Connect with us

Gaming

VR Kit is not Virtual Boy 2.0 – TechCrunch

Published

on

Even the most successful tech company is going to have a stumble from time to time. Nintendo’s 45 years in the video game industry is spotted with a few doozies, but none are more infamous than the Virtual Boy. The 1994 portable console was marketed as an early home entry into virtual reality, but in actual reality ended up being little more than a blood-red headache.

Nintendo knew the comparisons to the doomed console would come fast and furiously when it launched its next VR venture, so the company took the time to get it just right. In a sense, Labo VR is a cautious push into the virtual realm. It’s nowhere near the all-in approach of Oculus, Vive or even PlayStation VR, for that matter — but it’s uniquely Nintendo.

Like the first Labo kits, it’s a friendly reminder that Nintendo’s chief job is to surprise and delight, and it happily delivers on both fronts. But just as the Labo piano shouldn’t be mistaken for a real musical instrument, Labo VR ought not be viewed as a real virtual reality.

It’s not just the pop-out cardboard form factor, either. Google made that a perfectly acceptable beginner’s approach to VR. It’s more that Nintendo has taken a very casual approach to all of this. The kit’s virtual reality experience is an extension of Labo itself. It’s no more important than the process of building the headset and various accessories step by step on the app. Or, for that matter, sharing all of the above experiences with others.

During a demo of the new kits in New York this week, Nintendo was quick to point out that the headsets are built without a strap. It claims this was a conscious decision so that the experience can be passed around and shared. I’m sure there are some practical reasons behind this decision as well, but it’s certainly a nice thought.

Virtual reality is, by nature of its form factor, a solitary experience. Labo VR doesn’t have any sort of video-out feature to share the experience on a big screen (for now, at least), so the idea of offering it up in a more social play-and-pass scenario is appealing. This goes double for the fact that, like the original Labo kits, all of the games included fall under the casual banner. The experiences share a common lineage with Nintendo analog titles like Mario Party or Mario Paint.

Your mileage with each title will vary. Certainly some (Bird and Blaster spring to mind) will stay with you longer than others and demand more repeat play. On the whole, each buildable peripheral launches with one (maybe two) compatible games. The good news, however, is that, like Labo, the company packs a lot of controllers (and therefore experiences) into a single kit.

The standard Labo: VR Kit ships with six Toy-Con projects (VR Goggles, Toy-Con Blaster, Toy-Con Camera, Toy-Con Bird, Toy-Con Wind Pedal and Toy-Con Elephant), while the cheaper Starter Set comes with two (Goggles and Blaster). If you go for the latter to dip your toes in the water or just to save on cash, there are a pair of “expansion sets” to get the full experience.

Unlike the last time Nintendo came to town with a Labo press tour, we didn’t actually get any time to build. That said, if previous kits are any indication, that’s half of the fun and value proposition here. Also, the amount of time you’ll spend building varies greatly from project to project — take it from me, someone who spent most of a work morning building that damn piano.

Once built, the VR experience is about on-par with what you’d expect from a Google VR. Again, it’s a set of lenses attached to a hunk of cardboard. This is no Rift or Vive and the immersiveness of your own experience will vary. The graphics are cartoony and oftentimes just large polygons. But a well-crafted casual gaming experience can be enough to pull you out of your own head for a bit. Bird is the best example of this.

The controller clips on the headset, with a Toy-Con popping out the other end like a beak. As a player, you hook your hands on either side of the display and flap along as you play a bird, flying around trees and completing different missions to feed an army of hatchlings. It’s a relaxing reprieve from some of the faster-paced games, as you glide around the skies. Add in the foot-controlled Wind Pedal, and the system delivers a puff of air to your face as you boost your bird, adding to the effect.

Blaster, a big, fun novelty gun, is the most engaging of the bunch. When I ended my demos with some extra time to spare, the Nintendo rep asked me if I wanted to give any of the games another go. The answer was simple. A simple first-person shooter, Blaster pits you against an army of alien blobs. You load the gun by cocking it like a shot-gun, and pull the trigger to an explosive effect.

