It’s always nice when you can get a feel for a videogame within minutes of the start, especially when there’s a comedy undertone to the whole experience. That was very much the case when playing Catland’s The Spy Who Shrunk Me VR, shrink ray in hand, running through a small hole in the wall to suddenly coming across a bloke sat on the toilet. Looking up at this giant the instinctual thing to do is shoot him, and what happens, well let’s just say he went for a swim. An amusing start if you like toilet humour (pun intended), The Spy Who Shrunk Me VR is still trying to find its feet.
The Spy Who Shrunk Me VR is a free update for Early Access title The Spy Who Shrunk Me putting you in the shoes of secret agent Audrey Smoothspy during the Cold War. It’s 1981 and your mission is to infiltrate a secret Russian base steal some documents and hopefully win the war. At your disposal are a range of gadgets – mostly stolen from the Russians – including the highly useful Shrink Ray, a teleportation gizmo, airbag mines, a watch that slows time and the ever popular comedy banana.
Gameplay is highly focused towards stealth. So there’s no blasting your way through enemies like some 80s movie, The Spy Who Shrunk Me VR requires a measured approach. As that gadget list implies killing is slightly frowned upon, knocking enemies out with the airbag mines or making them slip over with a banana. They don’t stay down for long, but you can then pick them up to throw in a bin – or if you’re feeling rather sadistic a paper shredder.
This is where the cracks start to show, however. All the gadgets are placed on a belt which isn’t anywhere near your waist. Gabbing those items isn’t too tricky, but trying to pick up a shrunken enemy proves to be nigh on infuriating. Especially when they tend to run off like Road Runner towards the nearest alarm. Manage this task and they have ragdoll physics, twitching all over the place. Don’t put them in a bin or flush them down a toilet and they will get back up eventually.
Should the alarm sound then it’s pretty much level over and time for a restart. Sirens start blaring and out of nowhere a group of shaven-headed Russian agents appear – all clones by the looks of it – to fill you with bullet holes. Apart from death, the only other choice is to hide very well using the Shrink Ray. That is of course if you have ammo which is fairly scarce.
As with any VR videogame of this style, it’s important to talk about movement. Smooth direct locomotion is the main – and only option – for wandering around the levels. You may think that the teleportation gadget would work as an alternative but unfortunately, that isn’t going to work. Once in shrunken (Borrower) size, the teleporter helps to reach those hard to reach areas. Or it would if it didn’t terribly glitch every so often. The worst glitches can drop you through the map, falling into infinity. Mild ones tend to struggle to put you on a highlighted ledge. What the teleporter needs is distance control, as it seems fairly arbitrary at the moment.
All that being said, there’s nothing wrong with the premise of The Spy Who Shrunk Me VR. Playing with size and scale in VR is something VRFocus would like to see more of – see A Fisherman’s Tale – and running around the levels in miniature gives a whole new perspective to sneaking about. The Spy Who Shrunk Me VR certainly needs polish to hone the experience, so it’s one to keep an eye on.