Robot Invader’s debut virtual reality (VR) release acts as a sign of good things to come. Headed up by one of Oculus VR’s own employees, the team clearly have a keen understanding of the strengths of VR, with Dead Secret playing the Gear VR hardware to the limits of its capabilities with an immersive, inspiring psychological thriller.
Players are cast as a journalist trying to further her career by investigating the suspicious murder of one Harris Bullard. Bullard had a number of enemies the player is informed at the start of the videogame, with suspects lined-up with a small amount of background information on each. As the player progresses they will uncover further information relating to each, as well as encountering the mysterious woodcutter.
Dead Secret plays as a modern point-n’-click adventure, akin to Telltale Games’ recent works. A first-person perspective allows for head-look to be replicated within the videogame and a simple tap of the Gear VR’s touchpad allows for both movement and interaction. The movement is comfortable for the most part, though the placement of certain interactive objects can occasionally result in the player twisting and turning faster than is recommended give the Gear VR’s lack of positional tracking. It’s also a shame Robot Invader didn’t see the appeal of including controller support, as while some may find this more uncomfortable there are many for whom the feeling of having direct control on movement would significantly aid the feeling of presence.
The puzzle structure is akin to that of the Resident Evil series, with items located in one area often proving to be the conclusion for a puzzle seen in a previous area. more often than not, Dead Secret‘s puzzles are a simple case of interacting with every available object in an area to preview all of the puzzles, then connecting item A with location B. It’s an inherently simple system, but still one which proves to be rewarding in progression.
The immersive nature of Dead Secret‘s first-person exploration and puzzling is aided no-end by a clear understanding of what that demands on behalf of the development team. There are the occasional attempts at jump scares within Dead Secret, but the greater results come from the continual teasing of unpleasantness. A figure lurking in a mirror’s reflection; special goggles that unveil ghostly figures. Dead Secret is a tense affair throughout it’s duration, and while the pace of the experience is mostly controlled by the player the occasional demands of more immediate reactions are still dependant on visual analysis rather than manual dexterity.
The visual quality of Dead Secret is one of the best of any title available at Gear VR launch, with a cohesive, believable world playing out in 360 degrees. Somewhat hampered by the hardware on which it runs the few character models featured in the videogame are occasionally a little lifeless, but this trade-off for stable framerate and smooth movement is certainly one worth making at this early point in the lifespan of modern VR.
The atmosphere present in Dead Secret is reminiscent of many psychological/survival horror titles avid gamers will have experienced before. The aforementioned Resident Evil series is clearly an inspiration for puzzle assignment, but the likes of Swery’s Deadly Premonition and even Slenderman are paid homage in the thrill of suspense that Dead Secret offers from the very start.
Dead Secret is a wonderful exploration of the capabilities of mobile VR. The amount of detail paid to the mis-en-scene and character development is remarkable, with easter eggs adding to the background of your character alongside the plot development and storylines of the suspects. The videogame features 5 endings which relate to how successful your investigation is, and while the staging of these won’t necessarily command a second playthrough, Dead Secret is a wholly enjoyable experience for the handful of hours which it lasts. An easy recommendation for both experienced VR enthusiasts and newcomers to the Gear VR, Dead Secret is one of the best launch titles available for the consumer edition of the device.