The use of virtual reality (VR) as an aid to education is a topic that has come into the conversation many times over the last two-or-three years. While many can see the benefits, its arguably still far too early to convince professional educators – and perhaps more so, parents – that strapping what is essentially a monitor to a child’s head can be good for them. There are many software creators that are trying to change this however, and GamesThatWork are the latest to take on the challenge with Brush Up VR, launching as a Steam Early Access title today.
While the likes of Unimersiv are taking the challenge head-on – creating environments for children to immerse themselves in for the benefit of greater understanding – Brush Up VR is coming from a very different angle. Based on the popular mobile title, Brush Up, Brush Up VR is a simple yet entertaining experience designed for one thing only: to educate youngsters on how to correctly brush their teeth.
The version launching today is a simple one-shot experience that is unlikely to entertain for more than a few minutes – hence it’s low asking price of just $0.99 USD – but is an intriguing prospect nonetheless. The player is placed in a small, brightly coloured bathroom and confronted with a large floating brush. Upon grabbing the brush Budd, a friendly blue robot, appears and the player is immediately challenged to brush its teeth. The user feedback is handled particularly well, with the force feedback in the HTC Vive controllers adjusting to represent the accuracy of the player’s brushing and the current success visible in both the amount of gunk remaining on Budd’s teeth and the progress (represented by stars) on the reverse of the toothbrush.
Making clever use of the HTC Vive’s roomscale, achieving a good score (and thus, brushing effectively) requires the player to get right down and inside Budd’s oversized mouth in order to determine the areas that need more attention. Unfortunately, given that the challenge is time-based, GamesThatWork have oddly decided not to include a timer or countdown clock anywhere in the field-of-view, leaving players without the information required to determine whether to tuck in on a small area or rely on big sweeps in an attempt to maximize their score.
However, even if the development team had included a clock of some sort, Brush Up VR doesn’t currently give you any incentive to return. There’s no high score table, no unlockable assets and no increasing challenge. It is a very lightweight, one-shot experience at present. There’s plenty of room to expand the gameplay loop, again reflecting that extremely low price-tag, and given how effective the videogame is at achieving its goals the hope would be that GamesThatWork continue development to push beyond that ‘early access’ tag.