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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Me in Beat Saber

It's been a while since I painted anything and since I lack any kind of imagination I decided to go for me playing Beat Saber even though it's more of a 'me posing for the camera in Beat Saber'.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Ren's Home World

Some time ago I decided that I want a home world, my own place where I could just relax. I didn't finish the project but I might in the future.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Assassin's Creed: Escape the Lost Pyramid

I wanted to go to an escape room for a long time. I always want to. Unfortunately, I'm also not the best person to find others who'd like to join me. My flatmate is one of those that would gladly go, but we never managed to find the time. We finally went to one which required covid testing and venturing outside. While I wanted to try traditional escape games I was also intrigued by VR ones. After playing the The Room VR I wanted to experience more. Unfortunately the other games I played on Steam were of questionable quality most of the time. So I wondered what a game meant for escape room experience for anyone would look like, how it would play and how it would be controlled. There are four 'expeditions' we could go on, 2 from the world of Assassin's Creed, one from Prince of Persia and the last one from Alice in Wonderland. I wanted to experience AC: Escape the Lost Pyramid first. It is the first project of this kind from Ubisoft and I have to say they've done a great job at it. I believe the following Ubisoft ones will be even better and maybe a bit harder.

We arrived few hours early and asked if we could play because there wasn't any reservation for that time. Someone else had a similar idea though and came earlier as well. We were still allowed to play early but we had to wait before the other two people would start their expedition and a computer was prepared for us. The two were being given instructions while we had a nice chat with the lady behind the counter. Some time later we were told that we can also hop in.

They took some neat photos of us. Then we were told that the game requires cooperation and that we need to communicate. Since I was recognized as one of the Beat Saber tournament players from earlier that week we didn't get much of a tutorial before hand and were allowed to proceed with the game. The headsets put on our heads were Rift S which might not be ideal if you are playing a game requiring fast movements like Beat Saber but good for first VR experience. Then I was given a left controller to my right hand, so I put it in my left and grabbed the other. We heard Animus speaking to us.

Welcome to the Animus. February 1928. An expedition led by Sir Beldon Frye disappears somewhere in the Sinai Peninsula. A team of four and a dozen local porters were looking for the Lost Pyramid of Nebka... Or more precisely, "something" that should have been there. They were never seen again. Using the simulation reconstructed from their DNA memory, your team will put themselves in the shoes of the explorers. Find out what happened to the expedition. And more importantly, locate what they were looking for.

Before we began our adventure we went through a short tutorial how to move (it uses teleportation as locomotion) and how to get some hints (raise hands). Then we could choose an avatar and customize it a bit (stare at a mirror) and then the game could start.

Animus sent us to the lost pyramid Nebka to search for a piece of Eden. I materialized in what seemed to be a chamber even though it wasn't as it turned out later. It was mostly dark so all I could see was a lit torch nearby. I grabbed the torch and saw hieroglyphs on the walls. I noticed a fireplace so I lit the wood and put the torch back. Then I looked at the first puzzle with a puzzled look. I was just enjoying the little enclosed space around me and when my friend advanced into another room I decided to join. So I used my hand to move things around and appeared in the same place which was a nice experience. There we stood for a little while not really communicating but solving next puzzle. Just looking at it, it was clear it would require a cooperation so we did that and then got stuck for a bit because physics in a VR game is not the same as in the real world.

After finally realizing that I can't walk with an object in each hand and that objects don't fly the way my brain is used too I finally fully immersed myself in the game. We were on a platform somewhere at the bottom of the pyramid and it was clear that in order to escape we would need to go higher and higher. This is something that's impossible to experience in real life, since it can't be easily built and would be dangerous. The grandeur of the place put me in awe and I just looked around to absorb everything it. At one point I moved close to the edge of the in-game platform while I also reached the edge of the platform I stood in real life, I almost fell and this was a way too realistic feeling and got me scared for a second (I disabled the guardian before playing, I do not recommend doing this). For a bit I wondered if I would just jump down but decided not too since I didn't know how respawn was handled in this game (I don't like falling nor heights).

