Over the next few days, OnlySP is going to be looking at some recent and soon-to-be-released VR games, beginning with The Lost Bear, the debut effort from Manchester-based indie outfit OddBug Studio.
The Lost Bear resembles nothing quite so much as Puppeteer, Sony Japan’s charming 2013 platformer that put users in control of an elaborate stage play. The two games share a theatrical setting, a 2D plane, and the desire to elicit a childlike sense of wonderment. Comparatively, The Lost Bear lacks much of the kinetic spectacle that made Puppeteer so engrossing. However, to suggest that the absence of a AAA hallmark makes the game lesser is wildly inaccurate.
Unlike the other titles to be examined in the coming days, The Lost Bear is already available on PlayStation VR and that platform choice is one of the strongest factors in making the game so startlingly memorable. On a standard screen, the game would be a competent but unremarkable platformer. In VR, with the player surrounded by a carefully-designed diorama that reflects the world of the characters, the experience comes to life. Nevertheless, most of what happens plays out insensate of the 3D space.
Players are placed in direct control of Walnut, a young girl lost in a dark forest with only her teddy for company. Terrifyingly, this sole source of comfort is snatched away, and thus begins an endearingly innocent quest about courage, inner strength, and adaptability. Most of the demo involves straightforward left-to-right movement with some familiar platforming and puzzling elements to keep players interested, but the novelty of the experience stems from the infrequent—yet perfectly balanced— use of VR’s capabilities. At one point, a butterfly drifts into theatre space occupied by the player, flutters semi-realistically nearby for a few moments, then travels into a pipe and emerges on the stage to remind Walnut that beauty and hope exists even in the darkest situations.
This crossover of 2D and 3D space within the game is understated, yet elevates it by investing players without making them a direct participant, as in so many other VR projects. This quality, combined with the rough, hand-drawn visual style and powerful ambience arising from the dioramic setting, helps The Lost Bear stand out in a field where me-too design has resulted in a proliferation of first-person games with either cockpit views or teleportation-based movement systems.
At first glance, The Lost Bear seems unambitious, but the unique set-up makes it one of the more daring VR experiences on the market.