Windlands PlayStation VR Review
Publisher: Psytec Games Developer: Psytec Games Genre: Adventure Players: 1
Age Rating: 3+ Other console/handheld formats: N/A
Spider-Man in VR? Now that’s an enticing prospect. Sadly, a VR game starring the famous web-slinger has yet to materialise, although we do have Windlands, a game that may not have Spider-Man himself, although it does have a lot of things that helped make Marvel’s superhero so popular in the first place.
When it comes to superheroes, Spider-Man really does have a special place in my heart. Whether he’s crawling on walls or swinging through New York city like Tarzan after he’s ate too many Smarties, Spider powers really do owe themselves well to a superhero.
Windlands doesn’t once imply that your character has been bitten by an angry radioactive spider or anything of the sort, with him making use of a pair of grappling hooks instead, although the fast swinging and amazing momentum certainly brings to mind Marvel’s superhero. Indeed, when playing Windlands it’s like Spider-Man has taken a wrong turn somewhere and got himself lost, ending up in an ancient world.
Windlands takes place in three large environments: Jungle, City, and Sky. Whatever level you play, your objective is to find all the crystals in each level. Locating and collecting the crystals isn’t only the main objective, but each one you find will also reveal to you more of the narrative of the game. The story is rather basic, but uncovering the mystery of the ancient world that the game takes place in is still worthwhile.
To describe Windlands, it’s a first person exploration game in which you are able to jump and swing through the levels, with the limited sounds of the wind in your ears and your grappling hooks launching giving the game a lonely feeling. If you tend to suffer from motion sickness with such games, developer Psytec Games have attempted to ease this with various comfort settings such as having the option to turn normally or in shorter segments, and strafing can also be deactivated. I can tell you that my fiancée is someone who suffers from motion sickness with such fast moving VR games, and even with all the comfort settings turned on, her head still felt a bit fuzzy when playing, and she had to give up and take the headset off within half an hour. Like with any VR game though, it just depends on who you are, and the comfort settings may work wonders for some people, while others, like me, may not need any comfort settings at all.
If you are able to play Windlands without feeling like you have had one too many, however, it really is a wonderful experience. Key to its success is the feeling of swinging high through the sky and finding your way to each of the game’s eight crystals. Using your head to move the reticule and looking towards an object that you want to swing from and then performing the action certainly gave me a rush, and it’s something that just never gets old.
Your character’s grappling hooks work independently, with a button press for each one. You are even able to hang from one of your ropes and then reel it downwards, launching with momentum when you let go, propelling you upwards, allowing you to reach solid ground a significant distance away from you. Combining your grappling hooks as well as your large jumps makes for a thrilling game, and it’s enjoyable working out how to get to each of the crystals, with some of them waiting for you in seemingly impossible to reach places. The game also gave me a sense of awe whenever I was able to scale massive heights and then look down towards everything beneath me.
Windlands has a checkpoint system, although checkpoints can be far apart from one another, and I must admit that at times, I would have preferred there to have been more of them scattered across the levels. If you misjudge a jump or a swing, you are then taken back to the last checkpoint. There’s also a button that respawns you back at the previous checkpoint, which is handy for when you botch something.
Windlands also has difficulty levels, and the developer has been smart in their approach to them. The easy difficulty allows you to attach your grappling hooks to absolutely anything, although the normal and hard difficulties only allow you to attach your hooks to foliage such as trees and bushes, and they both also contain more parkour.
While the visuals are basic and a little blurry in the headset, they’re still colourful and likeable enough, and the intricate level design makes the adventure even more memorable. With its unhurried nature giving you all the time in the world to do things at your own pace as well as the placid music, Windlands is actually a calming and relaxing game.
Windland’s main adventure takes around four or five hours to complete, but there’s also a few extras. Not only is there 40 tablet collectables to be found in each of the game’s levels, but there’s separate unlockable Speed Run challenges, and also the Playground challenges, of which have you finding 10 orbs around each area as quickly as possible. If the game grabs you in the way that it did me, there’s certainly enough here to keep you coming back for awhile, even if the current £19 asking price may seem a little steep.
If your brain allows you to play it without too much problems, then you may just find Windlands to be an exhilarating game, and perhaps even one of the best VR games released so far. The game isn’t perfect, but there’s nothing quite like it, and swinging and jumping through the sky with the wind whistling in your ears is something really quite special.