We continued on and we had to cooperate more, each of us doing something else so we could advance. The game features nicely done archery and climbing. Everything felt quite natural even though it probably was meant for people who are on average taller than me.

After finishing the game we were shown our clear time. The time was 42:00 which we found pretty neat. After that several photos were taken in-game for us to keep as a memory.

Verdict:
Escape the Lost Pyramid is a well crafted escape room from the Assassin's Creed: Origins settings, that can be completed easily within one hour while you still have time to enjoy the environment. The atmosphere and immersion is great. The game presents the players with easy puzzles that are interesting and have a purpose - showing the power of virtual reality - and feel rewarding enough. Archery, a very common in introductory VR games, felt natural and was used well. Climbing is also one of the things you can experience in various games and the difficulty is something that can vary a lot. In Escape the Lost Pyramid it wasn't straining or difficult, just enough for us to get a feel for this kind of activity in VR.

There are two points that I could possibly see as a negative. Teleporting is something that can break the immersion. I do not know how much space is normal to have available at VR facilities, this was my first time venturing into one, but I think the game could easily be played with just free movement. Instead of forced teleportation that could be used for standing play. The second thing I got stuck the longest time was when I entered a 3d model I couldn't get out. It showed me the direction in which to move but there was a real life wall and it took me a while to figure out the game still worked the same. Not being able to see any (broken) graphics and just standing in the void didn't suggest I was still able to teleport (that didn't show up either when I tried to move).

Apart from these minor two things this escape room felt like an ideal introduction to VR. I highly recommend this to anyone who'd like to see what virtual reality can offer or experience a nice escape room in VR.

S'Tsung (stsungjp on Twitter)

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Beyond: Two Souls

Beyond: Two Souls is a story-rich game from Quantic Dreams studio starring one of my favorite actors Elliot Page and Willem Dafoe whom I'm fond of too. It tells a story of Jodie (Page), a girl that was born with a 'gift' - an invisible entity named Aiden. Being special with such an entity around her, it's no surprise that she was experimented on and it was the government that wanted to use her and find the connection to the world from where the entity belongs to while she just hoped for a normal life. It seems obvious to me that the story was created to make us ponder about what lies beyond death but it seemed to miss the mark (for me at least).

The game is scripted which is no surprise since it is more of an interactive movie that was directed by David Cage. Cage has wonderful ideas but turning then into a masterpiece probably needs a bit more than one single great mind. You, the player, can play as both Jodie and Aiden. The game asks you in which way you want to experience the game, either chronologically or the way it was originally intended - that is what I chose. Here Jodie tells us that she doesn't know how to start and she may as well begin here. We then get to see a scene where we see her at a police station where a sheriff is trying to find out what happened to her. SWAT team storms the station. We don't see what happens, but we get to see how they all end up - dead with the exception of the sheriff who was kind and tried to help.

After the prologue and this chapter we start to see more from Jodie's life. Each chapter shows a life event from anywhere from her life between the age 8 and 23. The chapters of her life are very different and of a different kind of gravity. While this is something I'd expect, it is also something that made the game very incoherent story wise. I was once at a birthday party being a total clueless outcast and then on a CIA mission. Part of the game seems like a slice of life game, then turns into a drama, horror and then sci-fi.

As for gameplay. Well, there isn't much of it. Most of the time you'll probably watch cinematic scenes. When not, you will be asked to do simple tasks like stand up, grab something, walk or shoot a man. There are no puzzles or things that would stimulate the brain, all you have to do is follow a white dot somewhere on the screen. The other part are quick-time events that are happening during the cutscenes. There is also some combat. The game will slow down during a combat and tell you what button to press or where to move your mouse. It's very hard to say what you are supposed to do, so choosing the right direction is quite a guesswork. No matter how beat up you end up, the game just progresses on. Can you even die since Aiden can heal people?

