I’ve got everything I need to kill time at the airport: Samsung Galaxy Note 4, Gear VR headset, my last bag of American Cheetos before I leave the homeland for who knows how long. I’ve even managed to work up the self confidence to wear the thing while sitting in the International Concourse in front of a pack of Italian teenage girls. Barring any repressed memories that still haunt me to this day (locker room incident: I don’t want to talk about it), I have a few hours until my flight departs, and free demos just aren’t going to cut it.
It’s been a week since Oculus allowed Gear VR developers to start charging for their games, with the small selection of full-length indie titles currently hovering around the $3-10 range. To inaugurate the new marketplace, I entered in my credit card info (US only), set up my Oculus PIN, and thumbed through the 9 or 10 full games available.
I wanted to play something new, something that had never been served up as a limited demo before, because by this point, I’d already played absolutely everything at least twice and needed a little break before revisiting the full version of Proton Pulse or plunking down $9.99 for Darknet. So I chose a WW2-themed gaze shooter, Bandit Six, re-entered my new Oculus PIN and paid the $2.99.
Bandit Six puts you in the ball turret of a bomber under siege by fighter planes, and like other gaze shooters on the Gear VR store (Gunner and Romans From Mars), requires you to look directly at the intended target and tap the touchpad to fire. A mix of enemies span the game’s 29 levels, with enemy bombers dropping powerups along the way—standard fare for arcade scrolling shooters of years past.
Back at the hangar, you can upgrade machine guns and armor to help with the job of taking down the ever growing number of enemy fighter planes and barrages of surface-to-air homing missiles (which weren’t used until the 1950s) until you can successfully demolish wave after wave of rapidly zig-zagging warplanes with topped out specs.
It’s Not the Game, It’s the System
‘Fun’ as a concept is highly subjective, and it’s possible that over the course of my time with VR that I’ve become jaded to the “wow, I’m somewhere different now” effect that impresses first-timers the most, so that’s the way I’ve decided to couch what I’m going to say next about Bandit Six. As a time killer for quick forays into basic VR gaming, the game offers some mindless enjoyment, the level of fun I would get from a tower defense flash game on Newgrounds back in the early 00’s.
This is more of a gripe with the gimicky nature of gaze shooters in general than the game itself. So if the game mechanic in particular doesn’t bother you, you might really get into Bandit Six and judge the $2.99 as a fitting price too.
I’m more than willing to spirit away $3-5 of my money on an original work for the cause, because as a supporter—nay—defender of good VR, it’s important to me to help create an incentive for developers to build for the platform. But as a modern consumer, I also want a guarantee in case I don’t like the game either, a fact that goes sorely unaddressed in the store at the moment, with some games published alongside their demos, and other games forgoing the demo altogether; all unfortunately with no money back guarantee in sight.