When virtual reality (VR) started to remerge several years ago and debate about locomotion was rife with what could and couldn’t work, swinging around like Spider-Man was considered ill-advised. Obviously, since then videogames like Windlands have proven the method can work, even if a little intense. There are more titles on their way such as Tarzan VR with the latest coming from Gamedust in the form of Yupitergrad, an environmental puzzler set in space where both speed and humour are vital parts of the experience.
Space stations and swinging around like you’re a circus act may not sound like two aspects that would work together but in the case of Yupitergrad this combination does. The basic story goes that you play a cosmonaut sent by the Russian’s to a space station orbiting Jupiter. Whilst up there you conduct an experiment which goes wrong, so you then have to navigate the complex to fix things or there’s no going home, as they don’t really like failure for some reason.
It’s a very loose plot and you don’t necessarily need to pay lots of attention to work out what’s going on but there’s a fun comedy element if you do. An AI talks to you throughout, offering suggestions, facts and a few humorous lines in a very deadpan Russian tone. The delivery of which does lighten the mood as you’re trying to navigate flames, spinning saws of death and avoid the void of space.
The mechanics of Yupitergrad are very simple, you’ve been equipped with a grappling system on each hand – you don’t have any hands in fact – from which you can fire tethered suction cups to certain surfaces. This is your primary form of movement, there’s no running around or teleporting, it’s all swinging. The only caveat to that is the small thrusters on each arm which can be used for short distances on the ground yet their main purpose is to help navigate waterlogged areas or build up momentum to swing. As such, it’s really easy to get going due to the lack of a complicated control scheme.
On the other hand, mastering swinging through tight corridors, even tighter gaps and around corners takes some practice. The striking cel-shaded art style isn’t just there for visual effect, as the vivid blue panels are the only ones you can attach to which makes this process that bit harder. Whilst fairly prevalent, as the levels get more difficult these blue panels become smaller, less widespread and they also start moving. Yellow moveable panels are also introduced to add a more defined puzzle element.
Because most of the time Yupitergrad is all about making it from A to B, through a whirling dervish of danger. What’s truly amazing is how comfortable the gameplay is. Now that’s not to say those that are quite prone to VR nausea might get affected but from all the random direction changes, vertical drops or just wildly launching into the air, to actually cause motion sickness there was no hint of it. You wouldn’t want to introduce someone to VR with this videogame, best saved for further down the line.
Due to the comfort swinging through the station becomes quite natural with some of the longer open corridors allowing for epic traversals which are really satisfying to pull off. Yupitergrad isn’t a breeze though. The compact areas with arrays of spinning machines do have that repetition factor, as you need to perfectly time each motion, not always easy when you’re dangling from a rope.
Other than making it through each area, there’s not much in the way of additional content. There are no trinkets to find or secrets to unlock. Occasional terminals will give you amusing information but that’s about it. Yupitergrad is a very straightforward title in that respect.
What you see is what you get with Gamedust’s latest VR experience and that’s no bad thing. From the aesthetics to the locomotion, Yupitergrad is a nicely crafted VR game which was thrilling to play at points. The light humour gives it character few VR titles achieve, nicely offsetting those moments of frustration. It would’ve been nice if there was a bit more because Slavic Spider-Man deserves it.