The controls is something I wouldn't normally comment on, but this game is ported from Playstation and as a PC user you are to use a keyboard and mouse. Moving Jodie was rather difficult since the camera seems to have life of its own and often decides to turn in the opposite direction resulting in you turning twice and watch the camera move just to end up in the same spot you started walking from. When the game goes into slow motion you often need to move your mouse in time to a certain direction as I described before. That alone is quite a mess and if it made actual impact on the story (as in Detroit: Become Human) I'd probably be more negative about this. You move Jodie with A, S, D, W keys but are often asked to press and tap one of the 1,2,3,4 keys which to me felt rather awkward. Moving Aiden is much easier since he can just fly through everything and it switches to first person view. On the other hand using his ability requires you to either align two points at another one, place the two points somewhere specific or just 'charge' the action. When in fight you can get confused about what you are supposed to do. For the first 5 hours I was more or less fine with this, but with each hour that passed it was getting more and more annoying. Especially in sequences that seemed to be timed and you were running for your life.

Aiden apart from flying and going through walls, he can move objects, kill people, control people, heal and protect. Thanks to Aiden Jodie can go through places a normal human being wouldn't be able to which also means that Aiden is the game's Deux Ex machina. Aiden's abilities would be great if they would be the same throughout the whole game since you could count with that and use your logic to solve problems. Unfortunately, that's not true. Sometimes you can roam free and explore a large area, the next time you just can't even go through the first door that is a step away. The fact that you are still always led to a certain action doesn't help it either - there's not much freedom in using Aiden.

Dialogues have choices which is nothing new and is expected in a story-driven game. Your choices can affect the outcome of the story but not much as in Heavy Rain or Detroit: Become Human. There doesn't seem to be much variety in terms of paths throughout the game - the game will simply gravitate towards one similar ending that is not even satisfying since it brings even more questions than it answers. The revelation that you can just simply let go off the controls and just let the game flow made me wonder why this was even produced as a game. It would made a great short TV series. Or a 3 hour movie (8 hours if not edited and released just as it is in the game).

The story is what makes the game and honestly I'm not entirely sure what to think about it. The story is one huge mess that just drags Jodie through her life in which she wants to become normal but is not allowed to. There doesn't seem to be much of character development and many of the situations and dialogues seemed to be forced. The game was probably supposed to provoke deep emotions in us and make us think but unfortunately I couldn't fully immerse myself in the game. Jodie simply wasn't a believable character to me, no matter how great job Elliot did. I couldn't attach to her in any way because everything just screamed - a lie. The controls didn't help it either, the QTEs that felt futile or the frustration with the actual 'game' parts was something that was breaking the story apart too. It broke the tension and flow of it. I could just passively watch while being detached from everything going on in the game. Maybe it was also partly because I wouldn't choose any of the options in the game if it were me in Jodie's position.

As for visuals, the game is stunning. The motion capture they use is one of the best and the graphics is awesome. We get to see different environments, in some we can even roam free for a bit, and that is something great. Unfortunately all we can do is just look at the scenery and walk from given point A to a given point B without any detours. Exploring or interacting is simply not there. The animations and lighting effects are great. The game is one long interactive movie and many of the scenes are done in a way we'd expect from a movie. This makes for a really great scenes that makes us feel emotions we probably wouldn't from a more traditional approach game. The acting is excellent and Elliot Page did a really great job at breathing life into Jodie. Willem Dafoe played well too and even went out of his comfort zone at the end of the game. Unfortunately, the relationship between Jodie and Nathan somehow lost all kind of chemistry, it felt like the actors weren't even present at the same scene when it was shoot. It left me wondering if either of them cared about one another at some point?