Honorable mention goes to Doodle, which uses the bizarre elephant-shaped controller. The experience is unique from the rest in that it’s not actually a game, but rather a 3D drawing tool. It’s one of the more clever additions to the pack, though actually drawing on a 3D plane with a cardboard controller shaped like an elephant’s trunk is easier said than done. The implementation is a bit lacking, but it offers interesting insight into where Labo VR might go in the future.

Honestly, I just scratched the surface during my briefing. But there’s little question that Labo VR is a fun and singular experience. There’s also a special screen holder, so users who have rough time with VR can experience a 2D version of the games and accessories. Also, as with the standard Labo kit, Nintendo has bundled in Toy-Con Garage, so users can start building their own games when they tire of the pre-packaged experiences.

If there’s one disappointment in all of this, it’s that it will likely be a while before we see a full standalone VR experience from Nintendo. The idea of playing as Mario, Link and the like in virtual reality is no doubt something of a lifelong dream for plenty of gamers who grew up on the characters. But while Virtual Boy is a quarter-century in the past, the memory still lingers.

Until then, Labo VR is a fully engaging take on VR, and a uniquely Nintendo one, to boot.

Source link

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Gaming

Review: Locke and Key comes back better than ever with action-packed S2

Published

on

Enlarge / The present generation of Locke descendants—Tyler (Connor Jessup), Bode (Jackson Robert Scott), and Kinsey (Emilia Jones)—still have a lot to learn about the magical keys that are their birthright.

The Locke siblings face a demonic dynamic duo intent on bringing chaos to our world and must defend themselves, armed with only a handful of magical keys, in the second season of Locke and Key. In our 2020 year-end TV roundup, I wrote that Netflix’s adaptation of the comic book series, by Joe Hill and Gabe Rodriguez, successfully brought “the fabled Key House and the darkly fantastical world of the comics to vivid life.” The second season is even better: it’s faster-paced, it has intriguing character arcs, and it delves a bit more into the history and mythology behind Key House and its magical keys.

(Spoilers for season 1 below. Some season 2 spoilers, but no major reveals.)

Longtime fans of the comics can attest to the powerful allure of the basic premise: three traumatized siblings whose father was recently murdered return to dad’s ancestral home, Key House, with their mother and discover that the house is filled with hidden magical keys that “whisper” to the children until they find them. The TV series preserves that allure. Only kids can hear the keys whispering, and any adults who witness the “magic” of the keys in use quickly forget what they’ve seen. There is an Anywhere Key that can turn a door into a portal to anywhere in the world, for instance, and a Ghost Key that lets your spirit leave your body. A Head Key provides access to one’s inner self, and an Identity Key allows you to change your appearance.

Bode and Abby (Leishe Meyboom) discover a tiny key that fits into a dollhouse version of Key House.
Enlarge / Bode and Abby (Leishe Meyboom) discover a tiny key that fits into a dollhouse version of Key House.

Netflix

Unfortunately, there’s an evil entity who goes by the name of Dodge (Laysla De Oliveira) who desperately wants one key in particular—the mysterious Omega Key—and will do pretty much anything to get it. Over the course of the first season, we learned why family patriarch Rendell Locke (Bill Heck) moved far away from his ancestral home: there was a high school tragedy that killed two of his friends. It wasn’t an “accidental drowning” that killed them, as local lore held, but Dodge’s possession of Rendell’s best friend Lucas (Felix Mallard). Rendell and his surviving friends eventually imprisoned Dodge in the Well House—until Ellie (Sherri Saum), in a weak moment, tried to bring Lucas, her high school sweetheart, back with the Echo Key and brought back Dodge instead.

