Hands-on: VR Needs More Great Party Games like PSVR’s ‘Playroom VR’

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One of the most fun parts about virtual reality is still watching friends and family experience it. PlayStation VR’s The Playroom VR takes this one step further by making VR inclusive for a whole couch full of friends.

With just one PlayStation VR headset, The Playroom VR makes for fun with up to five players thanks to its roster of competitive and cooperative party games. I recently got to put my head in The Playroom VR and was impressed with the creative game design, which leverages the fact that one player is immersed in VR with the headset on while the others are on the couch. Sometimes all five players are working together, sometimes the player wearing the PSVR is pitting against those on the couch, and sometimes the players on the couch don’t even need a controller to participate. I came away feeling like this sort of local+social content hits a unique sweet spot for VR fun, and it’s something we could use a lot more of in the VR space.

Cat N Mouse

In the ‘Cat N Mouse’ game, the player wearing the PSVR headset takes the form of a cat while the non-VR players, wielding controllers, play as mice.

The cat hides behind a series of curtains while the mice run around on the kitchen floor with the goal of collecting cheese. If the cat pops their head through the curtains while the mice are in plain sight, they’ll get caught and knocked out of the round. There’s various kitchen items spread across the floor which offer a safe haven for the mice to hide behind.

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The tension of not knowing when the cat will pop out from behind the curtain is anxiety-inducing, and both sites attempt juke one another throughout the match. If the mice manage to collect all of the cheese, the cat loses. For the cat to win it has to catch all of the mice.

Saloon Shootout

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The Saloon Shootout (not the official name for this mini-game) is a cooperative game which can actually be played with as many non-VR players as you’d like (as they don’t need a controller to participate).

The player wearing the PSVR headset finds themselves as a sheriff confronting a room full of potential bandits with varying facial features. The player has to select which among them is the real bandit to shoot, but the only way they can know is through a description from the other players. The non-VR players are shown a picture of the bandit and must describe the details to the PSVR-wearing player accurately, otherwise they risk harming an innocent bystander.

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The characters in the scene can look quite alike; there’s a time limit so you need to work fast, but if the sheriff jumps the gun before the full description is given (or if the description isn’t specific enough), they’ll end up with a face full of lead rubber darts.

Ghost House

‘Ghost House’ is another cooperative/description game which can have more than five players since those on the couch don’t need to use a controller. The player wearing the PSVR headset enters a dark, haunted room sprinkled with furniture and other objects. A PSVR controller in the PSVR player’s hands acts as a flashlight and a paranormal vacuum with which to capture ghosts. But there’s just one problem… the ghosts are completely invisible.

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Only the non-VR players can see the ghosts that need to be captured, and they need to tell the VR player exactly where they are located so that the VR player can point their controller at the ghost and vacuum it up. The ghosts move regularly and are fairly small, so the non-VR players need to be quite specific in order to be successful.

Once a ghost’s location is identified, the PSVR-wearing player fires their capture device and initially tethers the ghost, but at this point the ghost won’t go down easy. The ghost flies around the room fighting to escape the tether, and the player has to keep their controller pointed at the ghost for several seconds to prevent it from escaping.

Monster Escape

Monster Escape is a VR vs. non-VR game where the player wearing PSVR is a giant monster barreling down a long city street chasing four non-VR players who are all wielding controllers.

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The non-VR players are running down the street away from the monster and must jump over obstacles on the road while also dodging debris launched by the monster. The monster launches these objects by smashing its head into buildings and nearby helicopters to try to hit the non-VR players.

If the non-VR players make it to the end of the road, it becomes their turn to go on the offensive. At this stage the non-VR players pick up objects scattered about and throw them at the monster’s head. The PSVR player has to duck and weave in order to avoid getting hit. Too many hits and the non-VR players will collectively blast the monster back into space, (presumably) from whence it came.

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The Playroom VR isn’t the only VR game which makes active participants out of willing observers (Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is another excellent example), but it is an excellent starting point for VR Party Gaming, which we hope to see much more of in the future!

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  • DiGiCT Ltd

    Looks like fun, just the head movement is not so comfortable to play a game like that for a long time IMHO.
    Still prefer networked games over this kinda playing though.

  • Peter Hansen

    This whole party-game bs makes me wanna p**e. I am a gamer and I want
    immersive games that suck me into their world for hours. This
    jump-around wave-around stuff is just trash.

    • Hans Wurst

      Great opinion. Have you even tried VR yet?!

      • Narabel

        I agree with Peter and I tried the Vive a while ago at a Zotac event. The hardware is there. The software isn’t. This is gimmicky trash that falls in the same genre as Wii games.

        • Peter Hansen

          Thank you, Narabel. It started all with the Job Simulator. Omg what a %#§&/.

          • Derrick Reisdorf

            Wow. I really liked Job Simulator. I thought the humor was great, and it is a fun introduction for someone who is new to interacting within a virtual space.