Verdict:
This game was one big disappointment. As a movie-like game I expected a very strong and coherent story where every decision mattered, instead I got a very linear and clichéd messy story where I could not even make the decisions that seemed logical and the ones I could choose didn't change the narrative. There was one decision I was allowed to make that I liked - leave everything at the base and leave the past behind. Unfortunately, there was a hop into the future where the items were present again! I also coldly turned Ryan down at every occasion and would actually slap him in the face and to never see him again. Instead the game throws a decision at me stating 'Kiss' at the end (the possibility of taking his life would actually make sense but that option was not there).

From the game play view, this game could be described as follow the white dot or find a blue dot and do something with it. I did not pay 20 bucks for a game in which even walking is a tiresome task. I learned from other games that QTEs can be rewarding or satisfying but in this case they do the opposite most of the time because while they are easy to execute, they are difficult to read. 95% of the times you can just let the game go on without doing a single action (note I mean during the time when you are supposed to play the game), in those 5% that it matters, the decision itself won't matter much.

The story itself is actually good if it would be told in a different way than the two possible ones and would make for a great series or a movie. There is nothing that ties all the memories together and your decisions in the past do not change the outcome of the game (with maybe one exception, Ryan). The controls are so bad that will make you feel frustrated and distract from anything that actually caught your interest or engaged you in the story.

The camera is also something that could use some work, it moves when it shouldn't and there are moments during which it just simply shakes to add some dramatic effect. Unfortunately it made me sick and also made it more difficult to move.

The presentation of the game, graphics, visuals, animation, sound and soundtrack are truly stunning. Same goes to Elliot Page's acting. Without Elliot the game would be most probably lifeless. While I enjoyed the acting of other characters in the game, the characters weren't written in a way that would make them believably human from my point of view.

Obvious plot holes, and the fact I couldn't make decisions or feel like anything I did mattered just made me passively watch the game, not giving me any motivation to attach to the characters, story or even just play the game.

While I managed to find reasons to recommend games I didn't like to other people I just can't find something worth recommending here. It failed me in terms of story and emotions and even in terms of the little game play there is.

Thank you for reading,
Ren (stsungjp on Twitter)

Sunday, June 13, 2021

VRChat

Writing a review for VRChat is difficult because, VRChat will be anything you want it to be.

VRChat is a social platform where everything is possible. That's where my review could pretty much end. On the other hand I could also write many pages of what VRChat is. So let's try to keep it within the 8000 characters limit on Steam.

In the past when I wanted to socialize with people online I joined a channel on IRC. People there already shared an interest or a hobby which made it easier to start a conversation. Sometimes when I felt 'lucky' I entered the wild world of Yahoo chat rooms where you either ran into horny men or ordinary people trying to find other people to talk about something. If you started a conversation with someone you needed to talk to them not knowing much about them which meant the conversation was reflecting a real life conversation more often than not. From these days I have many friends around the world that I later met IRL and we hanged out together.

Nowdays there are many ways how to socialize online and it's not limited to text form. VRChat is a place where you don on an avatar and venture into 3d worlds. You can run VRChat either in desktop mode, playing it in a traditional way, or you can launch it in VR. When in VRChat you can visit different worlds created by the community. These can be anything from a small recreation of someone's room, an art museum, a recreation of a game be it a VR title like Beat Saber or a traditional game like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a dance club, a pub, or a totally original world or game. While many of the content will be reflecting the real world, there are different limits to what is possible in virtual worlds. For example you can FLY!

The name VRChat implies that you should chat with people but there's way more to that and you don't necessarily need to engage with others if you don't want to. When you log in you can start exploring worlds or find a place you'd like to hang out. You might want to go to a pub to meet people and chat, but expect people to get drunk! Or you could go to a karaoke bar to sing or listen to others singing (quite an experience - due to internet delays), there are various clubs where you can dance, there's even a big rave scene in VRChat. You can also go to an art museum, or find a place where you can paint yourself. If you feel like just watching a movie, you can find a theatre to your liking, be it on the moon or in medieval world. You may want to exercise, be it squat challenges with other players, yoga or dance exercise.

