Playful Corp has already cemented its name in the virtual reality (VR) industry with its cute platformer Lucky’s Tale which launched alongside the Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD). For its next VR title the studio is sticking with those platformer roots with Star Child, a neon drenched sci-fi adventure for PlayStation VR.
Unveiled during Sony Interactive Entertainment’s (SIE) Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2017 press conference with a brief teaser trailer, Playful has shown a very early demo at the event, giving a hint at the rich universe it intends to create.
Star Child seems to be a homage to classic side-scrolling platformers of yesteryear (the 90s and early 00s), enriched with the dynamic depth and immersion of VR. Playing a female protagonist, you run and jump through a world that encourages you to lean in and explore. While the character can only move left and right, you can still peer in and see into this beautiful looking world, so much so that you can even look down the path your character is following.
The demo felt very much like an opening level – a common occurrence with these short presentations – with a short cinematic of a spaceship flying in and landing on an elevator that takes you deep into an alien world. As it descends deeper and deeper you get to see all sorts of luminous creatures scurrying across the walls, and glowing plants creeping up the rock face. Playful has really gone to town on the design of Star Child, easily differentiating it from the far more child like design of Lucky’s Tale.
At this stage the character doesn’t have a great deal of options available, boiling down to running and jumping through the area. What Star Child did offer were a couple of puzzles. With these you approach a console which then activates a giant purple orb. This can then be moved around the area, bobbing it higher with multiple presses of the X button to grab a purple neon string that needs to be attached to a certain point, opening up the next area. The next puzzle offered more of the same, as an early challenge you’d expect it to be easy but it was somewhat rudimentary in nature.
It all came to an end with a big finale. A really big, robotic looking, spider monster came out of the darkness seeming very intent on doing some harm. Luckily a saviour was slumbering, waiting for the right time to come to your aid, an even bigger robot, whose hand you jump onto ending the demo. Naturally, this raises more questions than revealing answers, what’s the robot for? Do you get to pilot/control it in some way? What the hell is going on? And so on.
If the videogame caught your eye during SIE’s E3 2017 press conference – after the massive Skyrim announcement – then you’re right to be intrigued. The Star Child demo was certainly a delightful experience, and over far too soon, so expect good things to come in the future.