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Batman: Arkham VR Demo at San Diego Comic-Con Was No Bat From Hell, But It’s Still Pretty Cool

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If you’re reading this, odds are you really wish you had been able to go to San Diego for Comic-Con. You really should have been a part of the San Diego Comic-Con 2016 fun this past weekend. As if you needed another reason why you should’ve gone, am I right? Well, here I am with one more: a demo of Batman: Arkham VR on the show floor.

The DC booth had a square of space tucked away in one of its corners with two demo stations of the game. Each station had identical walls with the logo of the game, along with plenty of signage advertising #BatmanArkhamVR. Developed by Arkham pros Rocksteady Studios, the PlayStation VR exclusive title ran, of course, on the Sony headset, complete with a custom Batman themed pair of headphones. Facing you is a tripod mounted PlayStation Camera, which provides positional tracking for the headset to translate into in-game head movement. Compared to when I tried the headset back in 2015 at E3 and Comic-Con that same year, the headset still fit and worked pretty much the same.

After adjusting the headset and headphones to my liking, the booth attendant slipped on the wrist straps of the two PlayStation Move controllers, one on each of my hands. With the Moves secured, I was directed to look to the left part of the game screen to begin the demo by pressing the Move button.

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The demo begins with you looking at a piano in a parlor area. With the entrance of Alfred, a longtime servant of the Wayne family as portrayed in the comics and movies, it quickly becomes clear that the home you’re in is Wayne Manor. After asking Bruce if this is what he is looking for, Alfred passes you a key, which you must reach towards and grab with either hand. The piano on the rostrum (a fancy word for a raised platform) has a locked cover for the keyboard, the lock of which Rocksteady went to great lengths in the demo to highlight to be of importance. Using deliberate gestures to pushing the key into the lock, turn it, and finally open the cover was satisfying. Call me what you will for saying, much too much of a basic activity for VR.

I admit, I didn’t know I had to play the piano until the attendant prompted me, and once I did, my jaw truly dropped. My memories of the animated Batman series and my short-lived attempt at catching up with the comics suddenly all hit me like a pallet of bricks–I was descending into the Batcave.

The entire platform started lowering, nearly giving me a heart attack and motion sickness in the process. Being fully able to look around you 360 degrees gave me awe-inspiring views as I descended. At one point, I was met with several stations prompting me to initiate different gestures in order to don the Batsuit and test out and equip different gadgets, tools and weapons. Not gonna lie, this part was pretty awesome, but I was a little let down by the auto-aim of the Batarangs even if my throw was completely off.

Despite that small complaint, having to physically look down and around the suit in order to get more of what you need during testing of each gadget, tool or weapon, then finally needing to consciously put it where it needs to be placed on the Batsuit was a new experience I wholeheartedly welcomed and frankly loved. However, no combat or practical use of core game mechanics against enemies or for navigation were included.

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The demo abruptly ends after you descend into a chair in front of a big complicated control console.

All in all, Batman: Arkham VR looks promising, with many of the features I highly enjoy and value in other VR games. We should, however, stay away from setting our expectations too high, since we haven’t really gotten any real taste of what combat and navigation could look like, and since the core game mechanics shown in the demo and past previews haven’t really been seen in full action with live enemies.

What do you guys think of Batman: Arkham VR? Let us know in the comments below!

Please stay with us here at Only Single Player (OnlySP.com) and on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube for all the latest news, previews, reviews, opinions and much more on Batman: Arkham VR and on the rest of the world of single player games.

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Co-op Gaming Shines at EGX Rezzed With We Were Here Together, Phogs!, and Cake Bash

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Co-op gaming

Over the years, jolly co-op gaming has been in decline, especially from AAA developers. Several recent games have been standouts, such as A Way Out, Strange Brigade, and the Far Cry series, though the latest pioneers of co-op gaming will likely come from the indie community.

While exploring EGX Rezzed, the atmosphere was filled with a sense of mutual enjoyment as gamers came together to play a plethora of team-building games. Among these games were some of my personal highlights including We Were Here Together, Cake Bash, and Phogs!

We Were Here Together

We Were Here Together is the latest co-op adventure puzzle game by independent studio Total Mayhem Games.

The title continues on from two previously released projects, We Were Here and We Were Here Too, with the former available on Steam for free. Set amidst a frozen landscape, the first two games centred on exploring a mysterious castle while solving puzzles as part of a two-person team. Players were separated throughout the playthrough until the final moments, which featured a touching scene where the puzzling pals would eventually meet to conquer the remaining conundrums.

We Were Here Together immediately shakes things up by starting the game with both players working together in the same environment. The EGX demo starts off outside of the castle grounds in an expedition outpost where two explorers suddenly receive a distress call from somewhere in the frozen wastes. Players must work together to decipher an incoming transmission and correctly pinpoint the distress beacon.