Then there are worlds that are more interactive. You can go play some games. Capture the flag is an option for example, but there are also climbing worlds, escape rooms, dungeons you have to clear or worlds that are more like a full fledged game (see The Devouring).

There are also events in VRChat, they can be small - a class for learning Japanese, slightly larger - a dance party or huge - virtual convention. There are meets, cons, shows, panels, and concerts in VRChat. Anything is possible.

VRChat is also a platform that will allow you to explore your own self and it might start with a custom avatar you'd like to represent yourself. After a certain time of playing VRChat you will be given the possibility to upload a custom avatar. People can create whatever they want but you will most often run into anime girl avatars (with animal ears and tails) that are in fact men in real life. This is a VRChat reality and might take a while for you to get used to. Apart from anime girls you can meet any kind of avatar be it a furry, avali, Alien or a (talking) tank.

There is one more thing you might want to be prepared for - mirrors. We all know what a mirror is and use it to check if our hair is not a mess or our clothes fit well. In VRChat you will be encountering many people staring into a mirror all the time. They might be chatting, dancing but mostly just staring. Don't ask me why.

None of what I wrote will probably prepare you for your first VRChat experience because there are no limits to what VRChat can be and since people are different and play the game for different reasons, literally anything can happen. This also means there is a dark side to VRChat. In public worlds, you can encounter toxic people or those that will want to crash you (especially if you are streaming). Sexual harassment is an actual thing, if you are a woman you might want to be prepared for that. One of my first experiences is entering a public world in a female lolita avatar. A group of other avatars encircled me and started touching my avatars boobs. When I greeted these people (I seriously had no idea what to do) they dispersed with 'oh another dude' and it was over.

Verdict:
If you have a VR headset I would highly recommend visiting different VRChat worlds, because those are works of art. There are places that are truly amazing. There are many activities you can do, even in VR, with others and enjoy them even more. You can meet many great people and find friends. Together you can visit worlds together, play the games there, as they are mostly multiplayer ones. You should also be prepared for a culture that may be known to those who ever set foot at an anime convention. You will meet many horny men, in anime girl avatars with big bouncing boobs and bouncing butt cheeks, often playing with these body parts or doing some erotic role play with another man in a similar avatar. If not this you may listen to conversation that requires a knowledge of memes old and current, making you wonder if you actually live on the same planet. If you are loooking for extraordinary experiences and you are ready for anything that can happen, go try VRChat since it is free.

Ren (stsungjp on Twitter)

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Little Nightmares

Little Nightmares is a very cute horror game full of mystery created by a Swedish development studio named Tarsier Studios. I haven't played many games released later than 2006 (I'm starting to catch up) but I remember this studio getting known for LittleBigPlanet which is a very cute puzzle platformer.

Little Nightmares is also a cute puzzle platformer. The environment though is rather the opposite - very dark and creepy.

The game starts with a dream where we can see a strange figure. Then we see a little girl, dressed in a bright yellow rain coat, wake up in a suitcase, in a rather dark place. The girl is named Six which is something I found out after getting a certain achievement. You control Six and lead her through a very dark environment. You learn that she has a lighter she can use to light her way. All you know is that you are in a hostile environment and you want to run away. There is no story in the game, or rather there is no text telling it. Instead all you get are clues shown to you while you push forward. It will be your own imagination creating the story. There are twists and revelations that can shatter even the worst thoughts you managed to come up with.

Since the beginning of the game you can see that the camera moves. There is a constant rocking movement (it made me sick). I wondered why it was there until I found out the game takes place on a ship named The Maw. Six will go through different places that we know from our every day lives from bathrooms, kitchen, bedroom to a restaurant. These places though are warped and you certainly wouldn't want to linger there for long. If this place is real, who lives here? You will eventually find that out - humanoid creatures live here. If Six runs into one of these creatures she should hide or run away because she'll be followed, hunted and eventually eaten if caught. Apart these humanoid monsters and other children held captive, there are little creatures, Nomes, that show you the way if you pay attention.

