Review: Green Hell VR: Quest Edition
Ever since Incuvo announced that it was working on a virtual reality (VR) version of Green Hell, the prospect of trying to survive the Amazon in VR has been an exciting one. Dealing with a highly hostile – yet very real – environment, containing a myriad of creatures and plant life just seems too good to pass up, especially as the flatscreen mechanics have been entirely reworked for immersive gameplay. And Green Hell VR: Quest Edition does deliver if you’re new to the franchise, whilst those who’ve lived in Green Hell will find a more cut back experience.
The core principle and narrative of the original title remain the same, you play Jake Higgins, an anthropologist who finds himself alone in the Amazonian rainforest, having to survive on what little equipment he has and what he can scavenge from the jungle, all whilst looking for his lost colleague. You’ll have to avoid eating deadly mushrooms and try not to get killed by even deadlier jaguars, and just like every good VR survival videogame, Green Hell VR: Quest Edition is about getting physically stuck in rather than menu and inventory management.
Once the tutorial and 2D movie presentation – never a great addition to a VR game but expected when porting a pancake title – you’re then left on your own to find the right path through the dense jungle. And it is dense. Incuvo has done a remarkable job on the visuals, creating lush, thick green foliage to cut through that also hides plenty of threats. If the jungle had been fairly sparse due to the Meta Quest 2 hardware you could understand it yet you’d be disappointed the atmosphere wasn’t there. Nope, no need to worry on that front, Green Hell VR: Quest Edition looks the business. Not PC level quality, of course, but still enough that when the rain starts coming down and you’re trying to build shelter you almost feel drenched.
That atmosphere doesn’t purely come from the variety of plants that make up the undergrowth. Hacking them back you’ll quickly spot Capybara run and hide or see fish in the clear streams to catch. For more dangerous animals you get a slight audio warning. At the first appearance of a snake, I was proper wary having no items to heal or properly attack it apart from a big stick. Not fancying a poisonous bite it was best to steer clear rather than testing the stick out. Plenty of other beasties also litter the floor like scorpions and spiders, so it’s always worth keeping an eye on where you’re walking.
Bigger enemies, on the other hand, were more intermittent, thankfully. Crocodiles, pumas and even indigenous enemies rarely appeared, although that’s likely a bonus considering the simplified nature of the combat. Especially as one attack from them can easily take a large portion of your health bar creating serious wounds to heal.
And that’s where utilising the jungle comes into play. You’ve got a backpack that can be grabbed from over either shoulder to store vital supplies, maintaining stats like hunger as well as your psychological condition. Set to the medium difficulty these vitals weren’t too difficult to manage, for the most part, so if you want a true challenge you’ll want to up that. Even so, this led to a fairly well-paced 10-hour campaign, great when compared to other VR videogames, a bit short when compared to Green Hell.
The trump card here though is that physical gameplay. You have to use a machete (or craft an axe) to chop down trees to gather wood, creating fires by placing sticks in silhouettes before striking flint to make that much-needed spark. You’re more involved in the process unlike Green Hell, and because of this, the development team have reduced the resources required for crafting. As is the amount of things you can build and find in the jungle, streamlining the whole experience for the standalone headset.
Green Hell VR: Quest Edition’s reworking features dozens of awesome little VR-specific mechanics. Use any rock face to smash open coconuts or break a stone up to gain flint, grab the journal off your chest to look up crafting/plant information or press the face of your solar-powered smartwatch to sleep, check vitals or use the compass. All seemingly mundane actions that add up to form a cohesive, engaging whole. Healing is another good one, actually wrapping leaves around your arms when you’ve sustained an injury. That coconut half you’ve just created, use it to drink water from a river or use both hands cupped together when nothing else is available.
The experience isn’t all beautiful survival synergy though. There were a few little glitches and stutters along the way. The first happened before the campaign had even begun, offering no hands or pointer to select the movement system going in, not a great start. In the main menu the right-handed pointer didn’t work. Occasional stuttering came from too many items in view, so don’t suddenly empty your entire inventory onto the ground, Green Hell VR won’t like that. Whilst the hand and arm modelling is okay, there were times when trying to interact with the watch was awkward due to my virtual wrist being at an odd, almost breaking angle.
Even so, playing Green Hell VR: Quest Edition was a great deal of fun and satisfied that expectation. Moments like the first time I noticed leeches on my arm instantly grossed me out as I plucked them off, a completely new VR experience for me. Or deciding out of the two different mushroom species I held in both hands which I should eat and the effect that would cause. Fighting crocodiles is all well and good but I do love the smaller elements as well.
When it comes to accessibility and comfort Green Hell VR features all the options that are becoming standard in VR. Walking and teleport locomotion, snap and smooth turning, a blink mode, left-handed support, vignette, and seated/standing swapping.
Incuvo has become a pro at porting flatscreen titles like Blair Witch and now Green Hell into VR because the team know the level of interaction players expect. There is a linear element to the whole thing – you’re not given complete free roam – with a general path laid out before you, yet the jungle has enough pathways and hidden nooks that you can still explore and find a cave to safely bed down for the night. Then, once the campaign has finished there’s always Survival Mode, to keep the jungle experience alive. As long as you don’t judge it by Green Hell and take Green Hell VR: Quest Edition on its own VR merits then you’ll find a rewarding survival experience.