Releases of finalised products aimed at the virtual reality (VR) audiences remain few-and-far between. Tech demos, alphas and betas are still the majority of what the community are treated to, and will be for some months yet. So when a developer does decide to launch their finished product as a Steam download it’s likely to get some attention, and that’s exactly what Nival VR are hoping for with the release of InCell VR.
The story of InCell VR pays homage to that of 1987 cult film Innerspace, in which a human is shrunk to tiny proportions and injected into another human being with the goal of curing disease. In InCell VR, you are the first human to be shrunk following successful robotic trials, and your first assignment is to cure the symptoms of an influenza patient by delivering a vaccine directly to the nuclei of cells attacks by the virus.
The gameplay that relates to this activity is not necessarily what you might think. InCell VR is a racing videogame largely riffing on the success of Tammeka Games’ Radial-G: Racing Revolved (which is presently available via Steam Early Access). Playable either with an Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD) or on a traditional 2D monitor (though quite obviously designed for the former), the player is a first-person pilot of a vessel travelling along tubes with the appearance of an internal organ. The tubes can be rotated around a full 360 degrees, so finding the inner line isn’t always as immediate as on a flat track.
Throughout the time trial based races players will need to hit green boost gates in order to increase their speed and avoid moving red gates which will immediately halt their progress. White protein icons can be collected and used as currency to purchase upgrades – such as increased speed, reduction of penalties for hitting red gates etc. – prior to each race. On harder difficulties the player is able to choose their own path through each mission, and opting for a harder path will offer greater amounts of protein and better options for upgrades.
As players progress through the videogame they’ll find that the constantly ticking clock is their biggest rival. Some levels feature virus cells in pursuit of the player, but maintaining an average level of speed is typically enough to stay ahead. However, the timer applies not just for a single track, but an entire series. Occasionally a purchasable item will allow the player to artificially increase this time limit and certain actions on the track (which are never explained) will add a few seconds or freeze the timer, yet it still presents a real concern on higher difficulties.
The visual design of InCell VR is simplistic yet elegant, delivering a believable environment that holds little resemblance to the actual internals of a human being. It’s enough to provide suspension-of-disbelief, which in VR is exceedingly important. Thankfully, this lower level of detail allows for a decent framerate to be maintained when playing with the Oculus Rift.
InCell VR is an enjoyable if lightweight experience. Nival VR have not created a ‘must have’ for VR in any respect, but for those already involved in the community it’s likely to be an entertaining point of discussion. Given that Radial-G: Racing Revolved is now available via Steam Early Access and is essentially content complete, VRFocus wouldn’t hesitate to recommend investment in Tammeka Games’ debut title over InCell VR, but that doesn’t diminish from Nival VR’s intention to create an accessible, entertaining racing VR experience of their own.