Little Nightmares might look like a 2d platformer but it's more of a 2.5d platformed. You can move in 3d even though the camera will be most of the time be just side scrolling. This is a nice feature and gives more options of what you can do and how you can interact with items. Unfortunately it is also one of the things that can frustrate you because guessing the exact position of Six is difficult and this can result in unnecessary deaths. Controls are a bit awkward which is not something you want when you are playing a platformer where every step and timing counts.

The art style, graphics and animations are perfect. The yellow raincoat creates a nice contrast. Everything is detailed and created in a way that is very disturbing, creating an atmosphere of a nightmare. Sound is stellar. The music makes the atmosphere even more dense and the sound effects are perfect, they will create even more tension.

Verdict:
Little Nightmares is a short game with awesome graphics and sound creating a very creepy ambience and tension. The game is part a puzzle platformer and part hide-and-seek horror game. While there is no story told in the form of text, you will be discovering more information about the environment and creatures living in it during the game and it will keep you hungry for more. The most horrific part of the game is not the graphics, stylization or creatures but rather what all this implies. Experience-wise this game is perfect, unfortunately this experience can be ruined by bad controls, bad orientation in 3d world, and some trial-and-error parts resulting in unnecessary deaths that might break the immersion. While all the death animations are nice, they take a long time and are followed by similarly slow loading time.

I'd recommend this game to anyone who wants to play a unique game that provokes thought and emotions.

Thank you for reading
Ren (stsungjp on Twitter)

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Paper Dolls: Original and Paper Dolls VR

Paper Dolls: Original/纸人

A very dear friend of mine recommended me to play Paper Dolls: Original after I streamed Little Nightmares 1 and 2. I remembered Scarlett's stream of it and wondered if I would want to buy the game. 15 USD was a price I did not need to think twice about even though I wondered if I should buy both Paper Dolls 1 and 2 or just the first game. I went with the first option because I did not expect to like the game much. Now I regret it since I'll be definitely buying Paper Dolls 2.

Paper Dolls/纸人 is supposedly a first person (survival) horror game from Chinese studio Litchi Game. Why supposedly? Games are often labeled with tags or a type but it does not necessarily need to reflect what the game is about. In the past year I played more horror games than in my whole life but I would not actually call any of those games a horror game. There are two games I'd call horror games - Silent Hill and Resident Evil (a bit less). None of the games I played lately gave me the same vibes (I was seriously out of my mind when playing some of the Silent Hill or Resident Evil games) or experiences. In this case I'd call Paper Dolls just a puzzle game, not a horror nor an action-adventure game. On the other hand, what makes a game a horror game?

Yang Mingyuan is driving his daughter Molly to her mother. He didn't take his medicine before leaving because he thought the meds were the reason for strange dreams he was getting. While driving he hears different voices in his head while you can hear Molly's voice asking him if he took his medicine that day. Then we can see a light flash and the car crashes right after it. Then there's just darkness and silence. Yang wakes up and opens his eyes to see a silhouette of a child. Yang stands up and finds himself in an old mansion, next to him there is a paper doll of a man who was beheaded. And you wonder if that was a living person or it is some very creepy art.

When the cutscene ends you can start playing the game. The first thing you will find out is that Yang moves really slowly. It is normal that in games you can walk at relatively slow speed and then run at a reasonable pace. In this game though you literally crawl at snail's speed. While this may be in theory an advantage in VR, it's not in a traditional PC/console game. There is a run button but it means that Yang will do 2, 3 or maybe even 4 steps and then needs to catch his breath to run again.

After you familiarize with the controls (which puzzled me more than majority of the game's puzzles) you will find out that Yang keeps a diary. After reading the entries you'll find out that Yang seems to suffer from some kind of a mental illness. I'd say that he's not actually insane but rather experiences the call of the mansion or something along these lines - being the one to uncover the horrible mysteries that happened in the Qing Dynasty mansion. Either being Yin descendant or something like that...

