Review: Wilson’s Heart
An atmospheric story that plays to Oculus Touch's strengths.
One of virtual reality’s (VR) many strengths is its ability to truly immerse players in fantastical worlds, making them feel part of a studio’s fervent imagination. And this is what you get with Twisted Pixel Games’ Wilson’s Heart, a dramatic film-noir style thriller/horror experience made in conjunction with Oculus Studios.
The first thing that’s immediately obvious is the entire videogame is black and white. This lends Wilson’s Heart an air of drama and intrigue that you don’t normally see in many titles, especially VR, and serves it well throughout the single-player campaign. Dark corridors and dimly lit rooms are unnerving from the word go, lights flicker, and that sense of foreboding never relinquishes even as you progress and become accustomed to the surroundings.
All of this is equally matched by the audio quality Twisted Pixel has achieved in the title. The spatial sound not only compliments the visual design it surpasses it at points, finely picking out little flutters of noise that keeps you on your toes. You’ll be examining a table or object underneath a lamp to then suddenly hear a clatter or scutter from behind you, and this happens constantly without ever feeling overused. In terms of immersive atmosphere Wilson’s Heart has it in droves, but it’s the storyline that’ll keep you engrossed.
As the title suggests, Wilson’s Heart puts you in the role of Wilson who wakes up in a mental hospital to find he’s missing a rather important part of his anatomy, his heart. In it’s place is a weird orb-like artifact that has several uses throughout the story. While you spend a good portion of the videogame wandering around on your own you do eventually meet up with several others – some are friendly, some not so – that help to fill in the gaps. The characters and voice acting do make the whole story come alive, you become attached to them as you band together to escape the horrors lurking around the corner.
But this isn’t a jump scare kind of experience. Yes there are moments that’ll spook you – a face suddenly appears out of the darkness or from behind you – if you’re not paying attention, for the most part though Wilson’s Heart errs of the side of psychological thriller. The drama continually intensifies, aiming to keep you on edge for as long as possible, mainly because there’s one thing you can’t do, that is run away.
If there’s one main criticism to leverage towards the title it’s the movement. It uses a teleportation mechanic that uses silhouettes of your character at fixed locations. While perfectly taking you through the storyline in a fairly linear manner, the system massively limits the amount of exploration you can actually achieve. Each teleportation spot means there’s usually between one to three items to interact with before moving on. In certain set pieces these silhouettes won’t appear until the correct time, literally leaving you in one spot until the required time.
This can then mean Wilson’s Heart starts to become a somewhat horror by numbers approach. If you investigate each area thoroughly – and then unless the story requires you to – there’s no need to venture back, which is a shame as the entire environment looks that good you’d want to explore every nook and cranny.
Wilson’s Heart is good, even very good at points. Expertly mixing its story, sound and visual aesthetics into a solid experience that’ll draw you in and keep you engrossed for hours. But there are some niggles with the constrained gameplay mechanics that hamper its ability to be a great title.