Video games, Tentacular is the only one who understood virtual reality

Video games, Tentacular is the only one who understood virtual reality

Video games

I love virtual reality (VR). Whether it's watching my eight-year-old grapple with a rock face in video games like Horizon: Call of the Mountain or playing air hockey with a colleague three thousand miles away, I've never lost a sense of marvel that you experience every time you put on a viewer and instantly immerse yourself in another world. But this relatively new medium still struggles to reach its full potential, especially since there are few video games capable of fully exploiting it. Most of the titles I've tried seem designed to create temporary experiences rather than full, rich games. It's understandable – I too am amazed when I find myself kayaking in Antarctica instead of sitting in my living room – but as my colleague Eric Ravenscraft has pointed out, we are talking about products that look more like demos than a full-fledged form of media consumption that people are willing to spend money on.

Until now, I hadn't come across anything that combines action sequences with an engrossing storyline comparable to Witcher 3 , The Last of Us or even Call of Duty. Dodging bullets and grabbing weapons in Superhot is fun, but gets repetitive without a cathartic epilogue. After an hour of Beat Saber , I invariably find myself chatting instead of playing, so much so that it feels like I'm on Zoom rather than a game session. But now I think I've finally found a video game worth wearing a virtual reality headset for. Tentacular , released for Meta Quest 2 and SteamVR last year, boasts rave reviews. About halfway through the game, on PlayStation Vr 2, I have to admit that this cute little sea monster kraken video game sucked me in.

In the guise of a kaiju

Devolver DigitalThe difference is immediately noticeable. At the beginning of the game you won't find yourself suspended in darkness and you won't even be a ghost without an identity and a body floating above a landscape. You won't end up in the middle of an unreal and disorienting dimension - there are no strange waving hands and you can't hear footsteps - but you will be firmly anchored in a time and place. There are rippling waves, orange cones that indicate boundaries beyond which you cannot go and little people from the island of La Kalma talking to you. Why are they so small? Because as a player you play the role of a huge sea kraken . However, to the inhabitants of this little island, who have watched you grow up from an adorable and tiny sea monster, you are just a living being, a person like them. And now that you're sixteen, it's time to get to work.

As a kaiju – as Japanese Godzilla monsters are defined – you are the ideal figure to clear the streets of debris created by landslides and assemble sky-high stacks of containers. You have various advantages from yours – such as disproportionate size and strength – but also some cons, such as the absence of hands; however, you are equipped with long tentacles with suction cups instead of arms and all in all, therefore, the situation is less frustrating than it might seem: after all, it is exactly the way your body would work if you were really a kaiju even in real life . You can attach or detach objects with your suction cups; the base of the tentacles is stronger and more stable, and should be used for bigger things, while the ends are smaller and a bit more difficult to maneuver precisely.

All this makes the title much more real and immersive compared to the climbing and swordfighting at the heart of most VR video games, which still feel to me like a somewhat creepy pantomime. Sticking objects to the suction cups and using them to build with the tentacles is more satisfying and realistic. If you try to pick up something particularly large with the tip of a limb, your tentacle stretches until it detaches itself from the object and throws it into the sea like a slingshot. Even moving an unfortunate, tiny volunteer during construction work by gently attaching the tentacle end to her little head is strangely satisfying.

Mysteries and Tentacles

Devolver DigitalEach level is built around a sort of 3D construction puzzle. You can replay levels or move between story and freeplay arenas. Navigation is surprisingly easy: there's a little house with a lever behind you to move back and forth, and if you can't solve a puzzle there's always a little man ready to offer you encouragement, doodles and hints. If you look up, people and objects can be seen descending from the sky; I don't currently spend much time playing with all the different props because I'm still enjoying the story.

Let's face it: reading is boring. I can watch endless cutscenes (aka TV series), but in a game it's hard to sit through the written parts where aspects of the plot are explained before you can get back to shooting and blowing things up. Tentacular offers the ability to use the “O” key to scroll through dialogue quickly. Nonetheless, every time I took my time I caught an intriguing and funny detail, like a villager yelling “Mommy!” when I accidentally fired a cannon shot at her.

This is the secret of an addictive game. Beyond the satisfaction of solving different puzzles, learning how various machines work and how to use slingshots and cannons, there are also characters you become attached to. As a kraken, I have a sister and a ridiculous mentor who has a job I'm really interested in. There's a mayor who cares about the townspeople, my professional future depends on learning how to use a demagnetizer, and I even have a mystery to solve!

The comfort guaranteed by the PlayStation VR 2 makes everything much easier. While I love the accessibility of Meta Quest 2 (setting up the headset and switching between users is easier), the PsVR 2 is much, much easier to put on. The balance of the new viewer is better and I don't have the feeling of having something huge and making me sweat stuck to my face. The controllers then are more comfortable and stable, better able to deal with the tactile challenges of Tentacular .

If someone asked me which virtual reality experiences I would like best, I would have thought about flying, as in Population: One or crawling around killing aliens in Half-Life: Alyx . However, reality-based experiences always end up disappointing, whether it's trying to draw a bow with no resistance, climbing when you can't use your legs, or meeting a colleague in Horizon Worlds who beckons you frantically – but without making a sound – to take off the headset and go back to Slack. The fact is that these are experiences that we know well in reality, while having tentacles and being able to use them has no equivalent with which to make comparisons.

It is difficult to find an experience in virtual reality that makes you believe you are really elsewhere. Playing Tentacular is the closest thing that has brought me to this state, thanks to the vivid imagination instilled in this cartoonish world that does not try to simulate the real one, and to dialogues that seem to be written by a real person (and funny!). I love being a kraken.

This article originally appeared on US.

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