A GEARVR NEWS RETRO REVIEW
Game #1: “Magic Man’s Head Games”
*Retro Reviews Discuss Games & Experiences that were Created Before November 21st, 2015 when the Consumer Edition 1 was Officially Released.
In conjunction with the Cartoon Network, Magic Man’s Head Games, by developer Turbo Button, is the first offering in VR for the Adventure Time series inspired by the cartoon of the same name.
You play literally as yourself but are given the ironic nickname “Tiny” because you get inflated into a huge balloon by the diabolical taunter “Magic Man” in the game’s opening act. You then spend the rest of the game as a third-person narrative “ride along” for the very adventure that its name suggests.
And what an adventure it is! The only real complaint one can find here is that this game, with only 3 levels, is far too short. It is so fun that you’ll certainly be wanting more by the time you’ve reached the end.
I’m pretty sure this game was our reward for investing in GearVR early, because for the first six months that this game was out, it was offered for free. Now you have to pay to play, but at $4.99, I feel your money will certainly be well spent here.
Let’s just get this out of the way early. Presence, I believe, is this game’s raison d’être (its reason to exist) because it simply is out of this world. The level of stereoscopy is far above what most other games have even thought of offering.
It is the one game my brain goes right back to when thinking about what a 3D-Depth game world should feel like. This game sets the standard for a GearVR platformer. It winds right back to something I’m pretty keen on discussing at this time, something I call the Stereoscopic Threshold. This is the depth, in meters, of stereoscopy which is possible at a certain resolution, namely that offered by S6 and Note5 at this time.
Beyond a certain distance, there are not enough pixels to differentiate what is seen in either eye, so each pixel becomes identical in both left and right images, meaning you can’t see a 3D-Depth effect anymore in your HMD.
This game somehow magically stayed within that threshold and feels like one that was made from inside of VR which is now indeed possible as this Verge story broke last week. At every moment in this title, I was filled with wonder over the sensations VR was giving me.
I’m sure that had something to do with the amazing art style, too, plus the titillating sense of humor offered by its deeply-fleshed out and cutesy characters.
The 3D-Depth is good enough here to actually give me tingles in my hands and feet a few times as I approached ledges preparing to jump. Or even just mashing down mushrooms with Jake’s feet. Because of having this emotion stimulated so often, I was thoroughly elated while playing this game.
I can honestly say it feels more like (what I can only imagine) is some kind of a drug sensation due to my body’s overblown reaction to my fear of heights being piqued so thoroughly. It isn’t often when someone my age can get one’s body to manufacture the same level of fear that kept me addicted to games in my youth, making it impossible for me to ever go to sleep on time.
Oh, how I used to have to slap myself all throughout the school day to stay awake because of my pre-pubescent gaming addiction! It seems VR is the catalyst for my return to feelings and emotions I haven’t had since childhood. Which probably explains why I love VR so much.
The game is funny. It has a twisted and goofy sense of humor and it begs the player to have one too. The authors of this title really do seem to know when you are about to be offended as an intelligent adult. They have a knack of calling you out, and getting you to re-invest into the ludicrous situation you are a part of, until your resistance breaks and you find yourself chuckling, fully immersed in something you have no right to find so amusing.
You are being attacked by living sandwiches, with olives jabbed on toothpicks for eyes! But the animation is so good, you actually believe it wants to eat you instead of the other way around. You learn … to fear the sandwich. “Eh? Oh no! A-a-another s-s-sandwich! …”
Instead of drooling over your next meal, you would quake in your boots if not for the game-play dynamics being so robust, allowing for many ways to slice up your prey. Question: When is a sandwich not a sandwich? Answer: when it’s toast. So grab a napkin boys, and double-slap that gibbering gluten! But don’t slap it with mayo, NOOO, slap it with your friend Jake’s … super streeeeeeeeetchy hand! Hilarious….
This is a platform-style action game with a lot of substance and variety in its challenges. You have to learn to jump, making your way up and down the terrain, nearly missing carnivorous plants, hungry sandwiches that want to eat you, head-stomping magic mushrooms, and using the multi-adaptive powers of your stretchy friend Jake in numerous ways to overcome obstacles.
Finn plays as your primary mover, he is always advancing the story with his witty dialogue and one liners. Each character has their own game-play attributes and skills which help to define not only their character, but their uniqueness to the story. They feel like totally different entities, with their own P.O.V. on each situation. This allows you to feel like you’re really on an adventure with some cool friends who want to help you.
So in a strange way that’s hard to explain, you are helping them … to help you … to help them. It’s a bit … uncannily circular that way, haha.
One of my favorite dynamics is using Jake’s stretchy body as a parachute to fly over death-defying drops (image below). The drop offs have real bite to them due to the great VR payload of this game, giving your stomach butterflies each and every time.
They are truly amazing. The color scheme is fantastic and although cartoony, are necessarily so because this game is based on a … wait for it … a cartoon! Go figure.
I only really opened this tab to mention one slight issue with the game’s frame rate. I am not entirely sure it’s frame rate related, I only know what I feel. I think the camera is a tad sluggish sometimes, as if there is some inertia in how it operates. It feels like the game is slightly under powered at times, as though it can hardly keep up with the intense stereoscopic visuals its generating.
I would like to know if that’s just a programming style choice for the camera controls, or if what I’m noticing really is frame-rate related. I get the sense this game is running at 48 FPS sometimes. While that does distract me from the game on some occasions, it’s not enough (in my opinion) to detract the score I feel this game deserves at all because it’s hardly noticeable except in a few places.
This is one game for GearVR that shouldn’t be missed. If you haven’t tried this one yet, what are you waiting for, an invitation? Okay, I invite you!
Maybe you thought it looked too silly or childlike to give it a chance? Well, yeah, you were probably right, haha, but trust me: give it a chance nonetheless! Its style and charm will win you over expeditiously and in so doing, you’ll get a lovely taste of what platform games could be like in future VR titles.
This is yet another example for VR (like the Herobound series) that really works to sell the idea that 3rd-Person isn’t so bad after all. If done with a little imagination (as they have here, sold through a clever story twist), your objections melt away and you’re able to forget its even 3rd person after only a few minutes.
Your mind accepts each person’s unique role, even when Jake becomes a long noodle stretching up into your grille to give you another talking to as he is want to do. It’s so weird being you, Finn, and Jake all at the same time, but then again, that’s also part of its charm, too.
In fact, it might be just a little too charming, because when it was over, I didn’t want to believe it. If they ever bring another game out for this series, I will definitely be one of the first ones to get it so I can continue the story.
That Magic Man, he’s a real nasty jerk too, the perfect foil … which is the reason so much of the humor from Finn and Jake works so well. I feel this story is far from over yet… I dare say it’s hardly even begun!
Turbo Button, you scoundrels, you got me hooked, but now I am waiting…. waiting for part 2 … (!taps foot anxiously!)… Magic Man 2: The Scones Strike Back, where are you? AaaaAaaargh!
This game is a platformer and tends to have a few elements of discomfort … for some.
Categories: Retro Reviews