      • Peter Hansen

        Not really. I am only working with VR, and have a Gear Vr, DK2, Vive and CV1 at home. You?

      • Peter Hansen

        I guess you had some rare experiences with some friends and currently
        are totally “flashed” and “blown away”. Let me tell you: this
        “within-effect” is wearing off. And after that you are left with
        expensive hardware and “games” (little demos), no one would want to do
        if it wasn’t for the initial VR kick. Oh, unless you are you are one of
        those occasional console party gamers, of course. But please don’t ruin
        VR for the rest of us enthusiastic gamers who actually buy the stuff.

        • KLEEBAN KLIBAN

          PSVR is already getting major titles with VR. Resident Evils VII is fully playable in VR. That will be creeeeepy, but I imagine that creepiness will be the major benefit of the VR experience for that game. I am not surprised these other headsets have little to nothing going for them. There is no audience worth a damn.. but now Sony is in the game bringing VR to a notable audience so there is finally going to be a large enough customer base to justify more time and effort into VR development. Things are about to get real! For the meantime just appreciate that, while you are sick of seeing these kitty games, these little games are experimental and offering new ideas on what can be done with VR and other developers will absolutely be studying and learning from these games. Major developers will be able to put a different spin on the ideas they learn from these smaller projects, and they will combine multiple ideas into one larger experience. For example, one of the CoD development teams might see this monster game and say, “Hey what if we added a headbutt to CoD?” Each of these games expands on knowledge of how VR programming can be used. As Sony has said there is going to be an experimental phase while developers learn what works, but the experimentation is absolutely necessary and the more of it the better. Just get upset with games that fail to introduce new creative ideas. On a separate note, I hope the next Elder Scrolls is playable in VR. You would probably agree that even if all they added were the ability to look around, that would be a beautiful and immersive experience. I would love to be able to look around at the mountains and skies of Skyrim.

          • Peter Hansen

            Yes, Sony’s market share in VR could actually be a game changer. Let’s hope so!

            However, if adding VR to a good game means taking away Mouse/Keyboard locomotion, and adding teleportation (see the announced Fallout 4 VR version) or controllers… I pass. Why not let the player decide what is his/her physical limit?

          • KLEEBAN KLIBAN

            I 100% agree with that, especially for games like Fallout . I don’t want to be waving my hands around and working out. I want to chill on my couch with a controller in hand and the headset on my face, just letting me look around. That Gun controller for Farpoint looks like a cool option for some occasional fun, and as long as it’s an option I’m all for it, but I definitely wouldn’t want to have to use that all the time. I’m not worried though. I have every confidence Fallout and PS won’t make the mistake of forcing controller types on you for games you can play with a controller. Not only should they know that would be unappealing, but adding additional purchase requirements just makes it all the more difficult to sell.

          • Victor Flores

            I own a PSVR headset and have tried several games. This is clearly an experimental phase…. However there is no need to hate so much on it, just be neutral about it, no need to hate and be so dramatic. You act as if Sony had completely ruined your life…. Moreover, when the vast majority of people agree this is a good product and yet you still talk trash about it, you only come off as a hater and there is little to no interest on your hateful comments…

    • Demi-ray Goldberg

      Stop whining…who said these type of games are going to be the ONLY games that get developed for VR? There are going to be many of different types of games and experiences that get developed that cater to many different genres. You will get your immersive worlds, but there is nothing wrong having a different type of game that caters to a different type of setting, such as these.

      • Peter Hansen

        Tell this to the Vive owners who don’t have ANY real games with a good
        story, yet. There is flying and driving stuff, because it can be
        translated virtually (pun intended) 1:1. Technically convincing, but
        that’s it there. There is some clumsy 3rd person console-like game with
        pretty bad graphics (like Vanishing Realms…). There is TONS of gallery
        shooters and tower defense games – *YAWN* – and yes, Hover Junkers is
        right in this category. There are some interesting, but short, demos
        (“games”) like The Gallery: Call of the Starseed. 1h of Gameplay for
        28,- Euros? SERIOUSLY?!? There is this ridiculous puzzle stuff like Keep
        Talking… , who would EVER want to do something like this if it wasn’t
        for VR?! And then there is the trashy jumpy wavy background noise.
        There are actually two promising titles on the market, so far: The Solus
        Project, and Abbot’s Book (my personal favorite due to a lack of
        alternatives; currently only a short demo, but meant as a game with
        actual length and story, afaics). Your turn.

    • Derrick Reisdorf

      The decision to make multiplayer games like this make perfect sense. One player has on a VR headset, while the remaining players share the TV screen. They’re simply trying to make games that are unique to the setup and unique to the tech.

  • Derrick Reisdorf

    I have tried only one of the party games- Cat N Mouse- which I didn’t think was much fun. However, the platformer “Robots Rescue” is downright amazing and a blast to play!
    It is the most fun I’ve had with a platformer in, oh, since forever.