The popularity of drones has become so widespread that everyone and their dog seems to have one. From basic toys that can only be used inside to high-end professional setups that carry HD cameras for those beautiful sweeping landscape shots you see everywhere. New indie studio Neuston has taken this love of flying these multi-bladed flying machines and created a challenging action videogame called Drone Hero, expertly showcasing virtual reality’s (VR) finely tuned motion controllers.
Played on the HTC Vive – Drone Hero also supports Oculus Rift with Touch – the title is a point scoring arcade experience where you control a drone around various obstacles collecting orbs. These orbs appear one at a time with a counter above them, ticking down from five to zero. Fly the drone into an orb on five and you score 500 points, take your time and get to it at one and you only get 100 points. Should the timer disappear the orb will stay in place until collected netting you 80 points – the videogame won’t move to the next orb until the previous has been flown into.
Sounds simple enough. To pump up the challenge Neuston has included a variety of obstacles to fly around, with missiles to dodge, lasers to avoid, cages to fly though, and a whole lot more. Each level – there are 25 in the current Early Access build – adds more of these as you progress, ramping up the difficulty quite a bit. One thing that’s instantly noticeable about Drone Hero is that after the early levels trying to get those orbs at 500 points can be near to impossible unless one happens to appear directly where you are or in very close proximity. This makes achieving three stars on latter levels a real test of your piloting skills, any mistake and you’ll never get to the orb in time.
While the challenge’s Neuston has created are significant you can tell the studio has spent a lot of time perfecting the flight controls as they are pin sharp perfect. Only one controller is needed, with the trigger acting as the throttle, controlling how fast you go, with tilting, twisting and pitching the controller handling everything else. While a short tutorial does demonstrate the basics, it’s that accurate that some practice is needed or you’ll be flying into everything. The drone only needs the slightest of inputs to make it strafe, move forwards or any other direction you please.
So nice is the input that it seems a shame that Drone Hero doesn’t offer more. All the challenges are confined to one area, a dark room with a bewildering array of flashing neon lights – the studio does give an epilepsy warning before things start – plus some thumping dance music (mostly dubstep). Nothing wrong with that per se but another optional area for those that do suffer from epilepsy – or those that aren’t big nightclub fans – might be worth considering.
Drone Hero has only just entered Steam Early Access so it’s not too surprising that things are a little sparse at present. What Neuston has showcased so far though shows loads of potential purely from the fact that the control system works so well. The title will likely pickup some avid VR fans looking for a challenge that’s not your average experience, and it’s definitely one to keep an eye on.