Its fairly safe to say that the vast majority of videogames, virtual reality (VR) or otherwise, have a lot of action and violence in them. That is not always a bad thing, and can be cathartic. Sometimes after a stressful day, something a bit more zen is in order, which developer Vitei Backroom aim to provide with Paper Valley.
Paper Valley involves paper aeroplanes, like the ones you used to make in class when particularly bored. These are thrown at targets using the Oculus Touch motion controllers.
That summarises the basics of gameplay. The setting is a fantasy valley over which your target goals are scattered. When you first begin, the valley is dark and dingy, looking quite depressing. As your planes hit the targets, the environment changes, the area around the target blooming with sudden vibrant colours in a very pleasing way as it leads you towards your next target. In this way, the gameplay is mildly reminiscent of Flower on the PlayStation 3.
There are a variety of paper planes to choose from, which have their own characteristics and so need a slightly different type of throw to get them to reach the target you are aiming for. You can also control the plane after your initial throw by using the motion controllers, but this is in some ways more trouble than it is worth, since the motion controls are incredibly sensitive, and it kicks in as soon as the plane has left your virtual hand, so the natural drop your hand makes from your throw will cause your plane to plummet towards the ground.
Some of the available planes have even more sensitive flight controls, which would probably be very useful if you have the hands of a surgeon or a bomb disposal specialist. Some sort of trigger mechanism to active those motion flight controls might be an idea.
The world of Paper Valley looks great, even before you bring it back to life with your magic paper planes, there is something appealing about it, with its stylised rocks, trees and valleys, it feels like a pleasant place to spend lots of time. It’s also inexplicably pleasing to see your paper planes flying around.
Despite an irritatingly persistent bug with Oculus killing the sound, its worth spending to time to fix it to hear to quite beautiful melodic, soothing soundtrack and the pleasant sound effects that perfectly match the feel and tone of the gameplay.
There is, sadly, no real story to speak of. A grey world restored to colour with magic paper planes is about your lot, which is something of a shame.
Paper Valley is a beautiful videogame, with some satisfying elements and great graphics and soundtrack. Unfortunately, the over-tuned sensitivity of the motion controls does have a tendency to break the flow and somewhat spoil the Zen atmosphere. Also, once all the targets have been hit and the world brought back to life, there’s little reason to revisit this title.
This is a good title that needs a bit of tweaking and polishing to become truly great. By no means a disappointing experience, though on occasion it can be a frustrating one, still worth checking out, especially if they fix the motion control issues.