|Publisher||Sony Interactive Entertainment|
|Release Date||October 13, 2016|
Review code provided
Wayward Sky is an adventure game that puts players in the role of young pilot Bess. After the plane she and her father are flying crashes and her dad is kidnapped by a robot, she must journey across a giant mechanical sky fortress to rescue him. It’s also a very novel game, even for one that takes place in virtual reality, thanks to its use of a very different type of perspective compared to its VR stablemates.
Although there are some short first-person portions of gameplay here, Wayward Sky doesn’t lock you into a single perspective. Instead, it’s almost like you’re watching a stage play, only instead of being in one seat your view of the play keeps shifting to the best possible vantage point. And that’s just for the set pieces (calling them cutscenes scarcely does them justice). When you’re playing the game itself, it’s like playing the most intricate tabletop game of your life.
Remember Microsoft’s Minecraft HoloLens demo from E3? It’s kind of like that. You sit above the world, looking around and taking it all in as you guide Bess from beginning to end. The sense of presence this perspective gives you is quite stunning. It draws you into its world in a way even many other VR games simply don’t. Just looking and seeing everything that’s going on around you is a joy in Wayward Sky.
While it’s difficult to convey the feeling of playing Wayward Sky, it’s very easy to describe how you play it. Guiding Bess around the various levels of this gargantuan fortress is as simple as pointing a Move controller at where you want to go, or what you want to interact with, and clicking. Puzzles will occasionally take place in first-person (as do some set pieces) – approaching a control panel will usually transport you to Bess’ perspective and task you with turning valves or operating levers and switches.
The puzzles of Wayward Sky are generally quite easy. You’ll never approach a new area and have to wander around, racking your brain to try and piece together a solution. Puzzles get more complex as the game progresses without ever actually getting more difficult. They’re standard adventure game fare and nothing you haven’t seen before if you’ve played adventure games before. They’re serviceable, if unmemorable.
Every aspect of Wayward Sky’s gameplay is designed to be simple, which works in the games favour. Keeping everything simple allows the game to keep moving forward at a respectably fast pace. Because you’re never getting stuck the game can keep sending you to new locations and introducing you to new characters quickly, which is the game sticking to its strengths.
Despite the lack of challenge in the puzzles they never get boring or monotonous. Wayward Sky leverages its inherent simplicity and fast-paced nature to keep throwing new and different puzzles your way. Every few sections of the game introduced me to a new type of puzzle or a different way to solve a previous one. One moment the game had me turning pipes to form a complete piece of plumbing, the next I was blasting robots with water, then I was putting a wind chime back together.
All of this is packaged in a very striking pastel art style. The world around you is very colourful, and the sky fortress that you’ll call home for the two-hour running time has a rusted clockwork feel to it. Aside from Bess and her dad, the supporting cast is almost entirely made up of robots whose designs are interesting and pretty darn cool. Set pieces see Wayward Sky’s animation on point, too.
As well as being visually distinct, Wayward Sky is also a very charming game. Some of this is down to the art style, most of it is down to the Pixar-esque qualities of its robotic supporting cast, from the main characters you meet right down to the clumsy little robots that populate each level and exist solely to help you solve puzzles. Sometimes just watching them run around was all the entertainment I needed. I found it impossible to play Wayward Sky and not be smiling the entire time.
And then there’s the story. Wayward Sky itself is primarily a happy, optimistic tale of never giving up, but through its core runs a surprisingly bittersweet tale of loss and the importance of family. While it never veers into dark territory of any kind, it definitely tugs at the heartstrings on more than one occasion. Rather than undercut each other, the cheery visuals and attitude of the game works quite well in tandem with the story it’s telling, even if it’s not served particularly well be some below average voice acting.
Wayward Sky is a charming, heartfelt tale that provides a powerful showcase for how immersive virtual reality can be. It’s also provides great proof that VR games don’t necessarily have to take place from a first-person perspective. Allowing me to look down on each level and guide Bess as though I was playing a technologically advanced board game immersed me in a way no other VR game has yet to do. And, on top of all of this, it’s a fun, charming game in its own right. It turns its simple, fairly easy puzzles into an advantage by giving you a huge variety of them, and when coupled with the fairly fast-paced nature of progression kept the game from every feeling repetitive. All of this combined meant that once I started playing Wayward Sky I found it very difficult to stop.
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