Preview: Arc Surfer – Riding a Neon Wave
Futuristic skateboarding without the need to worry about balance.
Ever watched those extreme sports events with athlete’s performing all sorts of daredevil acrobatics and thought yeah I could do that, then found your skill on a board is let down by a tiny thing called balance? If that’s a good possibility then videogames have been filling that void with all sorts of sporting titles and so has virtual reality (VR). One of the latest to emulate that skateboarding/surfing sensation is Ark Surfer, giving proceedings a futuristic twist.
Currently in Steam Early Access for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Windows Mixed Reality headsets, Ark Surfer is very much a mixture of sports. You stand on a circular disk – the board – face on rather than side on, with the main objective in races being not to finish first but to score the most points.
Looking like it’s had some Tron inspired level design, Arc Surfer’s levels feature an intertwining collection of illuminated rails (or blocks). Just like when skaters grind a metal railing in Arc Surfer the aim is to stay directly on top of the illuminated strip, collecting points as you go until said ‘rail’ has ended and it’s onto the next. To achieve a decent highscore you not only need to keep going by jumping from rail to rail but also wisely choose the right colour. Those illuminated blue have a wide track but score the least, while an orange track scores far higher but is harder to stay on being narrower.
At present Arc Surfer is a little light on content with only two tracks to play on at present. It does feature both single-player and multiplayer modes for both of these, although finding an opponent might be a bit of a struggle at the moment. So at present the main challenge is to top the leaderboard with a decent solo score, which is not only challenging but entertaining as well.
One of the crucial aspects developer Pixel Fyzz has got right is the movement and control of the board. Stepping towards the front increases speed whilst stepping to the left or right moves it in that direction in a strafing motion. As with any rail you need to jump onto it, this isn’t physically need as a quick thrust upwards after bending the knees works fine. Doing all of this while racing down a track could be quite a workout – almost like Sprint Vector without the arms – however there are ways around this.
The controllers aren’t needed for the main races so all the movement functions come from the headset. As such simply leaning your head in the required direction does the job just fine, even jumping can be handled with an easy upwards head flick. Why is this good? Not every VR player can use room-scale functions so it’s good to see this finely tuned for most players.
In its current form Arc Surfer is definitely on the right track, it’s easy to pick up and play whilst offering a decent difficulty curve for those wishing to test their skills. Even with only two levels their undulating design means there’s plenty of experimentation to be had as you look for the best line and scoring opportunities. With enough time and attention Arc Surfer could well be a little indie hit, and one VRFocus will be keeping an eye on.