Hands-on: ‘Wilson’s Heart’ Combat, Puzzle Mechanics, and April Release Date Revealed

Watch 30 minutes of new gameplay


Wilson’s Heart, the much anticipated psychological thriller developed by Twisted Pixel and published by Oculus Studios, is due to release exclusively on the Rift on April 25th for $40. In a recent hands-on with the latest build of the game, I got to see how the title’s combat and puzzle mechanics will work.

Set entirely in a black and white color scheme, Wilson’s Heart is a rather unique looking VR game which puts you in the shoes of Robert Wilson, a patient experiencing some serious delusions in a 1940s hospital. Playing as Wilson, you’ll notice that a few screws are loose, especially when you find out that his heart has been replaced by a mechanical device with mysterious powers.

Developer Twisted Pixel says Wilson’s Heart is a full narrative experience that they expect to span 8-10 hours. The game features an impressive cast—including Peter Weller, Rosario Dawson, and Alfred Molina—who will take up characters in the narrative.

wilson's-heart-3And while story is said to be an essential part of the game, our recent hands-on with Wilson’s Heart was all about combat and puzzles. We spent 30 minutes with the latest build of the game, which you can watch in the video heading this article.

The game’s node-base teleporting locomotion system underscores everything, and it’s sure to be a point of contention following the game’s release next month. In order to navigate around the world, you look around for outlines of your character and press a button on the Touch controller to move to that location. When you press the button the screen fades black for a few second and you’ll hear some shuffling before the world eventually fades back into vision.

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Generally you’ll be teleported directly in front of a door or some other interactive object, which often means looking behind you to find the next node once you’re finished with the current node. For people with 360 degree Rift setups, this probably won’t be much trouble. For the front-facing folks (likely the majority), it’s a little weird to look almost 180 degrees behind you when you need to keep your feet mostly planted to remain facing forward in the real world.

Early in my time with the game I found a supply room with a spinning number lock, but I didn’t know the combination. Jumping from node-to-node to search the grungy white-tiled halls of the hospital, I eventually made my way to another room where I found a note which had the combination to the lock written on the back of it. I teleported back to the lock and reached out to spin it to enter the numbers and release the lock. Inside I found a pair of rubber gloves. I wasn’t sure what they were for, but they were outlined in such a way that the game was telling me they were important, so I picked them up and stashed them in my inventory (a portal that appears when you pick up something that you can keep for later)

I found my way further down the hall to a bathtub filled with black liquid, which apparently required that I wear the gloves in order to pull out the plug. At this point I’m not really sure why the plug needs pulling, but the game is pushing me to do so, so I attempt to put on the gloves. It took me two tries followed by a hint from someone watching me play (in the real world) before I realized that, rather than intuitively sliding a glove onto each hand, I was to place the two gloves (which stuck together as a single object) essentially into one of my arms, at which point the gloves suddenly appeared on each hand.

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Then I went to reach into the tub to pull the plug but found the world blurred out as I reached for it; this was the game’s way of telling me that I had exited the approved playspace. I stepped back and the world came back into focus. I tried again to reach the plug but again the world went blurry. Someone standing nearby told me to take a step backward (in real life), which I did, and reached for the plug again. The world blurred once more, but this time the plug came out and the liquid quickly drained.

After the liquid was gone I saw a piece of paper (yes, under the liquid) and a key near the drain. I don’t know why I wanted these items, but they were outlined (the game once again telling me I was allowed to grab them) so I reached down to pick them up, at which point the drain sprouted tentacles and a giant squid monster emerged from the tub. Looking down at my hands, I could see its tentacles around my wrists, at which point my inventory presented a chisel (indicating it was time to use it) which I had picked up earlier. I grabbed the chisel and stabbed at the tentacles, eventually freeing each arm.

Now, I wanted to hang onto this weapon that I had just used to hurt the monster in front of me, but I wasn’t allowed to keep it in my inventory now that it had served its scripted use. Mind you, the monster was still writhing in the tub in front of me with its mouth agape. Although I was free and could now teleport away from the monster with no apparent threat, it was clear that I wouldn’t be able to proceed until I got rid of it. Personally, I would have used the chisel from earlier to finish stabbing it to death (though I had been forced to discard it), but the helpful tipster from earlier told me that I should teleport far down the hallway to another room to pick up some electricity-generating box… thing… which I had seen earlier. I picked it up and then teleported back to the monster and threw the box into its mouth which dispatched it. Without the hint, I can only imagine how long it would have taken me to figure out what I needed to do to progress past the monster.

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Although there was a monster present, there didn’t seem to be any real threat, so I take it that this portion of the game was meant to fall into the puzzle category.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Doctor Bambi

    That’s… disheartening to hear.

    I’ll just see myself out.

  • J.C.

    Ah damn. Twisted Pixel used to be big time Indie darlings. Basically everything they released for the 360 is a must-play. It’s a shame to hear Wilson’s Heart is so inconsistent. I’m hoping the story is good enough to shrug off the obvious issues the game has.

    Oh well. I won’t be playing it for months, if ever, anyway. I refuse to run ReVive.

    • burzum

      Yea, same here. No freedom of choice. :( Not for the locomotion method, nor for the store. I don’t want to teleport and I don’t buy in the walled garden. I really don’t understand why developers just don’t add multiple locomotion methods. It’s not like rocket science and many tiny indi titles managed to do so.

  • OgreTactics

    Well teleportation gameplay is a big no for me anyway.

  • Sam Illingworth

    Is it names after the episode of House?

  • wheeler

    Sounds like yet another potentially great game ruined by sim sickness anxiety.

    • Buddydudeguy

      by what? I read valid critisism about game mechanics, not “sim sickness”.

  • Buddydudeguy

    “For the front-facing folks (likely the majority)” You really think so? Personally I can’t fathom spending hundreds on a VR set up, only to be happy with front facing. Who the F does that?

    • xxTheGoDxx

      Right?! Seems really strange that somebody would spend either 800 or 600 Dollar and then be to cheap to pay an extra 10% to get the ability to turn around (!) in games as well as access to all the Steam VR titles.

      Its a bit like buying an high end PC only to then use it on an old 15″ monitor with no plans to ever update the display.

    • benz145

      Anything beyond front-facing is still “experimental” as far as Oculus is concerned. The company still publically demos with all front-facing setups. There’s a lot of people out there who don’t even know the Rift can do 360.

      • Buddydudeguy

        Well, peoples stupidity amazes me every day so I guess you’re right.