App Lab Roundup: Memory, Grapples and Racing
Each week we will be taking a look at some of the upcoming videogames, demos and unique experiences available through Oculus App Lab for the Meta Quest headsets. Many of these videogames come in varying states of completion, so each title is subject to change.
This week we’re testing our cognitive function, swinging through the air and building racetracks.
Remember when every platform was bringing out a Brain Training game or app? That feels a bit dated when it comes to VR platforms, but the use of motion controls and freedom of movement opens up that formula. With Upgrade VR, you won’t really be exercising too much of the old great matter, though it’ll nudge you occasionally. This app tests your coordination, concentration, reaction and memory.
This is achieved through various mini-games, which start off very simply. Reaction, for example, fires balls towards you from portals. If it’s a green ball, you use the green coloured hand, if it’s blue, then it’s the other hand. At first, the balls move through the air slowly, over time they speed up and introduce balls that must be avoided. In memory, you’ll be shown strings of 3D models and must remember the order they appeared and place them in the correct spots.
All of this adds up scores, which depict your cognition ability. This all takes place within a sci-fi environment which feels pulled straight from a Hollywood movie. Everything is clean and well designed, there are no errors in the motion controls, it can be played standing or sitting and when you come back to the games in order to break your high score, it feels tremendous.
Straight out of the gate, I have to say, the soundtrack to Grabble absolutely slaps (do people still say ‘slaps’?). The music has this great futuristic, funk feel which goes really well with the action. What’s the action? Well, I guess you could say this is a Spider-Man simulator. You have a grappling hook in each hand and they must be used to move through the air, between blocks.
The game ends if you fall into the infinite void below, which seems to happen quite a lot. You see, when grappling, the player moves very quickly. Often before the blocks even get a chance to spawn in. Thankfully, also attached to your hands, are boosters which can help propel you in particular directions saving you from danger, or even slowing your speed a little.
Grabble is pretty ‘bare bones’ currently, but the basis is there for a bigger and better experience. Plus, who doesn’t love swinging through the air on grapple hooks?
Full disclosure – I pride myself at being able to play pretty much all VR games without feeling ill. Racemaker VR broke me, however.
Before we get to that, let me first recommend the game, because it’s kind of brilliant. You start in front of a gridded table with a toolbox of racetrack sections in your hand. The goal is to create a fun and frantic racetrack using curves, tunnels, speed boosts, jumps and straight sections of track.
Aside from some moments where the track pieces sometimes don’t snap together easily, building a track is engaging and enjoyable. You can make it as simple as you like or create a complex track of inclines and bridges constantly running at high speed. Once the track is complete, it’s time to race, and here is where I almost threw up my lunch.
Getting behind the wheel of the car is, at first, very smooth. Almost too smooth. Taking the corners felt like my view was overshooting my brain and stomach, cresting the bumpy track was like being thrown into a washing machine and when I hit a speed boost to jump through the air, I felt like I left my stomach behind on the track. Now, you might fare better than I. So, I would never not recommend the game, but be aware that the actual racing might cause some stomach upset.