A GEARVR NEWS GAME REVIEW
“FINDING…. THE RIGHT JUMP”
JUMP is an amazing new demo of a game (out now, April 2016) that dares you … to do just that! To jump! Created by developers Endeavor One, the goal is to “jump” your way up to the top of each level’s city skyline as fast as you can in as few jumps as you possibly can to get there. You start each level nearly at the ground and must “Hulk Leap” your way to the top of the city, IF you have the stomach for it. That’s because with each new jump, you get so much higher off the ground that pretty quickly your view becomes dizzying. At first, you don’t really notice the height, but within 10 jumps or so, you begin to feel the tingling in your spine every time you go for that big leap across to a distant building. The 3D-Depth is also pretty good but the building scale is quite large and does tend to ramp off the effect more than I would like. But it isn’t broken or bad at all, just not the top depth I’ve seen.
Despite wanting to do as few leaps as possible, you sometimes find you must research how high you can jump before you can commit to the next jump across the buildings. It’s hard to imagine you really can make THAT jump! I guess I finally know how Neo must have felt trying to make that jump in the Matrix the first time. Take a look ….
Even when you see how far you can jump, the next time you come to it, you still can’t believe it and have to settle for a straight-up-height-demonstration jump rather than committing forward over the gulf. The further you get toward the top, the shakier your legs get and the more you start hunching over to dare to continue forward. Through a force of will, I tried to keep my legs and back straight, but every time I landed on a tiny platform, I’d cringe so bad my legs would buckle. Despite the fear of heights tingling you get, there isn’t really much motion sickness to contend with here. But I have very strong VR sea legs as some users have pointed out, and I don’t know if I can trust my judgement here. Tell you what, I’ll let you tell me how motion sick this title makes you and then I’ll come back and update this piece later.
You really feel like a newborn Doe trying to stand for the first time. Every little beep or bloop you hear makes you cringe and say “no no no” under your breath. That’s because when you solidly stick the landing, it makes one good sound, but if you bounce when you land, it makes another sound, a bad sound … to let you know you’re about to fall over the side of the platform you thought you just safely landed on. Nope! Er, um … splat!
Toward the last few jumps, you are shaking so bad you can barely work your controller without turning it upside down and backwards in confusion. It’s truly awesome, and is EXACTLY THAT THING we adrenaline junkies have been begging the VR developer community for a while now! Despite what my final score says, I LOVE THIS GAME!
GEARVR HISTORY LESSON:
There was a demo of a game for GearVR called “Finding” that came from the last VR JAM competition. It was essentially just like this game, except instead of going up, you started at the top and had to find a route down instead. The impact of that small change is a really quite a bit different. Which makes each game unique and necessary in their own right.
In Finding, would start with maximal fear and as you progress, the fear slowly abates as you descend toward safety. You end each level with a sense of empowerment and accomplishment. In JUMP, however, you start out confident and watch that feeling get eroded with each higher leap up. By the time you reach the top, you are shaking, dry mouthed, and teetering on your last bit of courage. JUMP is a game that will show you what you’re made of, hold up a mirror to yourself, yet that comes with a warning: what you see may not be to your liking. Because this game is hard to beat, even with only five levels so far. Because what you are trying to beat is not JUMP … but that cowardly voice inside your mind trying to convince yourself … you can’t do it. You just can’t make that jump, dude!
You are definitely compelled to make the journey anyway, to try, but even if you make it, you see how long it took you to finally reach the end, and just you’ll laugh. Because it’s like 3-6 times longer than what the game says is “par” the golf term for “average”. I didn’t even score average on a single level! I’m still trying to beat level 5 now, but I get to that last 3 jumps from the end and I get too nervous and I fumble it badly.
What’s more, the number of jumps I made is always 2-3 times more than what is “par.” So basically, even though I just accomplished this amazing thing, sorry, “you still suck!” – hahaha! It’s going to take more than just finishing to impress Endeavor One! You have to finish way faster with hardly any jumps! You’ll put your hair out, first!
