We review Land’s End, the first virtual reality offering from hit developer ustwo games.
Monument Valley was easily one of the most distinctive and memorable puzzle games of last year, so when its creators revealed that they were developing a VR title, we were left intrigued and excited.
The result is Land’s End – a physics-based puzzle game wrapped up in a beautiful, fantastical world where you explore strange land, searching for a way to awaken an ancient civilisation.
The game is divided into five distinct landscapes that take you from overcast craggy isles to icy caves, desert outcroppings and mountaintops. ustwo has clearly held onto the same feel that it instilled within the world of Monument Valley, presenting you with a mysterious and seemingly empty world, that is at least, until you really start to explore.
The cel shaded environments are hewn from simplistic polygons and textures that give the game a clean aesthetic, dressed in a predominantly tertiary colour palette that adds punch to the level design too. Sound design is equally minimalist, with in-game sounds underscored by a synth-driven soundtrack that gives presence and meaning to the places you discover and the actions you carry out.
The real genius of Land’s End is in its control scheme. Designing a game for VR is a markedly different task to designing for 2D and controls have a huge effect on how you interact with the world. Despite launching as a Gear VR exclusive, it’s a wonder why that it didn’t launch as a Google Cardboard title too.
The entire game is operated purely by head movements, there’s no need for a controller and unless you want to capture screenshots in-game (which is a possibility as it’s so beautiful), you won’t even need the Gear VR’s touchpad either.
Land’s End is a slow game and that’s part of the attraction, you stare at designated markers along a path to move from one to the next. Occasionally the paths branch off as you complete multiple tasks in a single level, but it’s all governed simply by where you look. There are physics-based moments where you need to pick up and move around rocks and boulders to progress and the design is such that you get all the information you need –about how to pick up and release object, from intelligent object placement and level design.
Aside from the menu screen, where you’re asked to “look behind you” to start the game, there’s no text, but whether you’re a seasoned user of VR or a first-timer, it shouldn’t matter.
The whole game can be completed in around an hour and the difficulty of the puzzles never reaches as high as Monument Valley did, but it doesn’t really matter. Being able to exist in this unique world is enough enjoyment on its own and uncovering the story of the ancient civilisation is simply a nice bonus that helps moves the narrative along.
Land’s End is another gem and a must-have for Samsung Gear VR owners who want to share the joys of technology to others, without needing to explain how it works. It’s one of the pricier titles on the Oculus Store at $7.99, but we’d say it’s wholly worth it – and nicely timed to coincide with the arrival of the consumer version.
You can buy the Gear VR from O2 right now.
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