The location itself is the answer to a series of puzzles, requiring both people to work together. A great example of teamwork is one player adjusting an outside satellite while the other stays inside to alter the radio’s frequency until a voice can be heard. This is where the creative ingenuity from the developers comes into play as solutions are different for each playthrough. The puzzles themselves remain the same, but, by using the same example as before, the voice may only be heard on a different frequency. Similar situations where the outcome changes include changing co-ordinates and figuring out which key may fit a particular door.

Roughly one-third of the game will be set in a shared environment while latter parts will take place back inside the castle in a traditional, separated format. Two paths are laid out later for the players to choose between, providing avenues for replayability. The changing solutions also add to the replay value as it prevents veteran gamers from going back and telling their new partner the answers.

The moments where players are physically apart highlight one of the unique features of the game: the radios. Both characters are equipped with walkie-talkies so players can communicate with each other. Radios are a brilliant immersion tool as the mechanic works exactly as a two-way radio should, with the wielder having to hold down a button to speak and release to hear the other. The radio mechanic is optional, though, as players can simply use a third-party chat. However, the added difficulty and roleplaying add an extra element to an already rather tricky title.

We Were Here Together is a fun shared experience that proves a challenge for even the most seasoned puzzle solvers. The release date and price of the project are unknown at present, but the game will be available on Steam.

Cake Bash

During EGX Rezzed 2019, the Coatsink team had a glorious display full of plush animals, colourful scenery, and even a rather large and comfortable dog bed.

I was lucky enough to go hands-on with Phogs! and play a few rounds of Cake Bash with PR and Events Manager Jack Sanderson. Both games proved to be a real treat to participants, with Cake Bash serving a much-needed helping of raucous fun in a series of mini-games.

Not unlike many beloved party games—such as Mario PartyCake Bash is an up-to-four-player competitive game featuring several rounds of friendship-ending challenges. The design of the title instantly stands out with an adorable and vivid visual style that brings a certain charm to the characters and settings.

Before each round, players choose a character from a selection of delicious desserts as their combatant. During the demo, only two game modes were available, the first of which required players to gather falling pieces of fruit and throw them inside a giant meringue. A single point is awarded for successfully tossing a piece of fruit into the bowl. However, a rare golden fruit, worth ten points, will appear every so often. Competitors must be wary of descending fiery boulders that can briefly daze any dessert. These boulders can also be picked up and lobbed at rivals. Not only can enemies launch these rocks at one another, but they can also punch and beat each other to force someone to drop their fruit.

The second mode available was a race to gather the most jellies to become the tastiest treat. Player avatars run around an arena, gathering multi-coloured jelly beans to cover their chosen dessert, and the sweet with the most treats at the end wins. While the first game mode mainly had the individual focusing on their own points, this round directly pits people against each other as limited jellies can be found, and players can steal them by whacking opponents.

While the game looks stunning, gamers will have to wait until 2020 to get their hands on Cake Bash. The late release has allowed for an increase in scope and additional modes for players to sink their teeth into.

Phogs!

The other title playable at the event was an equally adorable project called Phogs! The game can be played solo or with a friend, as the player controls one or both halves of a two-headed dog. The two heads can be moved independently and are able to stretch, bark, and bite.

Phogs! is set in a dream-like environment where the ground is made up of soft duvet sets and pillows, while the skies are filled with tranquil clouds gently floating in the distance. The level designs are built in a way that eases the player into the various mechanics, offering something new or demonstrating different ways to solve puzzles. Early enigmas would require both sides of the dog to work in unison to pull an object or levers simultaneously. Later levels would add a glowing orb that can be used to remove dark shadowy walls or illuminate pathways to walk across. Even the orbs are based around the idea of working as a team as one side of the dog bites onto the light ball with the other opening their mouth to act as a torch.

The charming personality of the game really shines in the various character designs and their functions within the levels. One of the final missions of the demo featured a sleeping giant that dreamed of bridges in floating thought bubbles. Players could then use the camera perspective to align the dream bridge with a section of a missing platform to cross. Other cutesy critters include wailing alarm clocks that can disturb the giants, preventing them from dreaming up a way to progress. The clocks can be led to nearby beds where they will quickly start to drift off and stop ringing.

Despite the levels being fairly linear, additional tasks can be completed to gain collectable dog biscuits. These tasks often require the dog to present characters with a particular item, for example, bringing a storybook to an owl.

The whole experience with Coatsink was a delight, both games offering a mix of controller-clenching competition and jolly cooperation. Like Cake Bash, Phogs! will also be arriving in 2020 on PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One.


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