Finding was the most promising game on the GearVR in my opinion. It had style and character and really awesome graphics like nothing seen before on GearVR. It also had grappling hooks which were required to swing between tall points when you couldn’t jump down anywhere. You had to grapple a far point, swing across halfway, and grapple another point instantly or fall to your death. It was exhilarating beyond words. The developer has promised to go back and re-deliver on that vision sometime in the future. I intend on holding them to it, because for me, it is still one of my favorite GEARVR games so far.
Honestly, I didn’t make the comparison between JUMP and Finding to decide now which game is better. I like both games for their unique properties, and the fact is that they both rock! The VR JAM version of “Finding” is still available on VR JAM’s site, but the developers since have gone forward with that game in the Oculus Home Store as a new title “FindingVR” and it’s no longer a jumping game, but a platformer with no distant jumps from high places any more. It was a real pity they changed that game’s entire premise to something “safe”. Some of us came to VR for thrills we could never risk in real life. JUMP is a game that truly delivers this thrill and is something is available right now, and with a bit of work could even surpass Finding, although I do still think the visual style of Finding still beats anything made on GearVR to date. Finding is a game that truly deserves to be re-developed and taken to the depths of its substance and given its day.
SUGGESTIONS FOR JUMP:
JUMP is already a great game so far, but I feel it needs a few things to truly get it there, to its core self:
- More Hand Gestures. We have avatar hands, that is very cool. More than most games have given us, and helps with balance a little, at least mentally. But there could be some wilder hand animations when we land on those tiny platforms in the sky, because that’s extra scary already, so the body language needs to match our more wild mental levels of fear. Also, add more wacky “falling over the ledge” style hand gestures trying of trying to regain balance, plus ….
- Voice Expressions (in both male and female versions) to be set in the options prior to game start. Some “ooh oooh” and “ahhh” and “oh no” or even “oh shit” as long as the curse words could get turned off by setting the game to “child mode” in options. Screams for when we fall off a building as we are plummeting to our doom.
- Falling = More Exciting! Falling needs to be re-worked entirely. Don’t let us land less than 3 times the distance down that we can jump up. If we fall from a building and are further than 3 that distance higher than we can jump, we would enter a dying animation sequence. It would essentially be our hands shaking wildly, a scream in our throat that also sounds like our gut is tightening from death fear. At the same time, there is some cloth on our arms that can shake with the breeze and will do so rapidly as we fall, making a crackling sound more vehemently the further we fall. I would love to hear this fabric crackling in the wind with every jump. It would add a superhero dynamic to the power behind jumping if we can hear our path through the sky with wind effects on clothes, pulling and snapping them as we soar through the air. Maybe a bit more sounds related to boots scraping on the buildings we are landing on. Some of the buildings have glass, some glass squeaking noises. The shoes are important to the jumping, believe it or not. We need to hear more visceral boot sounds that match the environment we are moving across.
- Full Avatar Body: Our avatar needs a full body if you can swing it, but at least legs with boots on our feet. Then you could add leg-kicking animations to our death cycle. And you could add knee raise position for long jumps, with our legs folded under us, moving around a bit as they help to maintain balance through the jump. To be able to look down and see our legs would add a lot to the jump animation. But maybe GearVR just can’t pull the extra modeling and textures off, I don’t know.
- More Levels…. I haven’t beaten five, so I don’t know if there are some hidden levels beyond 5, but five levels isn’t really enough to truly enjoy this game fully. I would start with 10 at least, and then use the same map twice and just take out a building or two to force the player to find an alternate route. Or add a new challenge such as some enemy drones that fly around and try to trip you up, make you fall off the buildings, and raise the level of challenge on the alternate path. With this trick, you’d have 20 levels in no time. 10 entirely new and fresh levels, and 10 levels using the same map with one or two buildings removed to force a different path.
