Torn is a single player adventure game that’s inspired by arguably the greatest sci-fi television of all time, The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror. There’s much to like about Torn, but in the end it left me feeling, well, a bit torn.

Torn Review Details:

Official Site

Developer: Aspyr Studio
Available On: Oculus Store (Rift), Steam (Rift, Vive), PSN (PSVR)
Reviewed On: Oculus Rift
Release Date: August 28th, 2018

Gameplay

Stepping into the shoes of a modern-day video blogger Katherine Patterson, you stumble upon a seemingly abandoned mansion, where you solve strange puzzles with a trusty gravity gun given to you by the once world-renowned physicist, Dr. Lawrence Talbot. For some reason though, Talbot has been morphed into a dancing point of light, who leads you along the way to do his mysterious bidding.

Image courtesy Aspyr Media

Visually the game is an absolute delight, with its interesting and varied objects strewn about, a vast majority of which can be picked up and tossed around with the help of your gravity gun—even large items like pianos or whole cupboards don’t stand in your way. Only in the larger rooms with more objects did I have any problem with performance, which can be knocked down in the settings to accommodate lower-spec PCs. All in all, the game fared very well considering the high quality of textures, lighting effects, and physics-based objects such as wafting curtains.

Image courtesy Aspyr Media

I can’t understate the mansion’s beauty, juxtaposed with the steampunk-ish gadgets with more than a touch of glowing cathode ray tubes and massive cabling running throughout. While this is usually reserved for the Immersion section below, it bears mentioning foremost that Torn is one of the best looking VR games to date.

Some adventure games in general tend to de-emphasize puzzle complexity, and focus more on telling a storytelling—and that’s true with Torn; if you’re looking for engaging, varied puzzles that will leave you scratching your head, then this game may not be for you. Don’t get me wrong, low complexity puzzles aren’t bad per se, but they can be awfully boring when there’s really only one puzzle type throughout the game, which is sadly the case in Torn.

The game essentially is a test in your ability to match basic shapes, and do it with such a dull level of repetition that it spoiled some of what turned out to be an excellent story line, which I really think is worth paying attention to, thinking about, and following to the very end.

Image courtesy Aspyr Media

In Torn, you use your gravity gun to both reveal and pick up everyday items marked with circuit-shaped glyphs. Plug in the hat box or dinner plate into the slot, which you can reveal with your light, and complete the circuit to move on. Each room holds within it three variations of this same puzzle, sometimes with smaller pieces and other times with pressure pads to change things up; you simply bung in the missing pieces and move on, rinse and repeat until the credits roll.

Image courtesy Aspyr Media

To make matters worse, Talbot, who floats around alternatively as a magical point of light and a globular liquid mass (thanks PhysX), never gives you a moment’s peace. He’s always directing you to the next puzzle piece, the next slot, and continues his “helpful” hints throughout the entire story, even when the puzzles increase in numbers of slots and pieces. The dogged breadcrumb trope of the helpful robot (or alternatively the helpful radio voice) really irks me, but what irks me more is I’m not ever really presented with a challenge, only a set of tasks I have to complete until I’m magically warped to an ethereal zone where Talbot explains more about his lost wife Rina, who apparently befell the same fate as Talbot in his experiment to change matter to energy.

Image courtesy Aspyr Media

While there are many objects to mess about with in the winding halls of the house, their only real importance lies in their function as square block to go into square holes. The only item you’ll hold on your person besides you gravity gun is the one of eight keys you collect along the way, so there’s no inventory system to speak of.

Besides these gripes, practically everything else about the game is really solid. You can’t cheat your way through puzzles, and level design is self-explanatory enough so that you’re never get lost on your way to learning the truth about the mansion and Talbot’s intentions. In the end, I clocked in at fours hours of gameplay.

Immersion

Since you primarily use your gravity gun to interact with objects, your hands are only really needed to pull the odd lever, or open a door. Because of the nature of the game, low hand presence isn’t really that big of a deal though.

Bad voice acting can kill immersion in any game, and for some reason hokey voice acting has a doubly deleterious effect in VR—we expect real people with real emotions. Thankfully Torn features top-notch voice actors, who genuinely hit their mark. While there are only two voiced characters, you and Talbot, the interchange between the two is believable.

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Bad storytelling can also twist a few dials into feeling disconnected from even the most clever puzzle scheme, but again, Torn has made something engaging enough to keep me playing (despite the onslaught of boring puzzles) and guessing to the last minute. I won’t go much farther here so I don’t spoil the mystery. All of this comes as no surprise though, as the game’s script was written by Neill Glancy of Stranglehold (2007) and Susan O’Connor of Tomb Raider and BioShock.

A lush orchestral score, composed by Garry Schyman of BioShock and Middle Earth: Shadow of War, helped build suspense, and made for an awesome listening experience. Positional audio is also quite good, as Talbot buzzed around your head, off on his diatribes about his lost wife and his life as an inventor.

Comfort

Torn offers three locomotion schemes: blink teleportation, dash teleportation, and head-relative smooth forward walking (but no smooth turning). While the speed of walking isn’t configurable—so slow that it was nearly unusable personally—it’s at least a comfortable option that shouldn’t have your head spinning.

Snap-turning, also known as ‘VR comfort mode’ is available and at variable degrees, but thanks to head-relative walking you can also play in room-scale if you have the correct sensor/basestation setup.

Besides a fairly twisty-turny opening cutscene, which winds you through the guts of Talbot’s mansion, Torn is an extremely comfortable game.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall
5.5

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  • gothicvillas

    Gutted. I love some good puzzles. I keep returning to Statik to crack the last ones. I refuse to look up on Google for answers. This sounds like no challenge at all. I’ll wait until it’s on sale just for the graphics. Otherwise they would get money now.

  • Gato Satanista

    ” The dogged breadcrumb trope of the helpful robot (or alternatively the helpful radio voice) really irks me, but what irks me more is I’m not ever really presented with a challenge, only a set of tasks I have to complete” Thank you for saving my money

  • Foreign Devil

    A pity. I think these old style exploration puzzle type games have so much potential in VR! I really enjoyed Obduction. and it wasn’t even designed from ground up for VR Same with “Search for Ethan”

    • Gonzalo Novoa

      Yeah, totally, both great examples of good exploration/puzzle games. VR has an amazing potential for this type of game. Torn is good, too, but limited by the lack of variety and poor locomotion.

  • Les Vega

    For me theses endless puzzle story games in vr are quickly becoming the wave shooter of 2018. :(

    • david vincent

      still an improvement ;)

  • ET

    I was so let down. Waste of $30

  • david vincent

    @Scott Hayden
    You can add that this game is only for fluent english speakers. The menus have been translated in various languages but not the game itself (not even subtitles) ! o_O
    It looks like the devs have no plans to make their game translated :
    https://steamcommunity.com/app/557520/discussions/0/1735463620078307885/#c1735463620081554955

  • Gonzalo Novoa

    Game was good but the free locomotion was really bad (though they could solve it with an update). The main problem as the review very well says is that you play the same puzzle over and over. There is only one puzzle and that’s what you do for the whole game. With some variety it could have been much better but as it is, while still interesting, is far from a game like Obduction or even The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.

    Puzzle games are great in VR, though, when done right.

  • Andrew McEvoy

    Have the devs added strafe to the Oculus version yet? I havent been able to play much recently.

  • RockstarRepublic

    Its not black mirror like if the protagonist is a female.