Super Turbo Atomic Ninja Rabbit (STANR) is a short VR experience created by No Ghost in collaboration with The Line, two London based studios that helped bring an original take on the ’80s Saturday morning cartoon phenomenon to life.
Like any self-respecting kid who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, I was fed a steady diet of ThunderCats reruns, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, apparently anything with a team of good guys vs. a team of bad guys (that consequently also had strong merchandising). Wading through my own nostalgia during the slow ascent into adulthood has been bittersweet experience to say the least, because in the digital age of streaming video where a few moments of sleuthing can reveal even the most obscure episode from the long-lost cartoon of your youth, the spirit of it has long passed with the days of packed school lunches and leaky thermoses.
STANR brings some of the magic back in the space of 5 minutes, dropping you into the shoes of a band of anthropomorphic animal heroes who race along a dark highway in their mkII thunder tank.
The inspiration stems from The Line’s Wes Louis who initially drew a short 10-page comic starring the Ninja Rabbit in the ’90s as a kid. According to an interview with Vice, Louis teamed up with colleague Tim McCourt in 2013 to make a new hand-drawn project, and STANR fit the bill perfectly. “We thought we’d mess around with making an intro but I needed to write the back story to work from…” Louis told Vice. But when Louis needed help with 3D modeling a tank to use as a visual aide, he reached out to No Ghost for a solution, eventually giving them the go-ahead to even create a VR experience sight unseen. When he first played the VR experience adapted from the intro he created he was blown away. “I was sitting next to characters I’d created when I was a kid.”
Interactions are gaze-based and are limited to selecting characters, viewing their stats, and then jumping into their places inside the beautifully rendered action tank. What surprised me the most was the insane attention to detail inside the tank that nearly convinced that I was reliving an authentic cartoon from my past, an IP so authentic-looking that it even spawned a Reddit debate to get to the bottom of a faked STANR-branded thermos and lunchbox set sold on Ebay.
Snapping to the driver’s seat to take the place of Samantha, the obligatory bombshell fox, I looked down to see hand-drawn control panels. The small details like this are what make the STANR experience great, from the way frog-man Wyatt types furiously on his holographic computer to the stoic raise of an eyebrow from Fernando, a Shaolin monk-bear. More hand-drawn elements like animated gunfire and the resultant explosions are well-placed, and show a spark of a new VR genre on the horizon.
This is the sort of world I could get really involved in—like ‘forget to feed a human baby’-level of involvement (don’t worry, I don’t have kids). I see adventures and character archetypes I understand on a fundamental level—probably unique to the decade I was born in—but instead of looking idly from the outside in, I’m actually getting a chance to to relive the make-believe of years past. Simply put, I instantly clicked with STANR’s VR experience and am really looking forward to quite literally anything to come from No Ghost next.
STANR runs exclusively on the DK2 with 0.6.0-beta runtime and up and the studio suggests a GTX 970 or AMD 290 to run it. My AMD 280X did fairly well, but I did notice some significant judder coming out of the base where you start your ride. No settings selectors are available, which would be a great improvement for those of us with middling GPUs.