An addictive gameplay style is stymied by confusing controls.
Ever since Rovio released its massively popular mobile title Angry Birds in 2009, the videogame has seen numerous spin-offs and copycat experiences, yet very few have appeared on virtual reality (VR) platforms. For those interested in some destructive carnage with a VR twist, developer Rogue Earth has created Crashimals for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive (reviewed), which aims to replicate that addictive gameplay so many players know, with mixed results.
Crashimals keeps that Angry Birds dynamic of rickety buildings that need to be destroyed to gain points, but instead of birds hidden among the timber frames there are cakes to destroy. As the name implies, animals still feature as characters, such as flamingos, badgers, giraffes and hippos. These all pilot planes with each character offering a different bomb with which to destroy buildings. So the first character you get to play as has a basic bomb which is dropped in an arc, with a red laser pointer as the aiming reticule. As you progress the other pilots will unlock, offering multi bombs, lock-on missiles, timed bombs and more. Once all of them are available you’ll certainly find a preferred pilot, although some levels do seem more suited to one character over another.
Being a single-player title Rogue Earth has ensured there are plenty of levels to play through, with a total of 72 across four different locations. With a really nice cartoon aesthetic, Crashimals is suited to players of all ages, and its difficulty curve has been well tuned to ensure that you shouldn’t get stuck too often.
So while Crashimals offers a decent amount of variety in a well-designed world, it’s the control scheme that might just confuse or irritate players the most. Rogue Earth has certainly gone for a unique approach to its control method – which isn’t explained at all – requiring careful use of both controllers. Once a level begins you’ll notice a big arrow linking both controllers, this indicates the direction of travel. While extending or reducing the distance changes the speed of the plane. Flying becomes tricky when it becomes necessary to perform accurate manoeuvres should a bomb need exact placement. At points it can feel like your arms become tangled as you try to find the perfect approach for a bombing run.
It’s hard to describe how this control scheme really works – it’s certainly novel – but its difficulty invariably means that you’ll be smashing into the landscape, obstacles or just flying out of the level as you wrestle with the controls. All these actions mean that the level resets, becoming quite annoying in the process. As previously mentioned Crashimals has been designed to appeal to all ages, but the control scheme seems the opposite of that, requiring plenty of time and patience to learn and master its intricacies.
Crashimals certainly offers an interesting approach to the well-heeled design of Angry Birds. There’s a lot to like about its approach, offering a refreshing change to all the wave shooters that VR offers. Its main barrier however are the controls, which might be simple on the surface but in reality are quite the opposite.