What makes VR so exciting is how it seems to be able to upturn video games genres that we have been enjoying on a traditional flat screen monitor, making them almost an entirely different game, or even creating/reviving genres, such as wave shooters and room escape. Take Serious Sam VR: The Second Encounter for example: Playing it in VR has allows me to dual wield different types of weapons, therefore allowing me to spraying ammunition at 2 separate targets in 2 separate location, so I can be attacking both a witch-harpy and a Gnaar at the same time. The content is still the same as the HD version, but playing it in VR mode allows you to enjoy it in a brand new way.
Elknight Studio‘s upcoming debut virtual reality title “”No Clue VR” looks to have the same effect. It is a virtual reality, spot-the-difference game where you are tasked to seek out the difference between 2 almost-similar environment. Such genre isn’t a new thing in traditional video game format, but it seems nobody has tried implementing it in VR to see if it works well, and after playing it, its safe to say that it works. In fact, at a risk of sounding hyperbolic, this title actually makes me question: Why haven’t anyone did this before?
Elknight Studio is a rather new studio located in San Francisco, and was established in September last year. No Clue VR, was conceived back then, and what we are seeing here is 8 months worth of work from 6 developers (there are 10 people in the studio, but the rest are working on other games, which is a story for another time). According to my exchange with Elknight Studio, they have spend a lot of time exploring many prototypes before this gameplay was selected. While the studio itself may be new, the people behind the studio has got ample video game industry experience from working at Ubisoft, Gree and Ncsoft.
In traditional ‘find-the-difference’ game, all it takes is just repeated glances between 2 pictures that are placed against each other, to compare and find out the difference. Elknight Studio has adopted the 360 viewing angle of VR to overhaul such basic premise: Instead of glancing between 2 pictures, you will actually ‘switch’ between 2 static environments using the trackpad and locate the difference between them. Since the environment is in 360, it is really overwhelming but in a good way. Due to this mechanic, your eyes are made to fixate at a spot as you switch in order to see if there is any difference. If you think you found it, its just a matter of aiming at it with the motion controller and clicking on the trigger button. And as if that’s not challenging enough, 1 of the environment is set in night time, while the other is in the day time. You will be flipping between the 2 environments repeatedly, as your mind is made to think fast: are they looking different because of the different times, or because they are actually really different? At least, that’s how I feel as I try out this game. Such gameplay could theorically be ported and presented on a flat screen monitor too, but I really doubt the experience is going to be the same.
Each mission has 5 objects that needs to be uncovered, with a time limit of 2 minutes (in the story mode), making things even more exciting. Of course, you will be penalized if you choose the wrong items (to prevent you from spamming your clicks), with the deduction of 5 seconds off your time limit. Put it in another way: think before you click. The differences for the missions are randomly selected, so its not like you can just memorize the difference, and then select them when you retry that mission. The current version of the game also has a ‘survival’ mode which starts you with a 300 seconds pool, and award you an additional 20 seconds for spotting 5 differences.There is also a leaderboard for you to compare your result against other gamers.
Personally, I feel that such VR title is what the VR enthusiasts may not ask for. It is not some mega budget, AAA epic scale adventure title that span more than 10 hours of gameplay, but this casual title is one of those titles that VR needs to diversity and open up the potential of VR in gaming, beyond the many VR first person perspective titles that we are being offered now (wave shooter, simulation, tower defense, climbing, adventure etc). This title is scheduled to make its appearance via Early Access on 18th May on Steam for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, with approximately half a year before final release. Do expect more missions, more variable objects, more levels of difficulties and other additions during the Early Access period. Check out the trailer for the game below: