Members of the media got a hands-on look at new Playstation VR (PSVR) and Playstation 4 (PS4) games at a Sony press-event in Chicago Sept. 27 at The Gwen Hotel (521 N. Rush St.).
Virtual Reality (VR) is a novel gaming genre that transports a player into the game they’re playing through a headset that covers the eyes and responds to a player’s movements, creating an immersive, life-like experience. VR systems include the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PSVR.
One game, “Tetris Effect,” by Melbourne-based Enhance Studios, presented a VR update on the classic, block stacking game “Tetris.”
“Tetris Effect” features unique vignettes, sounds and effects for each level bringing the VR experience to life. One level featured an underwater effect with a cluster of bubbles which came toward the player’s vision each time a row of cubes was aligned. The vignette for the level included a whale made of bubbles moving as the player continued playing.
“ASTRO BOT,” by Sony Interactive Entertainment JAPAN Studios, another VR game presented at the event, is a platformer — a game in which the player progresses by jumping from platform to platform. The first three levels of “ASTRO BOT” were on display with the third stage featuring a final battle against a giant opponent.
The platforming experience of “ASTRO BOT” is similar to “Super Mario,” allowing players to replay levels and discover hidden secrets.
“ASTRO BOT” game uses VR’s 360 degree range of motion to look around corners and behind, above and below players to move forward in the stage.
Both titles captured the essence of a VR experience, meshing interactivity and replayability together.
PixelOpus Studios demonstrated “Concrete Genie,” one of the two non-VR titles featured at the event.
The demo took place 45 minutes into the game’s main story and had Ash hiding from bullies skulking around his town.
“Concrete Genie” follows the story of Ash, a bullied kid living in his abandoned hometown of Denska, a fictional location. Using his magical paint, Ash must paint the town back to life while avoiding bullies lurking in the streets.
Pixelopus, developer of “Entwined” (2014), showcased its design philosophy of inserting fantastical gameplay elements in “Concrete Genie.” As new sections of the level opened up, new ways to play the game emerged and added to the gameplay experience.
Lead Environmental Artist at Pixelopus Bob Archibald guided attendees through “Concrete Genie’s” demo. As players progressed, Archibald would talk about the new tools Ash would receive.
“There are a lot of artists on the team at Pixelopus, and we all feel very passionate about creating a unique visual and stylistic statement,” Archibald said. “Concrete Genie represents an interesting opportunity to have this 3D world inspired by stop-motion filmmaking and interjecting this two-dimensional animated paint to create something wholly unique on your own.”
“Concrete Genie’s” level progression was based around painting the walls of the town to light-up light strands hanging throughout each stage. Players could also summon genies at specific locations to assist with progression.
A demo of the critically acclaimed “Marvel’s Spider-Man” from developer Insomniac Games was the other non-VR title displayed. The Limited Edition Marvel’s Spider-Man PS4 system and two of the latest PS4 colored controllers were also showcased.
“Marvel’s Spider-Man” follows the story of Peter Parker as he faces off against supervillains including Mr. Negative, Rhino and Electro. The demo version allowed attendees to swing around New York as Spider-Man and interact with miscellaneous activities in the open world.
The demo was part of an older build than the final release and the improvements to the full game were noticeable. The demo lacked button prompts for the actions Spider-Man could execute in the open world and felt like an overall step down from the release version of the game.
Leading up to the final release of “Marvel’s Spider-Man,” the development team made decisions based on fan feedback as well as data collected from public playtesting, or usability testing.
“When we get feedback from people, we talk about it internally and discuss ways we can adjust the game to address the issue,” said Jon Paquette, the Lead Writer for “Marvel’s Spider-Man.” “Definitely keep the feedback coming because if you have some we’d love to hear it.”
“Concrete Genie’s” release date hasn’t been announced yet, however, “Marvel’s Spider-Man” can be purchased from game retailers or the PlayStation store for $59.99. “ASTRO BOT” will be released exclusively for PSVR Oct. 2 with “Tetris Effect” releasing soon after for PS4, PS4 Pro and PSVR Nov. 9.