Still, Rendell’s kids proved to be a formidable match against Dodge’s many machinations. And they thought they had successfully tossed Dodge back into the void behind the Black Door and locked it behind them. But above all else, Dodge is a trickster. Dodge used the Identity Key to make Ellie look like Dodge. So it’s poor Ellie who finds herself trapped in the void, while Dodge has taken on the identity of high school nerd Gabe (Griffin Gluck), Scot’s (Petrice Jones) rival for Kinsey’s affections. Also, the academy’s resident Mean Girl, Eden (Hallea Jones), is now possessed by a different demon who escaped from behind the black door, so Gabe/Dodge has a secret accomplice.

Duncan Locke (Aaron Ashmore) can't remember the magical keys he used as a child.
Enlarge / Duncan Locke (Aaron Ashmore) can’t remember the magical keys he used as a child.

Netflix

The first season’s 10 episodes covered most of the main narrative arc in the comics but left out a lot of the background lore about where the keys came from, who made them, and who (or what) Dodge really is. Those questions are at least partially answered over the course of S2, which includes flashbacks to the American Revolutionary War and the conflict between the Locke family and a British general named Frederick Gideon (Kevin Durand). (The flashback material is partially drawn from Clockworks and will also likely feature heavily in the first arc of World War Key, a forthcoming new Locke and Key comic book series that will serve as both a prequel and sequel to the original run, according to Hill.)

As S2 opens, life for the Locke family seems stable. Tyler is dating Jackie (Genevieve Kang), Kinsey is dating Gabe, and Bode has a new BFF, Abby (Leishe Bennett). Abby’s father, Josh (Brendan Himes), is the new history teacher at Matheson Academy, and as a recent widower, he and the Locke matriarch, Nina (Darby Stanchfield), forge a tenuous romantic connection. Josh’s ancestors also have a long history in Matheson, so the two might have more in common than they realize.

Gabe (Griffin Gluck), another incarnation of the demon Dodge, and a possessed Eden (Hallea Jones) try to forge a new magical key.
Enlarge / Gabe (Griffin Gluck), another incarnation of the demon Dodge, and a possessed Eden (Hallea Jones) try to forge a new magical key.

Netflix

But all is not sunshine and roses. Tyler and Jackie are both about to turn 18 and “age out” of the magic, prompting a frantic search for the Memory Key that Rendell and his squad (the “Keepers of the Keys”) forged to ensure they wouldn’t forget. That involves restoring their uncle Duncan’s (Aaron Ashmore) childhood memories, which turns out to have unforeseen consequences. Meanwhile, Gabe/Dodge is conspiring to forge a new key for whatever nefarious plot they’re cooking up. And demonic Eden is proving to be overly impulsive and more of a liability than Gabe/Dodge realized.

Continue Reading

Gaming

343 shows first Halo Infinite campaign footage in over a year

Published

on

The first and last time we saw footage of Halo Infinite‘s campaign mode way back in July of 2020, we were a bit underwhelmed by what we saw. Now, with the game’s delayed launch just a few weeks away, Microsoft and 343 Industries have released a six-minute video showcasing more details of the anticipated sequel’s story and gameplay.

A voiceover confirms that the traditional Halo story following the partnership between Master Chief and Cortana is “now a distant memory” in Infinite. Instead, John-117 is now looking to retrieve and work with a new and extremely uninformed AI codenamed The Weapon. Together, the two will explore Zeta Halo to find an answer to the core questions driving Infinite‘s story: “What happened to Cortana?” and “What did she do that was so wrong?”

The new trailer highlights what the studio says is a campaign structure that offers “more freedom than ever before.” There’s a brief glimpse at a section of the game’s open world “Tacmap,” complete with the kind of color-coded mission markers you’d expect from a different sort of game. Completing some of those missions will grant Master Chief control of Forward Operating Bases, which seem key to advancing the story and offering new perks. Through it all, Master Chief will be pursued by “a sadistic Spartan killer named Jega ‘Rdomnai,” who seems to come from the Covenant’s red-tinted Banished faction.

The trailer also provides a quick peek at a deep upgrade menu, which shows how Master Chief’s abilities will progress. Players can spend “Spartan Cores” on improving both defensive and movement capabilities in categories like the Grapple Shot, Shield Core, Threat Sensor, Drop Wall, and Thruster.

