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Editorial

The Lost Bear is a Whimsical VR Charmer

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The Lost Bear

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.

Damien Lawardorn is an aspiring novelist, journalist, and essayist. His goal in writing is to inspire readers to engage and think, rather than simply consume and enjoy. With broad interests ranging from literature and video games to fringe science and social movements, his work tends to touch on the unexpected. Damien is the former Editor-in-Chief of OnlySP. More of his work can be found at https://open.abc.net.au/people/21767

Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in May 2019

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May

May offers no respite from the big, bold games that have released so far in 2019, bringing with it a host of games almost certain to appeal to gamers of every stripe.

Close to the Sun

Release Date: May 2, 2019
Platforms: PC, consoles later in the year

May’s first major release may also be its most intriguing. Close to the Sun has regularly attracted comparisons to BioShock for its art style and premise, though the relationship between the two titles is, at best, spiritual.

Players take the role of journalist Rose Archer as she steps aboard Nikola Tesla’s ship, the Helios in 1897. Like Andrew Ryan before him (or after him, depending on perspective), Tesla has created a microcosm in which scientific freedom is unrestricted, with disastrous outcomes. Rose’s first impression is of a quarantine sign at the entrance to a still, dead ship, but she presses on regardless in search of her lost sister.

With Close to the Sun, developer Storm in a Teacup aims to provide an intense horror experience. The Helios holds none of BioShock’s shotguns or Plasmids. Instead, players have no means to defend themselves, with gameplay focusing on hiding from and escaping the threats on board.

Check out OnlySP’s final review of the game here.

RAGE 2

Release Date: May 14, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

For anyone to whom the slow, meditative approach does not appeal, Bethesda is busting out the big guns with the long-awaited, little-expected sequel, RAGE 2.

This time around, id Software has tapped Just Cause and Mad Max developer Avalanche Studios for assistance in developing an open-world game. The result, if the trailers are any indication, is a breakneck, neon-fuelled experience that focuses on insanity and ramps up all the unique aspects of the earlier game.

One focal point of development has been ensuring the interconnectedness of the game’s structure, and the teams have promised a greater focus on narrative this time around. Perhaps in keeping with that, RAGE 2 is being distanced from its predecessor, taking place 30 years later with a new protagonist and a whole new story, though some callbacks will be present.

Although id’s legendary first-person gunplay is a driving force throughout the game, it will be supplemented by some light RPG elements, robust vehicular combat, and post launch challenges and support (though the developers deny that RAGE 2 is designed with a games-as-a-service model in mind).

A Plague Tale: Innocence

Release Date: May 14, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Out on the same day as RAGE 2 is the vastly different A Plague Tale: Innocence. A historical adventure, the game challenges players with overcoming obstacles with brains rather than brawn.

Players become Amicia, an orphan girl struggling to survive in a plague-infested medieval France while also keeping her younger brother safe. With the landscape rife with rats and members of The Inquisition, one of the core tenets of gameplay is reportedly the need to use these threats against each other. As such, though Amicia has a sling to use, the gameplay is designed more as survival puzzles than combat ones.

Developer Asobo Studio is not a household name, though it has a lengthy history of adaptations and support on major titles, including Quantum Break and The Crew 2. Furthermore, even though A Plague Tale is yet to release, publisher Focus Home Interactive has displayed remarkable confidence in the project by extending its partnership with Asobo.

Honourable Mentions

Although RAGE 2 is the incontestable action-blockbuster of the month, gamers in search of another kind of frenetic may want to wait until May 21, when Curve Digital drops American Fugitive, which has a more than passing resemblance to the earliest Grand Theft Auto games. Alternatively, PlayStation VR owners may want to look into Blood and Truth come May 28.

Sega also shines this month, dropping Team Sonic Racing on May 21 and Total War: Three Kingdoms two days later.

Anyone looking for an RPG has indie’s answer to The Outer Worlds, Within the Cosmos, to look out for on May 30, while those looking for slower stories get the latest episode of Life is Strange 2 on May 9, Observation on May 21, and the fjord-noir Draugen at a yet unspecified date.

Have we forgotten anything that you’re excited for? Let us know down below or on our Discord server.

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