- Blacking Out Queues: about halfway into the death fall, start stuttering frames to give the impression our mind is blacking out. Let the screen colors begin to fade and go to black. A cool effect would be to have everything go black except for a thin line that stretches out and then shrinks to a point. We might hear our body crumple against stone from somewhere far away, distantly, barely, followed by some echoing ringing that seems to come from this dot, then silence and blackness. A good dying animation will make falling all the more terrible to experience. Right now, falling to our deaths is slow, not gritty at all, and peaceful with no frightening effects or screams or hand flailing or anything. We just fly down. That’s no good at all for this kind of a game. To make the jumping powerful, the death has to mean something. It has to hurt. It has to be scary. That’s why I would also like to see more…
- Slipping Sounds/Animations. If we land on the lip of a building, we just hear slipping sounds followed by voice like “No! Oh God!” with our hands reaching out to grab anything. Especially if we miss by only a few inches and slide down a building like I have many times already. We should be seeing our hands scrape wildly like a dog trying for purchase on anything …. before realizing with futility that it’s over. Randomly, the hands might come up to cover our eyes, to shield us from watching the deadly fall. But the hands aren’t perfect, there might be some gaps through the fingers where we see through partially. And it’s only randomly, not every time.
- “Catch the Building Lip” Dynamic. When we slide over a ledge and fall to our death, if we press the shoulder “left” button if we are on the left side, our hands will lunge out to catch the lip of the building. Instead of falling, we slam against the building. Now with the left button still holding, we can tap the “Y” button to pull ourselves back up over the lip and stand up, having regained ourselves. Falling to our deaths isn’t as meaningful as being able to save ourselves from it. So something like this would add a whole lot more terror to the moment we slip off the ledge. Plus, we still have to time it right, and press the correct shoulder button, so it’s a gaming addition that would factor in quite well here.
- Zip Line off the Top of the City. Perhaps as a reward for winning each level, when the show is over at the top, just after pressing “B” to advance to the next level, our character gets to fire a line across the city to another tall building and then zip line off our finish point and sail (as fast as the game can let us) into a bank of glass windows. The windows all shatter in slow motion, glass shards flying out all around us (huge sense of Presence as the pieces fly by nearly cutting us each time) then the screen goes dark. That’s a kind of “cinematic ending” to each level that would be fun to look forward to with each level completion. Maybe it tells a story of us trying to get into a certain building each time, so we need to get to the top of the city to be able to shoot the line high enough to zip line into the windows, which is our true objective. (Really it’s just for fun, another cool thing to experience from up high like that.) The zip line ride portion should cantilever to the left and right in a bouncy way, up and down a little, side to side, unbalanced and unstably. It’s an exciting 1st person ride, it’s meant to shake things up a bit! Our avatar would need legs for the “smashing into the window part” … heck, for the whole zip line part!
JUMP is a really nice surprise coming out of left field for me. I had not heard a thing about it until it was here. But these are the kinds of games and experiences I live for in VR, and have anxiously been waiting for. I had hoped the makers of Finding (the original VR JAM awesome demo) would have gone back and finished their original version before now because it was the only thing like it on the whole of the GearVR ecosystem. It filled a niche that no one else has the guts to fill. And it proved that scary (possibly motion-sickness inducing games like that) really are wanted and can be enjoyed by a few, even if the the majority will never dare try something like that.
We “VR ultimate thrill seekers” needed that first game Finding just to prove that it could be done. That it could actually provide the rush we’ve been seeking but not make us sick to our stomachs either. And yes, it was a resounding success. It paved the way and opened the door for more games just like JUMP. This is one amazing game already, but with some minor additions and tweaks, it could be even better and longer lasting.
Nevertheless, I send out a very large and joyous “THANK YOU” right now to the ballsy development team Endeavor One for making the greatest new surprise of 2016. THANKS! You aren’t afraid of whiny VR newbies who might go around complaining about motion sickness. You didn’t let those worries stop you from making something a least some people with VR sea legs like me could truly enjoy and have needed all along. JUMP is that rare gift that, when it comes along, you find you must —- at the chance to play it right away!
Don’t let this game “—- away” from you ….
*With some of my suggestions implemented, this score would raise dramatically….