In the first room, just close to where Yang wakes up you will find your first clue. There are clues and notes scattered around the house that will help you solve puzzles and progress in the game. The first one is very easy to understand - just find a vinyl disc, fix it and get a reward. The reward is a key to a door. This pretty much sums most of what you'll be doing in the game - finding things, solving puzzles and getting keys to unlock door.

When you start walking around the mansion you'll soon meet the very first ghost - Chen - that will attack you. You might think these are just some kind of hallucinations that Yang has, but they are very real and will kill you after one hit. Soon after encountering Chen you'll walk past a door from which you'll hear Molly's voice. This door will become sealed and you won't be able to enter - it's the last door you will unlock.

In order to finish the game you'll have to solve all puzzles, unlock all the door and seal all ghosts. On your journey you will learn more about the Yin family and what happened in the mansion. Many question will stay just unanswered even after completing the game.

The graphics is not awesome but it's not bad either. It's good enough to create a very good atmosphere - or rather very creepy one. When you light up candles you can see the scene being lit by a nice warm yellow light and it looks great. When a ghost is nearby the light turns green which made me feel bad every single time it happened. There are some items that are very well done which also includes the moving paper doll ghosts.

The sound on the other hand is bad. Yang's and Molly's voice painfully reminded me that I'm playing a Chinese game. The voices of the ghosts are better. The sound effects in general are pretty bad which is something I didn't mind that much in Original version. In VR though, it just jarred on my ears. The worst is the sound of door being opened. Since you'll be walking through them very often you'll hear this jarring sound very often as well which breaks the immersion. As for the music (there's not much of it) I actually liked it. There's more silence to add to the atmosphere and when there is music it does exactly the opposite though

Verdict:
After my first hour of playing I didn't like the game because the controls were giving me a hard time, I moved very slowly, I had no idea how to save, the sound effects were terrible and I had no idea what was going on. With time though the game grew on me. I concentrated more on the items in the mansion and looked forward to another puzzle. I recognized game items easily as they stood out but I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do with them. What you have to do is follow the clues exactly and at specific order otherwise you can get stuck. If the game doesn't allow you to proceed, you missed something.

In the middle of the game more or less it becomes a survival horror game - hide and seek game - because you need to avoid the ghosts. It frustrated me a bit but since it's easy to run away (correction, walk away in slow motion) you will get used to being there with the ghosts and it adds to the eerie atmosphere. The puzzles are something I enjoyed with maybe one exception which is just illogical as there are other ways you could have done this and the game doesn't allow you to do it. Also note that there are two puzzles that will throw Chinese text at you. I read some reviews before buying the game and it seemed to puzzle many players so I was afraid of them. I solved both without much issues but I can read Chinese characters and write them. I did not even look at the clue for one (I finished the game without finding/using 3 clues for the puzzles) and the other one was not much of a puzzle.

In overall the game creates a good atmosphere, has few jump scares, has a mystery that you slowly uncover and has decent well thought out puzzles for you to solve. It has bad controls that you can't change, bad sound breaking immersion, and some decent graphics. If your expectations of games are not high, you don't mind playing a game that was not meant for western audience, you can probably enjoy the game. The game is short which may or may not be an advantage.

Paper Dolls VR

Since I own a PCVR I wanted to try the VR version too. I played this one before Paper Dolls Original which might have been a mistake. On the other hand since this is a stand-alone game you buy it should be also done in a way that makes it possible to play it without knowing the Original version. I expected the game to be a direct port of the game but then the game would either launch in desktop more or VR, not being a stand-alone version.

The first thing you see is the logo of the developer studio followed by a menu that looks pretty ugly. Just recently I learned that the intro screen including the menu is something game designers should pay a lot of attention to because it has to grasp the players attention. Well, this one grasped my attention with how badly it looked. After trial and error of trying to start a new game and checking settings if I can switch to left hand I clenched my teeth and prepared myself for what was to come. It set my expectations very low.

