I was somewhat surprised by Statik. Tarsier Studios short virtual reality experience manages to deliver the much-needed innovation to ensure Sony’s PSVR unit goes on to be a success in the long run. Statik comes just a few short days before the Swedish-based studio welcomes players to the thought provoking world of the Maw in its exceptional and whimsical platformer, Little Nightmares, but the two games couldn’t be more different in tone or by gameplay.
In Statik, players open their eyes to find themselves strapped to a chair. Faced by a man in a white lab coat standing behind a glass window who we come to know as Dr Ingren, Statik tasks the player to solve their way through a collection of puzzles, using that massive brain of yours as well as your eyes and ears. Not much is known of your whereabouts and most rooms you enter are minimalistic with little to no detail in a bid to alleviate distraction. Although Statik‘s Institue of Retention presents the player with the most basic of scenery, its cleverly thought out puzzles, on the other hand, are far more complex.
Statik: PlayStation VR
Developer: Tarsier Studios
Publisher: Tarsier Studios
Release Date: 24 April 2017
Price: £15.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Developer/Publisher]
The first of those delightful puzzles is a box attached to your hands, like many of Saw‘s twisted entrapments of death. Thankfully though, unlike the horrific work of Jigsaw, Statik‘s puzzles pose no actual threat to your life or well-being, but maybe a touch of your sanity. Each puzzle is deftly designed to present the player with an array of problems, whereby no two puzzles will ever appear the same. With no instructions at the player’s disposal and hand holding largely absent, players are forced to make full use of their brains and other senses to work their way around each puzzle to reach its finale.
After ensuring all lights on top of a workstation in front of you are lit up correctly, the first puzzle attached to your hand will begin to alter. With the Dualshock 4 controller, players are able to twist the contraption around to gain a view of each side of the box, which reveals a new section of the same puzzle. Statik‘s control functionality works well for a VR title, something that’s evidenced expertly here. Simply, twist or tilt the controller in your hand and the box will move accordingly to mirror your hand movement. Additionally, each button is mapped to a different section of the box, but its place in the puzzle is completely unclear at first.
With that in mind, Statik demands a decent amount of trial and error mixed with some good old-fashioned deduction in its early stages as you begin to press each button on the Dualshock 4 or twirl analogue sticks in order to discover what option moves which particular piece of the box. From there you can begin to unravel each puzzle.
For example, Statik‘s introductory puzzle tasks the player to line up an assortment of pipes that when correctly aligned, allow power to flow directly through the box from a battery on the far side. At one side of the box, a fragment of a pipe must be gently lowered into position to complete a link with others, on the opposite side, players must switch around angled pieces of pipe to further the connection; to complete the puzzle players must then release each corner of the box, twisting each piece until it marries up with the rest of pipes framework before releasing them back into the box to end the puzzle. Far more logical than anything else, the box’s many tiny intricacies help to lay the foundations for far more complex puzzles to come later on.
Most of the game’s puzzles rely on the player retaining information discovered or manipulating objects to reach a “eureka!” moment, however, Statik does occasionally tear up and throw away the script to invite you to partake in something completely different with players trading out boxes for a rather bizarre take on a polygraph test that prompts you to choose like or dislike as images flash up on a screen. As wacky as the concept initially sounds and most certainly appears, it breaks up the gameplay to add something entirely different to proceedings.
In spite of the fact it offers no form of tutorial or guide, many aspects of Statik’s puzzles can be solved by simply taking in the minimalistic scenery that surrounds the player. In one room, small brightly coloured stickers point to inanimate objects such as a plant pot or a coffee mug. At a quick glance, these objects seem to have no apparent meaning at all, but as I struggled with one of Statik‘s puzzles, I eventually looked up long enough to notice that the objects in question just so happened to feature on the very contraption in my hand. Clever by nature and very discreet by design, these small tidbits that hide in the background of Statik can go a long way to completing a small portion of a puzzle, however, they prove extremely tricky to spot as you stare an angry hole in the complex construction in your hands.
Present during many of Statik‘s puzzles, Dr Ingen like his Wall-E-like robotic colleague, Edith, whose only appearance comes following the completion of a puzzle, offers no assistance to the player in any way, shape or form. Rather, frustratingly, the man with the pixelated face and bright white lab coat longs to infuriate the player.
Sitting at a desk clicking away at his pen, jotting down notes on a clipboard or taking sips from a cup of boiling hot tea with you positioned only a few feet away wriggling in your chair with sheer frustration as your brain cells proceed to burn out, Ingen is by far and away one of the most difficult and unhelpful characters I’ve ever met. Offering a few words to the player prior to a puzzle, muttering or passing comment as you struggle during them, Ingen could comfortably be Statik‘s antagonist in disguise, unlike Edith, whose introduction at the conclusion of each puzzle brings a sense of comic relief to what can be a stressful experience.
Statik is a clear representation of everything that Sony and its virtual reality headset have been crying out for since day one. A clever, thought-provoking and innovative puzzle game that presents the player with a mixture of brain teasers that will certainly take full advantage of a large selection of your primary senses to achieve its end goal. Visually, Statik is simplistic on the eye but its graphics are sharp and its controls work extremely well with VR. Statik is one of the brightest puzzle games on the market today and a fine addition to the PSVR collection.