Temple Gates Games’ Bazaar has received a lot of praise from the virtual reality (VR) enthusiast community since its debut. Originally revealed as part of Oculus VR’s own Gear VR Game Jam, Bazaar is a videogame designed to take full advantage of its host format, delivering a compact yet thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Designed to be played entirely through the head-mounted display’s on-board controls (though a recent update has allowed for a bluetooth gamepad to be used also), Bazaar places the player atop a low-flying magic carpet that cruises around the canals of a pastel shaded Arabian town. The main objective of the videogame is to travel through each district and find a key that will unlock the door to the next, gathering useful items and in-game currency along the way whilst avoiding enemy attacks and falling ill due to starvation.
Despite the unassuming visual design of its locale and the gentle speed at which the carpet travels, the challenge is certainly taxing at times. From the traps that lie in wait at the sides of the canal to the creatures that mean to make the player their lunch, Bazaar is often demanding in the player’s understanding and implementation of its many items. Despite this, it’s the player’s own will to explore and uncover what comes next that pulls them through Bazaar, which is why it’s a shame that there’s only a very limited overarching progression system.
Every playthrough of Bazaar is isolated. Randomly generated maps allow for a fresh journey and further interest in the mysteries that Bazaar holds, though the replayability is limited by the fact that the player is reduced to zero at each restart; it’s only a short amount of time til the lack of challenge in the opening districts begins to become an irritation. An invitation to explore can only carry a videogame so far; inevitably the player is going to demand more for repeated investment over a short period of time.
Once the player is familiar enough with Bazaar to venture further into its depths the tasks at hand become more complicated; requiring the purchase of survival items to avoid a lack of food diminishing the health meter, a shield to fend off incoming attacks or finding an alternative route to evade an errant spray of water that would cause the map to become wet and indecipherable. It’s even more of a shame that a checkpoint system hasn’t been implemented in this situation; simply allowing the player to continue from every fifth district would undoubtedly have improved the endurance of a player’s enthusiasm investment.
A newly added achievement system and perma-upgrades go some way towards alleviating the replayability issues, but the fact remains that Bazaar‘s initial ease soon becomes detriment to the enjoyment of the videogame. Having to endure minutes of all-too familiar gameplay that has little impact on the meat that the player will arrive at a few districts later is an unfortunate consequence of trying to balance newcomers and experienced players.
Bazaar is a flawed gem. A unique experience on Gear VR that’s very definitely deserved of a passionate audience, but will likely find that such lofty goals will only be reached with addressing the balancing issues surrounding different types of players. Temple Gates Games’ continued efforts to improve the experience their debut VR videogame offers is commendable, and with such investment Bazaar will likely become a ‘must have’ Gear VR title in time. For now though, it’s a charmingly original VR videogame that many will dismiss far too soon.