Ostensibly it was a gallery space in Shoreditch, but for one day only it was also a fighter pilot cockpit, a space station overrun with mutants, the moon, a boxing ring and, most terrifying of all, a studio where Tom Grennan was performing. The 2018 PSVR showcase descended on London earlier this month, and invitees could dive between immersive VR worlds at will; here are the best alternative realities we wished we didn’t have to leave.
Beat Saber is Star Wars meets Guitar Hero meets Fruit Ninja
Darth disco, anyone? DJ Yoda? Luke Beatmatcher? Whichever way you pun it, Beat Saber is basically Star Wars meets Guitar Hero. You stand at the end of a floating runway dodging the walls flying at you and slicing blocks in half with a light saber as they approach. A simple idea magnificently delivered; the ease of pick-up and compulsive soundtrack make Beat Saber a block-whacking joy, easily the best and most instinctive rhythm game I’ve ever played. Um, Princess Playa? Stop hitting me.
Track Lab is a musical puzzle game
The joy of VR is that it makes the impossible easy. You’re an instant fighter pilot, astronaut, hitman or, in the case of Track Lab, floating puzzle musician. Yes, why bother learning to play an instrument when you can now beam yourself onto a kind of levitating DJ disc in the middle of a sound cosmos and make music by moving beats, basslines and melody parts around puzzle mazes in the form of traveling dots, shifting the style and tone of the tracks you create by dropping lozenges onto trackpads beside you. Twenty minutes in Track Lab and you’ll be grade eight in puzzle funk.
Astro Bot is Mario for the VR generation
Any new platform needs its Mario, and Astro Bot is lined up to be the defining character of VR. A cute little jetpacked robot, Astro Bot flies and leaps around a 3D sci-fi cartoon platformer punching space beasties to bits and solving environment puzzles to find and rescue a seemingly endless stream of helpless robo-mates. With massive gob monsters spitting goo into your visor and giant alien hands smashing you to bits seemingly at random, it’s certainly a challenge, but it’s also gorgeous enough to keep you as enthralled as the Question Time guest booker is by Nigel Farage.
Déraciné is the Dark Souls you live in
You’d need to be an actual ninja to handle a VR version of Dark Souls so Déraciné, by Soulsborne masterminds From Software, is the next best thing. Playing a fairy sprite, you wander the halls of a school solving puzzles every bit as tricky as Dark Souls is tough, and with just as little hand-holding. Best of all, the world feels just like Souls, with its pervasive otherworldly atmosphere and cold, spectral character voices talking largely gibberish. The closest it’s possible to get, thus far, to wandering around a spookily quiet Yharnam.
Apollo 11 lets you land on the moon, if that’s your kind of thing
An experience rather than a game, Apollo 11 lets you sit in on a 45 minute recreation of the first moon landing, using the original communication soundtrack to really put you inside the heads of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and the other one. Strangely, though, there isn’t a section where you can watch Stanley Kubrick building the sets.
The Persistence is the one for zombie hunters
Take Apollo 11, add zombies, et voila! The Persistence is a mighty fine VR take on Dead Space or Alien: Isolation – you creep around a dark and spooky space station stealthing mutants and searching for the route to the next deck up, inching closer to the Stardrive you need to restart. Then a zombie chows down on your face and you’re literally back to square one – the ship’s layout is procedurally re-generated every time you die, meaning you’ll have to explore a whole new ship from scratch. How to succeed? The clue’s in the title.
Blood & Truth is a first-person shooter like you’ve never played before
It was the hit of showcases for much of 2017 and it’s still the benchmark for VR gaming; Blood & Truth is the first game to convincingly put you inside a first-person shooter, ducking behind crates pinging with bullet sparks and lobbing grenades at the waves of gangsters closing in across a ruined council estate. The lock-picking mini game to open your kidnapped mother’s handcuffs is as fiddly as threading a needle with spaghetti, but climbing ladders, chucking explosives and reloading in a second in order to keep blindly shooting round the corner of a doorway like a chicken-shit Jason Statham quickly become second nature.