Land's End: The Start of VR Puzzles
Creator: UsTwo, Jan. 2015
VR Technology: CGI
Viewing System: Samsung GearVR
When I saw the screenshots for Lands End, I expected a very simplistic game with some small puzzles scattered throughout. What I didn’t expect was a fully immersive puzzle exploration game. Lands End is a free stand-alone GearVR game with 5 chapters created by British studio, UsTwo, in January 2015.
The world of Lands End is a gorgeously rendered 3D universe. In order to move around this world, the player has to stare at certain “pin points”. These floating points act as navigation tools, and if you stare at one long enough, you start to move towards that point. Though this mechanic was easy to grasp, the movement was very dizzying and a bit hard to get used to because the player is not actually moving in the space. Thus, I would have appreciated the experience more if I was allowed to actually walk around in the space, or move slower and less suddenly.
Personally, I found that after playing the game, I had to close my eyes for a couple of minutes to get adjusted to the real world. In addition, I found myself closing my eyes towards the end of the experience because I would feel too nauseous every time my character moved from one point to the next. This might have occurred because of the dissimilarity between my physical body and the movement in the game.
Motion sickness aside, the game does a good job of utilizing VR to create an interactive world. The first puzzle in the game was a puzzle where the player has to use their gaze to draw a secret pattern along three rocks. By dragging their gaze, the player could form a connection that triggers a secret door. To make up for the lack of instruction, the game used symbols and arrows to make it easier to comprehend what we had to do next. Nevertheless, the sound design of the game was great, and it was a very calming and relaxing experience. After each level, I was transported to the next one through a fade to black. Every level looked different aesthetically, and each had its own mystery. I found it really interesting how the game kept on adding on new mechanics each chapter – from telekinesis using your eyes, to stacking rocks to cover up a waterfall that was blocking a puzzle from appearing. Even more surprising was that all of these game mechanics were hands-free, and one could play simply by looking around.
Overall, this project was not necessarily a fit for only great VR since it could be translated to a 3D game experience easily. However, the new drag gaze controls in VR made the experience very fresh, and added a hint of mystery to keep players in the game. Ultimately, Lands End was a good demonstration of the capabilities of VR to create new and fresh game mechanics.