Virtual reality gained a lot traction and public attention this year. High end systems like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive cater to the technophile crowd willing to spend their paychecks to create holodecks and dreamatoriums at home. For the mobile user, Google Cardboard offers simplified virtual reality through affordable visors. Unfortunately, most of the games offered for this controller-less platform are also quite simplified: Gaze steering; sight shooting; passive watching… However, virtual reality game immersion can not be based on a single gimmick.
Block Blaster VR starts by exposing you into a storyline of how you are born.
This is where Block Blaster VR differentiates itself from the rest. Your story starts as you hatch from an egg and discover your eye blast powers. Quite convenient, since you’ll be staring at things to explode them in typical VR shooter manner, starting with that egg shell. But not two levels afterwards, you face your first logic challenge: Destroy more blocks than you have moves for. The VR shooter gimmick turns into a puzzle game, and you overcome that challenge using connect-the-dots and match-the-colors approach. Few levels later, it asks you to reach a minimum score. You have to account for the gravity physics of the blocks to reach the ones hidden in the background, and plan carefully which colors to sacrifice to daisy-chain even more blocks into larger explosions.
Blocks turn into cylinders, then into spheres, jeeps, and tanks.
As the game progresses it becomes more difficult. Interestingly, it becomes challenging not just by making the levels harder, but more importantly, different from each other. The geometry of the blocks change configurations, and even the blocks themselves change from simple cubes to bombs, tanks and pizzas. The perspective also evolves: you stand, you walk, you float… and you eventually fly. Which should be natural since you’re playing a dragon trying on a mission of discovery and revenge.
It’s rare to me to see a puzzle game with an actual plot. The mix between gameplay and storytelling in a mobile game is quite refreshing. And it addresses one of the barriers of entry to virtual reality: you need to be emotionally invested to immerse yourself in a virtual world.
You get to defend friends make along the way from harm
Even successful VR games lack appealing storylines. It might be in part because stories are long, and the comfort level of wearing a VR headset decreases rapidly over time. Block Blaster VR addresses this by splitting the story in small chunks over the course of more than 60 levels. It can also be turned off for those players interested in the challenge rather than the story. Two shooting gallery challenge levels are included for them as well.
Shooter mode puts aside story mode to defend from attacks from all six sides.
We reached out to the indie game developer at Vehicular Elfslaughter, and asked him about the barriers that virtual reality poses for the mobile user. “People that own flagship smartphones don’t even know that they’re virtual-reality ready,” he responded. “And if they do, most mobile VR games out there are demos or extremely short and disappointing. And they require the use of a Cardboard headset, but that’s not usually necessary.” The headset indeed enables virtual reality, but VR games could still be played in regular 3D mode by moving the phone or tablet in front of yourself while looking at it directly, allowing mobile users to get a glimpse of VR mode. With respect to the game’s mix of shooter and puzzle genres, he commented “I just wanted to create something that wouldn’t be boring to me, the developer, since I was going to play test each level two dozen times.”
With so many barriers of entry to virtual reality, including cost, headsets, controllers, playability, boredom from repetition, length of play and lack of storylines, it’s encouraging to see a game like Block Blaster VR address all of these concerns with a fun game that you can enjoy for a long time. With its unique mix of genres and gameplay, Block Blaster VR will definitely entertain you by testing your wits and skills. Block Blaster VR is currently available exclusively in Android for free, iOS support is currently planned. The shooter challenge and first 12 levels are free, the full game unlocks with an In-App purchase of just $1.99.