Wake Up from Austrian developers Black Cell is a new, surreal subversion of the traditional puzzle and exploration genres sporting some beautiful art direction and some arresting sound design.

Many’s the time I’ve waffled on about the importance of sound in VR (as have many others), but I’m here to do it again. Except this time, I’ve an example of how things should be done, in the form of new exploration puzzler Wake Up.

The premise for Wake Up is simple, if a little mysterious. Traverse a surreal dreamscape guided only by an elusive red butterfly, solving motion-controlled, room-scale puzzles and riddles as you go. That’s it! If that seems a little ‘lightweight’ compared with traditional, bloated triple-A gaming fayre, it is and that’s intentional. Black Cell are a small, independent game developer who say they’re focused on “new experiences with a focus on a great mood, through the use of carefully created audio and visual design.” To that end, Wake Up can be viewed as an experimental taste of what Black Cell might have up their creative sleeves – with a playtime of just 20-40 mins.

The title has more than a whiff of one of my favourite VR experiences to date, La Peri from Innerspace VR. But, instead of an experience built around a mostly linear narrative, Wake Up‘s focus errs more towards interactive gameplay than Innerspace VR’s virtual reality ballet, at the same time it attempts to build an immersive, evocative world and does so largely through the use of sound. Wake Up features a pulsating, ambient background theme overlaid with bright directional effects and booming situational and incidental effects that do a great job of enveloping the player – even before you take into account the effective, stark and minimalist visuals.

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The title is built for the HTC Vive only at present and demonstrates that emerging collection of titles that really only work in VR and which are difficult to categorise in a more traditional gaming context. What’s more, its available for free via Steam, a price hard to argue with. I look forward to more immersive audio visual experiments from Black Cell in the future.

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