It feels like HTC Vive has been on the market far longer than 17 months, with some awesome virtual reality (VR) experiences having released in that time. Some of which were launch titles like Cloudhead Games’ The Gallery – Episode 1: Call of the Starseed, a puzzle adventure which is still a worthwhile purchase even now. As the title suggests this is an episodic tale and fans have been eagerly awaiting the next instalment which is due this month, The Gallery – Episode 2: Heart of the Emberstone.
Continuing the story, the second episode whisks you up into the stars as you search for your sister Elsie. In the preview build VRFocus played Cloudhead Games allowed access to two scenes which utilised the mysterious new Gauntlet you’re now in possession of, allowing the manipulation of energy to interact and move objects at distance.
These two areas gave just a glimpse at the massive videogame the studio has planned with crumbling buildings, towering monuments and ancient technology to see and use. Just like episode one, Cloudhead has created a gorgeous looking title that evokes the same grandeur as the story the studio plans on telling, offering a few tactile puzzles that give a brief taster of what to expect.
The first area offers a basic introduction to the Gauntlet, with floating platforms littered with obstacles that need to be moved in order to pass. As teleportation was the only movement system available – more will be on offer in the full release – there was no cheating by teleporting past the rubble, a quick flick of the wrist and each piece can be flung out of the way.
The main puzzles at this point consisted of moving a crystal located on the back of your hand through an ever more elaborate series of holographic tubes, with spinning and moving parts needing to be avoided to succeed. Simple in nature, they do test your ability to gauge depth and perspective as looking at them from one angle can hide the best course of action, and the whole process makes the mundane task opening of doors that bit more elaborate.
Aside from figuring out the puzzles there are lots of little additions for players to find that add and complete parts of the story. Elsie’s photo’s litter parts of the levels as holograms of her appear at certain points. And her audio tapes can be collected for further info.
Even in this short preview The Gallery – Episode 2: Heart of the Emberstone feels like Cloudhead Games has really started to find its VR feet, offering an experience that the studio knows needs to be bigger and bolder than the last. 2016 had plenty of short titles that tested the waters of VR, however in 2017 those are being replaced by videogames that require plenty more attention and time from players. Simply making episode 2 continue the story with no advancements in gameplay wouldn’t be well received, thankfully this doesn’t seem to be the case and VRFocus is looking forward to see how the fully released The Gallery – Episode 2: Heart of the Emberstone turns out.