Big studios tend to play it safe when it comes to gameplay ideas, picking genres they know are popular and likely to sell. It’s the indie developer community that tends to lend itself to the more weird and wonderful, with newbies and veterans really experimenting with the possibilities of virtual reality (VR). A new one to arrive on Steam Early Access is Derora, a free climbing puzzle mashup from British studio HoldensVR that offers some intriguing gameplay ideas.
The studio has created a brief backstory to give you some idea of why you’re doing what you’re doing, you are a young bird that’s fallen from its nest and unable to fly must try to clamber back up any way possible. While the story is charming, once you’re in the middle of a level trying to get that next step higher it doesn’t matter if you happen to be a bird or any other animal because the focus will be entirely on the challenge at hand.
And challenging Derora certainly is. So you find yourself on the ground in this cel-shaded mystical forest, up high in the branches is a green cube representing the nest yet there’s no tree trunk with which to make a quick ascension. Instead you’re provided with small pink blocks which you can throw and a larger collection of blue cubes which are for climbing. What makes Derora’s gameplay unique and new every time you play it, is the way you separate the blue cubes each time. This can only be done by throwing the pink cubes into the cluster, exploding all over the place in random patterns. The trick is to get the blue blocks up high enough to reach the nest whilst spaced out well enough to actually clamber up.
Once the blue blocks are set in motion they actually stay in motion until you grab one. This means you can’t just grab a block moving upwards and just ride it to the top, this is where you need to start working out a route and preparing for an upper body workout. To begin with moving from block to block is fairly easy, once those distances increase then it’s time to start launching yourself, Tarzan style. Miss and you can soon find you’re back on the forest floor, with a previous route no longer accessible yet a new one has opened up somewhere else.
In addition to the pink and blue cubes, there are various other items to help – and hinder – your progression. From white glowing blocks that disappear after a while once touched, to hanging flowers which move up and down to aid the climb.
Derora may have just launched on early access yet it already offers an addictive gameplay experience. You’ll get so immersed in the climb that you’ll probably forget about your surroundings as you leap from cube to cube, so make sure the play area is clutter free. Remember being a kid and looking up at a tree and wondering how you were going to climb it? Well that’s Derora and VRFocus will be keeping a close eye on this one as development continues.