Review: ‘InCell’ is a VR Racer That Puts You Inside the Microscopic World of a Cell


InCell is VR racing game that shrinks you down to play among the micro structures of a human cell. Visuals, gameplay, and the feel of the game are all on point, but some of the educational material seems a little whitewashed by the amount of focus put on game mechanics.

InCell, a game developed by indie studio Nidal VR, puts you in the year 2134—a time when the human race gains the ability to shrink down to an incredibly small size and enter the body with the help of a surgical robot, your chariot along this wild ride through the interior of a cell. The game is an on-tracks experience that pits you against an ever advancing wave of an influenza virus as you race down microtubules, a cell’s inner structure that provide a gangway for things like vesicles, intracellular macromolecular assemblie, and other sciency things I looked up on wikipedia.

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Fans of Radial-G will instantly recognize the style of gameplay, which presents you with twisting turns, spinning obstacles, and boosts that send you at an upgradable max speed. Mastering the head-tilt controls with the Rift are easy, but the game still leaves you the option to use a keyboard or joystick if you prefer.

Racing from organelle to organelle, you’re given the chance to spend the proteins you pick up along the way for increased speed, and more lead time before the virus sweeps in behind you. Of course these upgrades aren’t extremely important for the easier difficultly levels (4 in total), but quickly become much more vital as the virus wave nips at your heels in expert mode.

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There’s no doubt that InCell has taken some serious artistic license with the look and feel of the inside of the cell, giving it a much more spacey feel than one of the project’s main inspirations, a TED talk from Yale’s former medical illustrator David Bolinsky entitled Visualizing the wonder of a living cell. Putting visuals aside though, which are by any account stunning, using the very real components of a cell to host a racing game, replete with speedpads and inexplicable spinning obstacles, is a dicey move—especially considering InCell is billing itself as an educational game.

There’s a fine line between an educational game and a game with educational elements, and I’d have to say that InCell is decidedly closer to the latter. Much like the Assassin’s Creed franchise reproduces historical buildings like the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, or Notre Dame in Paris, and at the same time lets you get away with jumping off the top of either of these buildings into a bail of hay unharmed, InCell too bends a few inconvenient realities to make traversing a cell something easy and fun, but hardly anything approaching Number Muncher-levels of interactivity.

That said, you can pick up InCell on Steam for under $5 and enjoy some seriously fun racing. The game is short, but rewarding—just don’t say you’re studying when you strap in.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • kalqlate

    Educational/science titles like this that transport the mind will be so amazing for education. Even looking at the short animation here on a flat monitor is enlightening. Imagine grade schoolers lamenting getting stuck inside a mitochondria. What they’ll take away from the game will influence their perspective on the lives of cells in their own bodies and change their perspective on life and existence in general. Good stuff!