The virtual reality (VR) industry is still very much a community which wants to see everyone succeed, whether that’s an indie developer or hardware manufacturer. It’s why if you go to a dedicated VR or augmented reality (AR) event everyone is always so friendly and helpful. Earlier in October VRFocus took a trip over to Prague in the Czech Republic to see VRgineers and its XTAL headset. While in the city VRgineers suggested a trip to Hamleys to see DIVR, a location-based entertainment (LBE) startup located in the store’s basement which VRgineers had help setup. Currently DIVR’s only location this was ideal to test its two custom VR videogames, Golem VR and Arachnoid. As it would turn out two very different experiences.
Being located in Hamleys (a famous toy store if you weren’t aware) gives you some impression of DIVR’s scale and ambition – it is located in the lower levels next to all the Lego. The setup is very similar to The VOID where the gameplay flows through several rooms, allowing players to touch walls and other solid surfaces whilst feeling wind on their face or a blast of heat.
Using modified Oculus Rift’s and backpack PC’s, DIVR’s system is very much on par with others VRFocus has tested. It doesn’t feel too cumbersome or heavy and the Ultraleap hand tracking is instantly familiar for those who have previously used it and easy to grasp for those that haven’t.
Like any LBE experience, it tends to be the content which sets each apart. Unlike a VR arcade which may use a distribution platform like Synthesis VR or SpringboardVR, DIVR makes its content in-house. Having originally created Blue Effect VR for home headsets, the two on offer in Prague are most definitely designed for LBE gaming.
Golem VR is the best starting point – not to be confused with Highwire Games’ Golem coming to PlayStation VR – offering a gentle puzzle adventure whilst embracing some of the city’s history. Stepping into a time machine, you’re transported back several hundred years to the Renaissance, tasked with finding Rabbi Low and his new creation, the Golem.
Family-friendly, Golem VR provides a pleasant story-driven experience where challenges range from chasing chickens to finding glyphs which unlock secret doors. Nothing too difficult which means most players should happily plod through, nicely keeping the story flow going. An important factor is that because you have nothing in your hands like you would on a home VR headset, there’s a much greater connection to this virtual world, providing an ideal hook and sense of presence new players should find delightful.
Having gone through Golem VR with one of VRgineers’ team it was then time to step into Arachnoid. This was a different beast entirely and certainly not for the faint of heart – even for those not too bothered by spiders. Alas, Arachnoid was where the chaperone drew the line, so VRFocus had to experience the eight-legged horrors alone.
As you might expect Arachnoid is rather intense. Not straight away mind, there is a nice little build-up before the fanged beasties suddenly come a crawling. For this experience DIVR gives players an actual flashlight to hold, lighting up the dark corners. As the experience is set in an underground facility which can only be accessed through a mine, a bit of extra light is certainly appreciated. But there was the occasional tracking issue which did ruin the immersive qualities at points.
Again this was a puzzle adventure, so there were no guns to speak of. This probably helps to increase the jump factor for a lot of players as they can’t protect themselves – there was plenty of temptation to throw/smash the torch when a spider popped up. And pop up they did, in their droves.
Ever watch the film Arachnophobia (1990)? Remember those latter stages of the film when all the spiders infested the house? Well combine that with a mommy arachnid the size of an SUV and you can imagine the joys that await. Oh and let’s not forget the spitting, suddenly getting a faceful of green vomit. Once up close the spiders weren’t that terrifying, having an animatronic look about them. Far scarier was the spatial sound which was excellent. Hearing something scurry around just out of view made those lonely moments much more intense. However, the spiders tended to distract from the rather mundane puzzles, collect weird goo and transport it to said location or find a set number of keys. The last one was a little more elaborate yet puzzle fans will be underwhelmed.
It was also clear that DIVR controls the experience enabling multiple groups to run through at the same time. Completely understandable from a business perspective to maximise space and time, especially if a group gets stuck. Yet there was a feeling of being rushed even when the challenge was almost complete. Doors suddenly opened just before finding the last piece of the puzzle for example. This may have been due to playing alone rather than in a team.
Arachnoid did have one final ace up its sleeve right at the end, a score. You’re given a completion percentage as there are tapes to find uncovering the story of what happened in the lab alongside how long the experience took to complete. Plus, there are multiple endings depending on how attentive you are to the environment.
Because of this replay factor, VRFocus really does want to give Arachnoid another try, with more people next time. If trying to decide between the both, remember Golem VR is a one play through deal while Arachnoid does offer a little more value for money. Neither quite offer the same excitement as The VOID’s Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire or Zero Latency’s warehouse-scale Sol Raiders but you can’t have everything. If you’re in Prague and fancy some VR, DIVR has created an LBE location that’s worth taking a look at.