When consumer virtual reality (VR) appeared every detractor out there said it was antisocial, where users put on headsets and lock themselves away in fantasy worlds. As time has gone on, not only has that been shown to be wrong its been proven that VR and non-VR players can still interact, just in new ways. Steel Crate Games’ Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a prime example of that and soon there could be another, Coastalbyte Games’ Puppet Fever.
For the British the easiest reference would be to Punch and Judy puppet shows, for everyone else imagine Puppet Fever as a modern VR equivalent of Charades. Puppet Fever is all about local multiplayer where the VR player becomes the puppeteer whilst everyone else looks on, trying to figure out what word or phrase the VR player is trying to act out with an assortment of items.
Up to four players can actively participate as in game characters, able to shout out suggestions as the scene unfolds. Of course while this is fun, it’s the person inside the experience that should be enjoying themselves the most. With its bold, vivid cartoon design, playing Puppet Fever can feel almost surreal at moments, like you’re inside the TV looking out at everyone sat on the sofa and it’s up to you to entertain them.
To begin with you are provided with a couple of cards to choose from, these can have any number of phrases, words, events, or films to act out. These cards can be swapped out until you find something you like. Once chosen Puppet Fever gives you a couple of items that can help get you started, as there is a time limit to each round.
The beauty of Puppet Fever – and its core gameplay – is the way Coastalbyte Games has made everything interchangeable and dynamic, testing players’ imagination as they try to visually represent a word. There’s already quite a selection for an Early Access title, you can create an abundance of characters, alter their emotions, dress them in all sorts of garb and then put them in scenes with mountains, rolling seas, alien space craft, there’s just so much to pick and choose from that you could spend hours playing around.
Just like Charades – when you properly get into it – Puppet Fever is all about the atmosphere it creates amongst a bunch of friends all shouting away trying to guess the correct answer. There is an option to play against bots if no one is around yet this almost has the opposite effect, feeling cold and hollow, as you play with digital puppets by yourself.
Casting that nasty thought aside, Puppet Fever has all the makings of an enjoyable social VR experience, banding people together in competition. Apart from the main gameplay mode there’s the ‘Studio’, somewhere to practice and experiment with the various items. Other than that there’s not a great deal else, meaning Puppet Fever will likely only see occasional use. It’s certainly a promising concept and one that VRFocus would definitely like to see expanded further for when it’s office party time.