Baobab Studios, the minds behind Emmy Award-winning VR experiences Asteroids! (2017) and Invasion! (2016), just released their latest animated VR story starring actors John Legend, Oprah Winfrey, and Constance Wu. Called Crow: The Legend (2018), the story puts a new twist on a Native American creation story, created with the help of Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP), a group dedicated to engaging, educating and empowering native peoples.
Acting as the ‘Spirit of the Seasons’ you control the forest’s yearly ebb and flow with the help of your Touch controllers by waving your arms, sending out the magic to brings new life, and eventually snow to the forest. Snow falls, and the creatures of the forest begin to worry, and send out one of their own to convince a higher power to make Spring return again.
“With a simple wave of your hands you can make the flowers grow, snows fall, and the winds blow,” says Eric Darnell, Baobab’s chief creative officer and director of Crow: The Legend. “You can even play the ‘music of the universe’ in much the same way a conductor conducts an orchestra. Not only does this feel powerful, intuitive, and effortless, but it also helps the viewer focus on what really matters.”
Without spoiling it further, Crow: The Legend is decidedly on the family-friendly end of the spectrum, providing a Disney-style experience that’s chock-full of cute characters, something that ought to easily appeal to younger viewers. Characters are bursting with expression, with the experience at large showing a fine hand in animation, set design, lighting, and voice acting.
While some of its humor falls a bit flat and rests on some older cartoon tropes, it’s an interesting and prescient look at how kid-focused VR content could one day take form as studios begin to specifically target children; most headset manufacturers suggest users no younger than 12-13 use VR, although any amount of time in a multiplayer game will prove that point fairly moot.