I’ve written often about the need to push creative boundaries in order for VR to find its voice. Statik is doing just that, with an undeniably unique puzzle game that takes one of VR’s weaknesses and turns it into a strength.
Update (3/26/17, 11:24PM PT): Statik now has a release date of April 24th. The game will soon be available for pre-order with a 20% discount for PlayStation Plus members. Below continues our hands-on impressions of this unique game at E3 2016, including the latest screenshots showing previously unseen puzzles.
In Statik, by developer Tarsier Studios, a puzzle is literally strapped to your hands. You awake in an unfamiliar lab-like setting with your hands locked inside of a strange box. There’s complicated wires and gizmos all over, and the box moves as you move your own hands. In the real world you’re holding a PS4 controller, which is tracked by the PS Camera, and turns the controller’s movements into those of the box.
In VR you can’t see your real hands, and thus trying to use a controller can be bothersome because you can’t see the buttons and sticks. If you aren’t familiar with the controller or what the buttons do, you’ll have a frustrating time poking and prodding at the invisible controls to find out what purpose they serve.
Statik takes this fact and makes it a central tenet of the gameplay. You can’t see your real hands, nor can you see your virtual hands. They are locked inside the mysterious device. There’s absolutely no telling what button on the controller will control what mechanism on the box. The only way to figure it out is to start pressing every button you can feel and observe what happens.
Because you see a crazy contraption attached to your hands in front of you, instead of the real controller, you don’t gain that same level of hand-eye coordination that you’re used to while playing a traditional game, especially because from one box to the next, the controls completely change. This really makes it feel like you’re reaching inside of some unknown contraption and searching blindly for how it works.
In this way, Statik is almost like an exploration game. You need to first gather information about what you can actually control on the box. After that you need to find out what you’re even supposed to do with the limited abilities at your disposal.
All this makes for a very creative puzzle game that’s uniquely suited to VR. But the developers didn’t stop there. The backdrop of Statik is a mysterious testing facility; while you toil away trying to find out how to solve the puzzle encompassing your hands, a lab technician sits nearby to observe. His face is blurred, and it isn’t clear what exactly he’s looking for.
Once I had completed a segment of the puzzle, which involved arranging several glass disks to create a silhouette that matched a pattern in the room, the observer said, “You’re a machine,” which made me feel proud that I had figured it out so quickly. But that feeling was dashed in an instant when he followed that up saying, “…but so is a tractor,” leaving me feeling like little more than a lab rat from which to gather data.
Finding out exactly who these people are and why they’ve done this to you is a puzzle in itself, one that I’m looking forward to exploring nearly as much as I’m looking forward to seeing what other interesting puzzles I’ll find strapped to my hands in Statik.