Pollen is an upcoming first-person sci-fi puzzle exploration game produced by Finland based Mindfield Games. Taking you to the far-off research station on the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, you follow an ominous quest to explore a mysterious time-bending phenomenon that has taken hold of the space station.
During Gamescom 2015, I got a chance to strap into Pollen, one of the few first-person titles to target all major VR headsets. In a few words, Pollen is not only beautiful and engaging, but extremely adept at communicating the sort of emotional isolation felt in hardcore scifi films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Solaris (2002), and Moon (2009).
You’re placed in the shoes of a new recruit abroad Research Base M… and that’s about as much as I could get out of Mindfield’s co-founder Olli Sinerma and CEO Ville Kivistö—if only to keep the game’s narrative a complete surprise. With a bid to join Rama Industries, the game’s fictional mega corp sparked by inspiration from Lost’s Dharma Initiative, the story takes place after “some unfortunate circumstances on Titan,” which bring about a new job opening at the research base.
Every square inch of the demo level, from the company-owned food stuffs like the generic ‘BEER’ brought to you by Rama, to the errant clipboards and notebooks holding clues to whatever it is that happened on the Titan research station, promise to immerse you into Pollen’s alternate universe.
Nuke a beer in the 1990s-style microwave, or take Polaroids of long-hollowed tomato soup cans, you never know what will lead to the next clue to understanding what happened, and why some corners of the base are warped by what can only be described as a ‘zebra-striped time phase’. And if you’re baffled by any of that, then we’re in the same boat, because Pollen truly requires close attention to the little things to move the narrative forward—that and they wouldn’t tell me why some parts of the demo looked so strange.
Outside of tossing around basketballs or playing with Zippo lighters, I got the very real sense that I was truly alone on Titan. Throughout the demo level, which covered the living quarters, hydroponics bay, common room, and airlock, there was a chilling sense that the little things of Pollen weren’t just items to be tossed about, but actually relics of a crew long passed.
Pollen is slated to come out Q1 of 2016, just in time for the consumer Oculus Rift. The team also relayed to me a number of changes that will happen as the result of integrating HTC Vive’s Lighthouse-tracked Steam controllers in a post-demo interview which ought to bring a new level of immersion based on the user’s ability to physically pick up and inspect in-game items.
We’ll be eager to see just what Mindfield has under their hats for this exploration game, and hope to see if the tightly-kept mystery lives up to the level of fit and finish that they’ve brought to the title.