Preview: Reef Quest – Is the Gameplay Better Down Where it’s Wetter?

Continuing Spark of Light with a greater experiment on depth.

Pillow’s Willow VR Studios first entered the virtual reality (VR) scene last year with the launch of family friendly adventure Spark of Light for Samsung Gear VR – followed by Google Daydream. The team came to Gamescom 2018 last week to showcase their new location-based entertainment (LBE) project Exodus Burned. At the same time VRFocus also got its hands on another project the studio had in the works, a follow-up to Spark of Light, Reef Quest.

Reef Quest

Featuring the same character as before – just this time in a blue onesie – Reef Quest is Pillow’s Willow VR Studios’ take on making more people aware about ocean pollution, by cleaning the sea and coral reefs in a playful and engaging way.

Demoed on the HTC Vive Focus, the studio didn’t just want to create another Spark of Light with different visuals, they wanted to increase the depth of the gameplay. So that’s exactly what they’ve done, being able to bring the character nearer or further away with a touch of the directional pad. If this was being demoed on an Oculus Rift for example that depth control would be fairly easy, achieved via the stick or room-scale. With Vive Focus and its 3DoF controller this process is somewhat trickier, but the team have managed to pull it off.

To move around in this underwater world the lead character – the studio has yet to confirm if it is still Nerow – has to grab onto nearby fish. Moving around in the 360 world is just the same as moving a pointer around, using your ride to grab and clean smaller fish covered in oil. These were hidden behind rocks and in alcoves in a bid to get players acquainted with the controls.

The next section introduced a second fish to control, adding a charge up function that could break items. After freeing several more oiled up creatures it was time for the boss fight and this was the true test and demonstration of the new controls. The boss was a mechanised fish with several sections that needed to be destroyed. With the two ridable fish to choose from, it was a case of watching the boss swim around you before choosing when to attack, which tended to be a bit hit and miss to begin with as figuring out depth on a fast moving object is trickier than it seems. Like most videogames though, Reef Quest’s did become more intuitive with time.

While the demo seemed fairly robust Reef Quest is still very early in development and will likely stay that way for some time as Pillow’s Willow VR Studios is concentrating on Exodus Burned. This is mainly due to the size of the market and where best to place their resources, with other studios like Vertigo Games following suit via their own LBE projects in a bid to create more profits.

Reef Quest might not be Pillow’s Willow VR Studios’ top priority but it would be nice to see the Spark of Light universe continue at some point. The underwater puzzle adventure has some interesting ideas at play and would likely be a worthy addition to the family friendly VR marketplace. Should Reef Quest not disappear, VRFocus will let you know more.

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