzzle rooms as much as actually solving them during my time with the game. This is like playing The Room, but with a decidedly colorful and bizarro twist.