Review: Arca’s Path
The videogames industry falls in-and-out of love with virtual reality (VR) on a near-weekly basis, but there are certain properties that have committed whole heartedly to the medium. Dream Reality Interactive (dRi) are most certainly one of them, launching their first consumer VR title across a multitude of head-mounted displays (HMDs) whilst eschewing the given norms of appealing to the audience that currently exist there.
Arca’s Path is a puzzle videogame that takes a bit of a nostalgia trip, inspiring memories of marble-based videogames from the mid-90s. The player takes control of a young girl after she morphs into a ball via the use of a special mask – the storyline is nothing short of bizarre, but is delivered in an effortlessly interesting manner by way of graphic novel style 2D panels – which the ultimate goal being to reach the end of each level. This starts off very simply; a range of wide spaces and corridors with a generous no-fail boundary. However as the player progresses through the videogame’s 25 levels they’ll be tasked with navigating deadends, solving block puzzles and traveling at speed down huge slaloms with broken, twisting pathways.
Designed for a wide variety of HMDs, Arca’s Path has opted for a control system that can be mirrored across all hardware; high-end PC based systems and mobile devices. There’s no need for a controller of any kind, instead the single input in the videogame is gaze based. The player simply looks in the direction they wish the ball to move, and returns the centre of their view under the ball to bring it to a complete stop. Anyone with an understanding of traditional videogame controllers will immediately understand the direct translation from analog stick to gaze control, able to control acceleration and momentum, and perform turns on a dime.
The signposting of the player’s effect on the ball is subtle but perfectly pitched. A semi-translucent arrow denotes direction, and the distance from the ball indicates speed. Though the player can move their view to a point where the ball is no longer visible, there is little need as top speed can always be achieved while it remains within. It’s a system that may have been devised with low-end devices in mind, but has obviously benefited from significant investment of time and QA to ensure that it delivers across all HMDs.
The visual quality of Arca’s Path won’t astound anyone, but the attention to detail and variety of environments is certainly respectable. The player will find themselves moving through many unique areas as they progress through the videogame, moving from lush green pastures through colder stone surroundings to dark and grimy tracks. The soundtrack follows a similar path; interesting enough to hold your attention without distracting from the task at hand.
Arca’s Path comes at a time when VR is maturing. We’re seeing the medium move away from the deep trench of wave shooters that began to suffocate the medium and coming back to more unique ideas built specifically for the hardware. Arca’s Path is exactly this kind of experience – it would arguably work as a traditional non-VR videogame, but certainly wouldn’t have the same impact – and as such offers an engrossing worthy of your time aside any bigger titles that may be on your agenda. It does also act well as a first-step into VR, which despite now having more than two years of consumer adoption is still an important factor over this holiday season.