The failings of Xbox One launch exclusive Ryse: Son of Rome were well publicised after the hack and slash title debuted in 2013. As a developer, Crytek always offered aesthetically pleasing visuals (Far Cry, Crysis) and didn’t disappoint with its beautifully designed Roman showcase, highlighting the newfound power of Microsoft’s home console. Sadly, as often is the case, Son of Rome fell by the wayside with its gameplay coming into constant question; critically scrutinised for an overly repetitive control scheme that mired what should have been an enthralling experience. With the studio’s more recently released, and first foray into the world of virtual reality (The Climb) receiving a greater critical response, the studio returned once again with PSVR exclusive Robinson: The Journey, an exploration based virtual reality game set on a mysterious planet that would thrill the explorer in us all.
You play as Robin, a young boy and remaining survivor of mankind’s failed attempt to colonise the mysterious planet of Tyson III. With parts of wreckage from the fateful, crashed spaceship Esmeralda lying in pieces; scattered and strewn about the planet, the young lad must make it day to day from the claustrophobic confines of his makeshift home; constructed from an escape pod. Under the parental guidance of a floating A.I HIG’s unit, a ball-shaped companion, Robin must explore his surroundings to maintain his survival and discover the truth while under constant threat from the many flesh hungry Dinosaurs that reside and roam freely on Tyson III.
Robinson: The Journey: PS4 with PlayStation VR
Release Date: 11 November 2016
Price: £54.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Developer/Publisher]
Exiting Robin’s home for the first time, players are treated to one of the finest visual experiences fathomable as the escape pod door opens up into a lush green tropical metropolis bristling with a whole manner of weird and wonderful flora and fauna. Off in the farthest corner of the nearby terrain, breaching fish of vibrant colours hurl themselves majestically out of depths of a fast flowing river; often coming to a rest on the grassy bank. In the sky, large pterosaurs dot the horizon beyond a steep drop-off; flapping their wings in the shadow of a stunning backdrop of the crashed Esmeralda. Robinson: The Journey is a high calibre spectacle filled with breathtaking moments of exploration and discovery and whilst its gameplay feels more of an underthought and long periods of movement bring about severe bouts of nausea-inducing motion sickness, you can take nothing away from how stunningly beautiful the game is.
A Jurassic Park-esque world without the restriction of high-voltage charged electrical fences, the rabid rantings of Jeff Goldblum or ready made goat meal chained to a post, Robinson: The Journey is a museum of prehistoric delights cocooned deep within an intriguing, enticing, yet dangerously constructed landscape. Stranded alone on this foreign planet, Robinson fully immerses the player with moments of jaw-dropping delight as a large herd of colossal sized Brachiosaur’s slowly trudge across my eye line, coming to a halt around a dangerously unwelcoming tar pit, elsewhere, a pack of hungry ferocious Velociraptors angrily and speedily snap at my feet as I attempt to regain my bearings while traversing a treacherous fallen tree, Robinson is full of wonder, mystery and danger; packed with standout moments that will live long in the memory.
Although its visuals cannot and should not be called into question, Robinson‘s gameplay, on the other hand, is an altogether entirely different beast. With only an unhelpful A.I HIG’s unit to guide the young protagonist in the correct direction, Robinson‘s charm and beauty quickly transcends into hours of endless frustration and hapless moments of death. With handholding ranging from bare minimal to quite frankly non-existent and little to no waypoint to speak of should you find yourself lost or unsure of what to do next, Robinson‘s overwhelming looks are frequently overshadowed by its exasperating issues and confusing puzzles. A stroll from home base to a nearby Farm area equipped with crops and a makeshift scarecrow can be simple enough, however, locating one of the games many lost HIG’s units across this majestic world continues to be more of an ardent and thankless tasks. Robin’s A.I companion might at first appear to be helpful, but the moment the protagonist becomes lost, then the rather annoying HIG’s Unit becomes a mute, refusing to assist the protagonist other than to provide the player with an occasional, yet admittedly pleasing overview of the world and scattered power modules that must be aligned by the player to make certain objects operational.
Robinson: The Journey appears perfect for Sony’s Move controller support although strangely it only allows for use of the Dualshock 4 control pad to navigate the terrain, a bizarre move when you consider that the games protagonist appears to be holding a device of almost the exact same shape as Sony’s invention. The games default control settings make it easy enough to move around with a certain air of freedom, however, turning too suddenly can leave you with a extreme nausea, while sudden jolts forward or backwards are likely to have you facing down on your living room floor rather than standing upright in front of your T.V. When not attempting to steady your stomach, Robinson does allow for some fantastic moments of gameplay with navigating cliff faces a pleasing aspect. Much like Crytek’s previous outing, The Climb, upward movements involve positioning your hands in front of the object you wish to move to, before pressing the respective shoulder button to reach and grab onto that particular object. Ascending the games many cliffs and rock faces offer players the opportunity to view the games many beautiful vistas from a great vantage point, although climbs are usually a necessity to locating the many irritating HIG’s units dotted around the planet.
Taking time away from being caught up the games thoroughly immersive world, Robin can enjoyably interact with his other companion Laika, a baby Tyrannosaurs Rex, able to dress the infant dinosaur with cap and shades, as if that won’t come back to haunt anyone foolish enough to make a mockery out of the most fearsome carnivores around at a later and much larger date. With a list of commands, Robin can beckon the baby T-Rex to roar loudly or move into an array of different positions, much like a playful dog would; ala sitting down or rolling over. When not obeying Robin’s every command loveable Laika enjoys a good old fashioned game of hide and seek, although she needs a little fine tuning with it; almost completely visible while attempting to disguise herself as a bush or plant. She also enjoys catching fish, although her mere presence is enough to keep the colourful fish under the surface and out of harm’s way, rather than become a simple meal for a hungry dinosaur.
Robinson: The Journey is comfortably the best looking game on the current market for PSVR and shines with faultless beauty and mysterious wonder. Sadly despite Robinson‘s prehistoric delights and gorgeous vistas, it stumbles far too often with a severe lack of in-game direction that will have you walking in circles for hours, unhelpful A.I, baffling puzzles that make little to no sense whatsoever and a narrative that draws to a close before it fully shifts up into top gear. With its awe-inspiring landscape and navigation frequently broken up by an unfair balance of death and frustrating puzzles that kills any momentum the game had, Robinson is more miss than hit, which is a real shame considering its ideas and environment.
Robinson: The Journey
- Easily the best looking game available for PSVR
- A vibrant planet filled with prehistoric delights
- Climbing is pleasing
- Laika is adorable and a joy to play with
- Lack of direction or waypoint significantly hinders the experience
- Extreme nausea with sudden movements or prolonged gameplay
- Baffling puzzles break up what is a beautiful game