Preview: ALICE VR

Since developer Carbon Studio revealed that its Oculus Game Jam title ALICE VR for Samsung Gear VR would be coming to the Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD) instead, VRFocus has been keeping a close eye on the first-person puzzle title. Then last week at the Gamescom 2016 event in Germany we got our hands on the videogame to see how development has progressed and what’s in store for players when the title launches later this year.

ALICE VR has been inspired by the work of Lewis Carroll’s classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, giving it a modern sci-fi twist by setting the videogame on a planet called Speculo and the mysterious city of Mirabilis. For the demonstration there were three areas to explore, all of which have been seen in some form over previous months through screenshots, there’s the Desert, City and Mirrage.

Alice VR screenshot

To begin with ALICE VR can be played either seated or standing depending on how comfortable you are walking around in first-person (and there is A LOT of walking). The demo had some features turned off, such as running and turning controls on the right stick. These had been disabled as previous testers had been running around and turning aggressively causing simulator sickness. So actually not having these features seemed to do the trick as for the most part the experience was generally comfortable.

The entire videogame demo looked great and the first accessible area, the desert was a richly rendered landscape of rocky alcoves and sheer cliffs, sweeping sand dunes and rugged terrain. Walking through the area you come across a small stone maze which must be navigated. As you proceed through various objects can be picked up and thrown but are of no particular use and can’t be stored as there was no inventory to speak of. Once through you’re presented with an all-terrain buggy that you can jump into and race across the sandy wastes. This is a moment of exhilarating fun, jumping over dunes until you come to a giant in-passable door which prompts an exit from the vehicle towards a quickly solved lever puzzle.

Heading to the industrial City level there are slightly more puzzles to solve and the first instance where some players might find their heads or stomachs begin to churn. The area features highlighted conveyor belts with arrows indicating the path to take. But these are no ordinary conveyor belts, because as you look up and around the towering structures you’ll notice these belts go up walls and across ceilings. To use them they must be switched on and illuminated, once done you’ll be able to walk along them. It’s when you come to a corner and the entire area moves with it that there could be an instant of discomfort, but after the first couple of times that should subside.

Alice VR screenshot

The final level available, Mirrage, is where the inspiration from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are far more noticeable. Tree’s pop in and out of the ground as you approach, giant spinning rooms have to be navigated, and there’s a shrinking machine to uncover areas and solve puzzles.

At the moment what the three areas of the demo showcased was essentially an interesting looking walking simulator. There just wasn’t enough interaction, and where there was just didn’t last long enough before you’re back to just walking along again. Even if the run feature had been enabled it would’ve just meant the time spent slowly navigating each area would have been reduced. Hopefully Carbon Studio has held back the really good locations, with the crazier parts of the book the videogame is inspired from just waiting to be explored. As for now though the gameplay that was shown really does need to be fleshed out.