You start the game as Yang in the room with the beheaded guest paper doll too. In the first room there were few things I imagined to be important game items but they turned out not to be. It made me a bit confused why some items are obviously emphasized and some are not while neither does anything in the game. I learned later that they are important items in the Original version and that there is content missing in the VR version . When you will try to walk you'll probably be a bit perplexed, at least I was. It seemed to suggest that I'm supposed to press triggers alternately in order to move. I remembered Westworld Awakening with similar locomotion and hoped this was something I could change in the menu. After you figure out how to move you will notice that you move way slower than you are used to. I have a high end computer but still suspected the game to run badly at this point. It ran just fine though. You just move very slowly and can't go any faster.

When I crawled to Chen's encounter my confusion was even bigger. I crawled under the table but Yang was stuck and I suspected the game just bugged out. I didn't die in the encounter though so I just continued on.

Later on I found out that key items cannot be dropped and that is why I struggled a bit with the first puzzle. I also wondered if I can use two hands or not but didn't figure out how to put the light away (this one is in the help though). While trying to figure out some clues I opened the diary and looked at all the Chinese text. The diary looked great though and this is how the menu should have looked like. The look should have been matching it.

Around this time I also learned that there is an inventory. It's up very close to your face which was rather unpleasant.

Graphics is decent and I enjoyed roaming the mansion and looking at things. Breaking some stuff and playing with swords was nice so I'm glad they added this kind of interaction. The paper dolls and ghosts are great too. They are scary. The sound was really bad and reminded me of one game - TimeLock VR. Actually it reminded me the game with more aspects because it's also meant for Vive, the controls are terrible, there's not much information about how to play the game, UI is atrocious, locomotion is just like 'what the hell?'. For few minutes I walked around trying to get rid of the painful memories from playing TimeLock VR and really hoped that Paper Dolls would be a way better game.

Hours passed and I started to like the game. It was nice to encounter the ghosts from time to time staring at me, hiding in cabinets, enjoying the warm light from the candles when not being green. There were few scares here and there, could be more. The biggest scary element was Ding that chased me almost everywhere.

When I finished the game though I felt that it was a nice experience and was worth playing. I streamed it which meant that it was more fun for me. The game lacks many things and it is sad because even with just little bit of work this could have been a decently good game. But this way I can't really say how good it is. Since there isn't many good VR games I can actually say that this is one of the better games out there and is worth playing. Playing the game blind like I did though is something I can expect people to think the game is really bad as it won't tell you how it is played nor will give you any more clues about the puzzles or how to progress in general. And if you'll be like me, not knowing that you can see English translation if you bring the journal closer to your eyes, you may just decided to give up way too early.

Verdict:
The game has very bad controls, no hints or reasonable tutorial or help, not great graphics, not great sound. All this feels worse than it is when played in VR which is a huge problem. The puzzles and tasks, even simplified, are actually better than in many other games but since there are no hints apart from the game's clues they can be difficult to solve. The content itself is good but may become frustrating for those that can't read Chinese characters. The story or rather the mystery is a nice addition and it was sufficient for me and made me hungry for more, but I can imagine that some people can miss some parts, distract the ghosts or simply not be satisfied with it. The game doesn't really have an ending because it just ends with '...to be continued'.

I would recommend this game only to those that have patience to survive the horror of figuring out how to play this game and those that can follow the game's clues. Each clue has crucial information about what you have to do but this can be disregarded by the player easily as it does not necessarily need to make sense the moment you find it. If you played the Original game and wish to experience some of it in VR I'd recommend playing it too but be prepared for the controls figuring part.

If you'd like to skip the whole Paper Dolls game but still want to get the vibes from similar game I can recommend you a VRChat world that is inspired by Paper Dolls and done right. It's up to 4 player 1-3 hour horror game called Obsession-執念- and was created FlowersRite (don't worry it has English subtitles). Or you can watch my playthrough^_~.

Thank you for reading
Ren (stsungjp on Twitter)