Statik’s greatest trick, among many, is to make the DualShock the star of this darkly comic puzzle game. While Move controllers ape their more capable Vive and Touch cousins, PSVR’s unique ability to pop a traditional controller into the world with you thanks to the Dualshock 4’s light bar is an underrated aspect of Sony’s VR setup.
Not that you’ll see a representation of it – or anything resembling your hands, for that matter. Instead, you’ll find yourself locked into a series of puzzle boxes that bristle with scientific components. Given no instructions on what to do, you’re left to press buttons at random to see which parts of your digital prison activate in response. One button might make an empty slide tray pop out of the top, while another turns a dial that initially seems to have no use. Squeezing a trigger could send a diagonal scan across a vector display; one of the analogue sticks might give you the chance to input numbers or letters into a ticker screen.
It’s up to you figure out the relevance of every interaction, and piece together the order in which you must do things to make the box spit out a little printed ticket. Once this is scanned by a robot that always accompanies you during your attempts, you’ll be rewarded with a lungful of sleeping gas before waking up in some other lab ready to tackle the next puzzle. There is no through-line or common logic, and every box represents a unique set of challenges. Tilting the DualShock about allows you to squint at the various sides of the device as you search for clues, but there will often be more hints dotted about the sterile labs in which you tackle each test.
You’ll also be observed by Dr Ingen, a salty, dispassionate and rather rude scientist. Over time, as your role in the world and his relationship to his employers is slowly revealed, he becomes an even more tragic figure. And while Statik shares Portal’s atmosphere of cold dislocation and macabre apathy, it quickly asserts its own character, and the finely conceived mechanics and puzzles are all Tarsier’s own. Figuring out each intricate box is a joy, and for the most part Tarsier perfectly judges the line between obscurity and logic as you gradually make progress.
While solving each box is an involved process, most players will have seen the end of the game within a couple of hours. Statik’s most observant lab rats will find ways to prolong their time in its labs (see Retune), but the fact that the game feels like it comes clattering to halt all too soon is less a criticism of its brevity and more a testament to the game’s imaginative, moreish quality.
It’s never possible to discern Dr Ingen’s features as his face is blurred throughout the game – on the occasions where you have a chance to see yourself, the same is true of your own face, too. It’s all a bit threatening