Review: Robinson: The Journey (PSVR)

2016 Golden Minecart Awards:

  • Best Adventure (PS VR)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 / PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • PlayStation VR Required
  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Robinson: The Journey
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (6.8 GB)
Release Date: November 8, 2016
Publisher: Crytek
Developer: Crytek
Original MSRP: $39.99 (Blu-ray US), $59.99 (PSN US), €59.99 (EU), £54.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: E
PEGI: 7
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
“I want more” were the words that came to mind after completing Robison. It could easily be considered both a compliment and criticism at the same time. I saw that this game was available for $39.99 at launch right alongside a $60 copy.

I’m not sure why there were two very distinct prices for the exact same game, but I will summarize by stating the following: at $40, Robinson: The Journey is a premium PlayStation VR game. It is a complete experience, with a story and a beautiful world to navigate. At $60, it is simply way too short, despite its polished look and gameplay.

The game does not support Move controllers despite the in-game device looking almost exactly like one. It can be played standing or sitting, but the former offers no benefits, so I spent the entire time playing it while on my butt. Your head movement controls where you point your “multi-tool” device, while the shoulder buttons activate the device’s many functions.

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I mention the controls here because this is not a game where you will be interacting with objects like you would in Batman Arkham VR, but you will nonetheless solve puzzles and interact with the environment in the same way, just with a different “control-scheme” if I may.

You traverse the lush jungle as you would in a traditional first-person game, with the left joystick controlling movement and the right turning your body, not your head. Thus, nausea might be an issue for folks who are not accustomed to these types of locomotion techniques.

… dangers looming at every turn …
Your character moves very slow through the world, possibly to reduce nausea, and body turning is offered through a few options including the experimental pie turning, which has you blinking, teleporting, into new positions, as opposed to the vomit-inducing slow turning which is also available.

This experience is 100% about puzzle-solving. Despite the appearance of giant dinosaurs, you will not be shooting them. You are trying to survive, and you have actually been on this planet for quite some time. So you have already established a base of operations.

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Your robot companion travels the world with you and 3P0’s his way to your heart with constant bickering and overprotective banter. But in VR, and with such dangers looming at every turn, it was a welcome companion. Some puzzles require both him and a little math.

Your multi-tool allows you to levitate otherwise impossible objects so long as a gravity field is active in the area, but it also serves as a scanner. Completionists will take pleasure in scanning every life form, which you can later study in a virtual museum of sorts. But scanning also serves other story-related purposes.

… no knowledge of what I was supposed to do next …
Otherwise you will be climbing to ridiculous heights, navigating tightropes while hungry Raptors loom below you, and experiencing a few stealth-like moments that are nerve racking, I must say. And yes, the scene from the original trailer, where you navigate between the moving legs of giant Brachiosaurus, is there.

While the puzzles themselves are pretty interesting, discovering that I needed to solve the puzzles in the first place was sometimes a challenge, and oftentimes I found myself lost with no knowledge of what I was supposed to do next.

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You have a little T-Rex companion exploring with you and she helps with certain puzzles. She is also extremely cute, despite making my heart stop a few times when rounding a corner and spotting her there since a small T-Rex looks like a large Raptor. I swear in one instance she pushed up against me and I felt my stomach tighten, remember, this in VR, and I thought she was really pushing up against me.

The trouble is that by the time I reached the end of the game, things were getting really interesting and I wasn’t ready for it to end, what with the exciting climax and all. I will say that this experience represents total immersion in VR, and playing through the three to four hour campaign was an experience I won’t soon forget.

… a sharper look altogether …
Visuals:
At this point, it’s probably the best-looking PS VR game available. I played half of it on the original PlayStation 4, and then the Pro launched and I continued it on there. There is a noticeable difference between both, with a higher fidelity in distant objects and a sharper look altogether.

Having played half the game on the original PS4, I can certainly confirm that this is still holds up well, and looks pretty amazing factoring in the expected hits that VR brings to resolution.

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Seriously guys, I spent a few minutes gawking at giant dragonflies circling around my face and later marveled at towering trees. I felt completely unnerved standing inches from the giant head of a brachiosaurus. I knew he wouldn’t attack me, but it was just so intimidating in VR.

There is potential for nausea here, so buyer beware. Crytek did their best to negate some of this, but there is only so much they can do. I personally grew accustomed over time, and I found that blinking my eyes while turning helped a great deal.

… an example of how immersive VR can be …
Audio:
You’ll need headphones for this to capitalize on the full presence of VR. Auditory stimulation completes the package with the living sounds of the jungle and the distant roar of things that can kill you. Also, having the stereo and doppler effect is crucial to understanding where things are.

There aren’t a lot of vocal performances, but your robot companion does a great job of emulating that sci-fi stereotype of the worrisome droid that Goldenrod made so popular. He is constantly reminding you of every danger, and one would think this might get annoying, but as he realizes that you know what you are doing, he tones it down.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

Trust me, this looks amazing in VR.

Trust me, this looks amazing in VR.

Conclusion:
Robinson: The Journey is an example of how immersive VR can be and it truly did feel like I was in another world. It’s not the end-game I dream of when I imagine the ultimate VR experience, but it is a taste of what is hopefully to come.

I stood under giant dinosaurs and existed in a place that is impossible to find on Earth. If it were a traditional game, I probably wouldn’t have been nearly as moved by the visuals, despite Crytek’s expertise making it an absolute visual treat. But it’s a VR experience and the headset made it all the more engaging.

I don’t recommend purchasing this for $60. I’m sorry, but it is simply too short for such a premium price. But it is absolutely worth checking out at $40 if you own PlayStation VR. Just practice on a few cheaper games like Windlands to make sure you are ready for the locomotion controls.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4 Pro.

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