Just like it’s guaranteed the sun will set on any given day or that taxes will be a lifelong hobby of everyone you know, you can count on Playup Perth continually being a good time. Like clockwork, Perth peeps everywhere were treated to a fantastic showcase last Friday night at the Nostalgia Box for a very special VR edition of the local monthly roundup.
If you’re still not sure what Nostalgia Box is (and you should be a bit ashamed of yourself if you don’t by this point) it’s a fantastic retro gaming museum right in the heart of Northbridge (next to the TAFE). They hold many great events like Playup every month, but it’s also well worth a visit, in general, to learn about the 40-year history of something you might do every day.
As the VR industry is smaller than it’s normal, boring everyday 2D counterpart (although growing at a confident and quick rate) there were fewer games on show than usual. That didn’t quell the turnout, however, as the Nostalgia Box was packed to the brim full of attentive spectators. So much so in fact, that the event was sold out! As an added bonus, Lisa Chu was also there who is the Program Manager for HTC’s Vive.
Overall, a great turnout and there were a fantastic set of games on show. Let’s delve in!
Symphony of the Machine [Stirfire Studios]
Originally starting life during the Global Game Jam of 2016, Symphony of the Machine is a ‘zen’ puzzle game. Based around a tower with flower-like attributes in a barren landscape, it’s discovered that it harbours an ancient machine that can restore natural growth again if used correctly. This is where the puzzles come into play, as beams of light are manipulated around a series of glyphs. The more puzzles you solve, the more the weather will turn in your favour resulting in delicious crops so you don’t starve!
My experience of Symphony of the Machine was marvellous. Instead of frantic action that appears to occupy most VR releases these days, the game instead opts for a more casual, relaxed atmosphere. There is no time limit or other additional stress factors imposed on you. The puzzles are reasonably difficult, yes, but not so much that you’re left stuck and frustrated. You’re treated to a nice view (including the progression of your food growing) and fantastic music, but what shined for me were the absorbing puzzle periods that lead to very satisfying “a-ha!” moment.
Symphony of the Machine will also be shipping on a large number of platforms (for VR, anyway). It’s available April, 11th on the HTC Vive, The Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR.
The Drowning Dungeons [Savage Cabbage]
Currently in early access on Samsung’s GearVR network, The Drowning Dungeons is a multi-level escape room puzzler. The protagonist you play awakes in what is called the Drowning Dungeon which is overseen by the Lord and Lady of the Draemarian Provinces. You’ve been chosen for this once in a five-year event to escape rising water levels and eventually the dungeon its self, or else your life essence will be syphoned to further fuel the Lord and Lady for years to come. Lucky you!
Involving plenty of traps and puzzles, The Drown Dungeons is a fun game that reminds me a lot of ’90s dungeon crawlers. While a bit difficult (which is wholeheartedly on purpose) I had a ball of time traversing the dark and dank dungeons solving puzzles while trying not to drown. The fact that it was running smoothly on a mobile phone of all things (remember, VR games need to render their game environments twice simultaneously) impressed me too. Check it out if you own a compatible Samsung phone!
Pictured, Nick drowning and myself laughing at his imminent doom.
Boondoggle [Burning Candle Software]
Impressively hand-coded using DirectX 11 and C++ (no doubt lovingly), Boondoggle is a music visualiser completely in VR using the Oculus Rift. The visualisations start as soon as the software registers that sound is being outputted (from any source originating from the PC) and there are several types generated that can be thumbed through at leisure.
While the standard set of visualisers that have been kicking around since the ’90s was always a nice touch to any music player, Boondoggle really takes it to the next level when immersion is considered. When all you can see are the visualisations generated by the tunes in a 3D space thanks to the Oculus and all you can hear is the music you’ve chosen with headphones, Boondoggle takes relaxation to another level as your sensors can’t be distracted by anything else. Boondoggle’s engine is also free and open-source – so if you own an Oculus, there is no excuse to give it a whirl next time your favourite artist releases a new song!
And, That’s a Wrap
This month’s Playup also included the delightful news that WA video games were making fantastic headway in politics. Developers from Stirfire Studios have been working very hard behind the scenes with The Greens and Senator Scott Ludlam. The plan is to reintroduce an improved Australian Interactive Games Fund (AIGF) much like what Victoria has – hopefully transforming Perth into a commercial video game wonderland. There is plenty of talent in Perth to drive this, no doubt. Playup its self is proof of this.
If the government were to lend a financial hand, who knows how far we could go. Scott Ludlam was actually scheduled to be at the event personally showing off a VR experience, but sadly he had to be in Canberra partaking in important politician stuff. Maybe next time, Mr. Ludlam! Regardless, that’s that for this month’s Perth Playup. Links to all games mentioned here can be found on the Playup Perth’s website. Until next month!