The beautiful game of virtual reality
Mobile gaming is more competitive than ever as developers look for new audiences by developing games that are simple to play, but beautiful to experience. Garreth van Niekerk tries out three of them
The black-and-white Limbo is a dark, moody Quest-style game that plays out as a 2-D side-scrolling adventure. It’s an extremely intuitive game that is beguilingly simple and classic in execution. In it, we follow a boy who has lost his elder sister and now needs to find her while moving through a forest that Playdead, the Dutch design group behind Limbo, explains as “the edge of hell”. Eventually, the boy finds himself in a city where he chases a white ghost that’s constantly out of his grasp. When he finally catches the ghost, he is transported to another realm, which I won’t spoil by revealing, but expect dark, film noir beauty. It is so pretty and at times heartbreakingly sincere that it might make you cry.
In Monument Valley, developed by indie studio ustwo, we lead Princess Ida through a maze of puzzles that take the form of castles and islands. By January this year, the game was downloaded more than 2 million times. Last year, it won the Apple Design Award and the Apple iPad Game of the Year. While it isn’t exactly the hardest game, something critics have slammed it for, it is without a doubt the most spectacular game I’ve encountered. It’s a bit like moving through an MC Escher painting in real time. It’s all optical illusions and surreal turns of perspective. The sound is also a dreamy audio experiment, so turn up the volume when you explore this Zen masterpiece of virtual reality.
Join snowboarding Alto on the slopes as he slides through mountains and valleys to capture his escaped llamas in this whimsical obstacle-type game that’s a lot like the skateboarding and golf games of the past, only much more beautiful. It’s the player’s job to catch the llamas and for each of them you’ll get a point on the scoreboard. It’s simple to make Alto ramp, backflip and pole-grind, and the more you do this, the more points you get. But this game isn’t about points; it’s all charm and intricate design details with beautiful weather scenes that will make you think twice about what a game should be. Also, there are llamas, so what’s not to love?