Genre: Adventure, Puzzle
Platform: Playstation VR
Rating: E for Everyone
Robinson: The Journey is Crytek’s first project for the Playstation VR. With its beautiful, immersive environments and intriguing story, this game should be considered a staple for every VR user. It’s not without its share of problems, though. Repetitive challenges, near-impossible climbing mechanics, and slow-paced movement leave much to be desired. There is hope for the PSVR in games like this, however.
Robinson: The Journey is incredibly kid-friendly. There are some startling surprises that may cause you to jump, like climbing a wall to find a dinosaur waiting on you. Occasionally, predatory dinosaurs can be seen bloodlessly devouring smaller animals. A T-rex is crushed by falling debris. Despite the game being rated for “mild language,” I encountered none during my playthrough.
The core of Robinson: The Journey is a futuristic, dinosaur-infused take on the classic tale, Robinson Crusoe. As a young boy named Robin, you find yourself stranded on an alien planet called Tyson III. You’re accompanied by your trusty HIGS unit, a worrisome robotic partner in the vein of Portal‘s Wheatley. By using him to discover other HIGS units, you can uncover the mystery behind why you were left stranded. Though he is programmed to help you complete your missions, HIGS also acts as a makeshift parent that doesn’t want to put you in the slightest bit of peril.
Laika, a young dinosaur that has taken a liking to Robin, also accompanies the crew. While she can play a mean game of hide-and-seek, her only real purpose in the game is to scare off animals with her roar. She’s entertaining at best, but easily forgotten until you’re stuck and HIGS has to remind you to utilize her.
Robinson’s otherwise immersive gaming experience somehow misses a few important marks. Robin’s scanner looks almost identical to a Playstation Move controller, yet there are no PS Move capabilities in the game. You control most of the movement via your VR headset and by pressing buttons on the Playstation controller. The lack of PS Move support and intuitive controls hinder how much players can immerse themselves in the game.
Walking about also takes its toll on the story’s rhythm. Movement is boringly slow. For the first 20 minutes, the easy-going pace gives you time to appreciate your environment, but the ambling quickly gets old–more-so by the time you’ve cleared this four-hour game. Robinson also uses the “pie” turning method by default to cut down on nausea. This option can be turned off for those who are not as effected by VR motion sickness, which I greatly appreciated.
The puzzles can be complex and objectives aren’t always clear. I spent 20 minutes wandering an area of the map, only to discover I had done all I needed to do there. There were also times while climbing walls (the bulk of the game) that I was unable to reach the next hold and had to make some awkward body movements to enable my “hands” to reach. This became tedious and frustrating, causing undue motion sickness.
Objectives are poorly conveyed. For example, early in the game, you need to climb a wall near Robin’s fort to find a HIGS unit. There’s a large amount of crash debris near the wall. My initial instinct was to create a ramp, using pieces of the crashed ship in order to reach the unit. After spending several minutes reconfiguring the pieces of my makeshift ramp, I gave up. The parts wouldn’t stay in place, and there was nothing telling me I was making progress. I ended up abandoning this endeavor and discovered I could simply climb the wall instead. This moment defined the rest of my gameplay experience.
Though the environments are gorgeous and immersive, the pacing and lack of clear objectives make it hard to stay invested in Robin’s story. If you take a break from playing Robinson to play something else, you may not find the initiative to turn it back on, likely due to frustration with your obscure goals. I also found that, after a few days away from the game, I’d forgotten many of Robin’s abilities and much of the story. As exciting as it is to initially discover the ins and outs of Tyson III, the long-term incentive just isn’t there.
Most of the story is told by discovering other HIGS units you find scattered across Tyson III. When you find each unit, you can watch a slideshow, recalling events that happened before Robin’s crash on the planet. Though it is never quite clear why all of these HIGS units landed on the same planet as Robin, they tell a story most any sci-fi fan will find intriguing. Unfortunately, that’s the only reward these HIGS units provide. You earn no new abilities or “level ups” for discovering these tid-bits of story, which may not be enough incentive to pull less invested gamers in.
Virtual reality on consoles is still very much in its infancy, and it seems that developers still aren’t sure what exactly to do with the technology. Even as a gamer, I find it hard to quantify my VR expectations. Do I want a great narrative, or an immersive experience like Batman: Arkham VR? I feel that Robinson: The Journey is, in many ways, a great first step in the right direction, but it’s far from flawless. Even with all the game’s issues, I would recommend Robinson: The Journey to anyone craving one of the best atmospheric and graphical VR experiences currently available on the market.
Review copy of Robinson: The Journey provided by Sandbox Strategies.
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The Bottom Line
A staple game for early VR experiences, but not without its own flaws and frustrations.