A GEARVR NEWS REVIEW
by VRift 720
Hidden Temple by developer HandyGames is a really short point-and-click adventure demo set in an Egyptian tomb. It is $4.99. It features cartoon-style graphics that are detailed and moody. The style of this game is more appropriate for children in my opinion, since it has no real scares or feeling of fear to compound the challenge of it. It’s more about solving its puzzles in a relaxed way. But it’s set in the kind of environment I feel should have offered a few more thrills. There are some sleepy spiders here and there, but that’s about it in the way of frights. So this one is kid friendly if you have someone to impress VR’s coolness upon but don’t want them breaking into tears.
Despite that introduction which sort of sounds like I didn’t like this game, I actually did enjoy this quite a lot, but that is mostly because of its deep stereoscopy more than anything else. Also, solving interesting challenges in a stress-free but moody place offers its own style of fun. I kept waiting to get attacked or killed, and that never happened. Our minds tend to exaggerate dangers while we’re there anyway, so it’s only after the demo is over that you realize it was toothless all along
I call it a demo because, even though it is for sale in the Oculus Home Store, because it’s incredibly short, with only about 90 minutes needed to solve this title. It only has 2 levels and the puzzles are hard at times but not impossibly so. After all of the money I found along the way, and the amount of time they make you waste acquiring it (thinking it will have a purpose in the game), I was sure I would exit the 2nd level into a bazaar or market and be able to purchase something with all my spoils. Alas, I was shocked to find the game ending already, right before my eyes. I groaned my dismay out loud, audibly. It really is too short for the price.
The entry-screen starting area outside has a strange scale and I thought, “Oh no, another 2D game” … but once you climb through the hole in the ground into the tomb, the 3D effects become more pronounced. The trees were animated in a pretty unique way, using animated meshes with offset starting frames to make the trees appear to come alive without any actual animation. Just giving some props to the artist there, it’s a clever approach. However, I do feel the Title Board above the hole has a lot of crawl going on and is need of some advanced anti-aliasing because those jaggies are quite noticeably bad.
As cool as the stereoscopy is here, I still feel the scale is off a bit. The room only feels about 4 feet high, and by our scale, that would make us 1.5 feet high off the ground. Maybe we are meant to be a dog or a cat? Despite that, the visuals are impressive. There are Egyptian runes everywhere, dust motes in the air around your face, and hanging vines everywhere. It seems they took a bit of time to get the details looking very stunning.
When the game ends after 90 minutes, you come back outside into another outdoor scene, and this time the scale is more accurate to the rest of the game. There are some amazing light rays filtering through the trees here. After seeing this outdoor scene, it kind of makes me wish they’d gone back and fixed the introductory level to look more like the end scene for more consistency. Also the end scene has way more 3D depth, unlike the starting screen which has only a little.
You start in a tomb entrance that feels like a cave and are given a tutorial that quickly brings you up to speed. You get to pocket some gold and a few items which seem important for later. You figure out how to get out of the room and enter several similar rooms. The graphics are good but there isn’t much variety from room to room. The game could use a few more locales or settings to bring its uniqueness up a tad.
You start with a utility belt which opens by default when you look down at it. I feel its size and scale makes you have to look around too far to take it all in. I think it should be more compressed (made smaller in scale) so you can more easily scan all of its contents. You literally have to look almost behind yourself at times to see all of the slots and it made me feel a little uncomfortable. You have to look down so far to open it, your chin has to touch your chest and you still have to lean forward a bit more. You could smash your HMD on your knees trying to open your inventory. Lower the threshold for opening the inventory a little bit there, Devs, please.
The rest of the time you are going from room to room trying to solve the puzzles. I won’t ruin any of them here, they are interesting precisely because you don’t know how to solve them at first and it takes some creative ideas to do so. You are rewarded when your ideas turn out to be correct.
There is one really bad flaw that broke my game. This was on the 2nd level after breaking open a rock wall and obtaining the red key for entrance into the final red room upstairs. Upon turning right and attempting to click the yellow advance arrow on the floor, the game would not recognize any attempt to go forward. I spent 15 minutes staring at the arrow a 100 different ways but it refused to move me forward. The arrow was broken upon obtaining the Red Key. Devs, you might want to duplicate and repair this error before more people get flummoxed and don’t have my good fortune to figure out a way past this game breaker. I could not finish the game at first, but I got desperate and decided to quit, hoping my game would be saved. I was so afraid I would have to start over from scratch, but I quit out anyway.
I returned to the Main Menu screen and clicked “continue” hoping everything would be okay. It loaded and I approached that broken arrow again, fingers crossed, and this time the arrow finally worked. Hurray! I was able to proceed back upstairs to get the final trophy I needed to progress to the “next level” … or so I thought. Instead, it turned out to be the ending. Thanks for playing.
Hidden Temple would have a lot more going for it if not for being so darned short. If HandyGames wants to continue selling this game as a children’s title, I suggest going back and adding another 5 levels or so with more cool content like they already have here.
With 5 more levels added, they could re-release it at this same price and then it would be the children’s adventure game I feel it really could have been already. To ask $4.99 for 90 minutes worth (or only 2 levels) is a bit much. If they can get away with this, what to stop OZWE from raising the price of Anshar Wars 2 to $25 since it has 8 levels? If HandGames doesn’t want to add more to this game, but leave it as is, then I guess just lower the price to $1.99 for the small amount given here is my suggestion.
If they wanted this to appeal to adults more, then I suggest adding in more fear factors, more interaction with monsters, some traps or spikes, etc. I am not saying they should add in huge action sequences or anything. But there could be some way to add some risk into the game, so there’s more to lose. There is nothing to lose here. You solve the puzzle and proceed forward, or you don’t. There’s no way to die, no way to get scared or shocked. The game needs those factors if it’s meant for adults. But … if this game truly was meant for children, then the game is fine as is (as long as you add a bit more content).
If you want a meaty adventure game you can really sink your teeth into, this title is not for you. If you want to demo VR in a safe way, while still having plenty of atmosphere and 3D Stereoscopic visuals, then this title will be enough.
For it’s price, however, the game does not offer enough value. I was horrified to see the game ending when it did, as I was expecting to be rewarded for taking the time to gather all those gold coins throughout the levels and especially the golden throne room. It took me 5 minutes of clicking to get all that gold, and I didn’t even get to visit a bazaar or go shopping with it. A really UN-satisfying element there.
I would say it would be better to just take the gold out of this demo entirely. It’s not needed and it implies a promise of future spend-ability that was not honored here.