As for the shooting itself, the trailer shows Master Chief using the usual array of guns and explosives, while the new grappleshot helps him grab far-off weapons or drag himself toward enemies for a quick melee attack. We also get a look at some vehicle stations that should let Master Chief hop in a Wasp or Warthog whenever he wants, and there are one-on-one arena battles with some suspiciously boss-like foes.

Halo Infinite is set to launch on December 8, but features like co-op play and the Forge customization suite won’t be coming until later. The separate free-to-play multiplayer mode will also launch that day following an extensive beta for Xbox Insiders a few weeks back.

Continue Reading

Gaming

Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy on Nov. 11: Cartoonier, flashier, and Game Pass-ier

Published

on

Enlarge / Aw, blank, here we go again.

Rockstar Games

Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy: The Definitive Experience may go down as 2021’s worst-kept secret, but how it would actually look remained surprisingly well-protected until the game’s Friday reveal went live. The new look is visible in a one-minute trailer, which comes with a release date: November 11 for the Xbox console family, PS4/PS5, Nintendo Switch, and PC (via the Rockstar Games Launcher).

Today’s reveal video primarily shows the visual top-to-bottom touch-up applied to all three games in the collection (Grand Theft Auto III, GTA Vice City, and GTA San Andreas), with a few “wipe” transitions comparing a vanilla version of each game to its remastered equivalent. The footage largely consists of cut scenes, as opposed to the behind-the-back view of average gameplay, but we still see enough to get a look at Rockstar Games’ bold artistic changes.

Thanks to the trailer’s focus on cinematic scenes, we get a clear view of how Rockstar updated the characters’ bulky, Mickey Mouse-like blob hands to ones with details like individual fingers. In order to include the new additions while remaining true to the games’ original code and animations, Rockstar has opted for a bulbous, cartoony aesthetic, perhaps most visible in the above after-and-before gallery where a mob boss gestures with his hands while sporting a higher-res, cartoonier face. Each shot also makes clear that Rockstar is employing many higher-res textures, higher shadow resolutions, improved ambient occlusion, increased model geometry, and an entirely new staging of both pre-baked and dynamic lighting. What might look off-putting in screenshots comes together much nicer in the trilogy’s full video trailer (embedded at the end of this article).

Additionally, and arguably more crucially, each game’s control suite has been updated to better resemble GTA V, complete with lock-on weapon aiming and custom waypoint mapping. The Nintendo Switch version brings toggleable motion controls and touchscreen support—though we don’t yet know whether that version will favor higher fidelity and resolution or higher frame rates.

PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S owners can expect “up to 60 fps” performance. Sadly, Rockstar has yet to clarify what kind of performance to expect on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles. PC owners with Nvidia RTX graphics cards can toggle on DLSS to squeeze more performance out of the trilogy. While today’s footage clearly teases some enhanced and more accurate reflections than the original trilogy, they appear to lean on simpler processing techniques as opposed to current-gen ray tracing systems.

More visible detail across this cityscape will make the trilogy's flying sequences that much prettier (and hopefully suffer from far less object pop-in).
Enlarge / More visible detail across this cityscape will make the trilogy’s flying sequences that much prettier (and hopefully suffer from far less object pop-in).

The trilogy has been ported in full to Unreal Engine 4 by Grove Street Games, a longtime Rockstar support studio with experience porting the game maker’s classics to various consoles and smartphone platforms.

The package costs $60, and there doesn’t appear to be an option to purchase each game separately. However, on the same day that the full trilogy releases, GTA San Andreas: The Definitive Edition will launch as a standalone freebie for paying Xbox Game Pass customers on Xbox consoles. Roughly one month later, on December 7, GTA III: The Definitive Edition will land on Sony’s PlayStation Now service. Physical versions of the trilogy will launch in December, as well, though we’ll be curious to see how much of the Switch version ships on its cartridge and how much will require a follow-up download.

Without a clear look at updates to the UI and general gameplay mechanics, we’re left wondering exactly how much better this $60 package will be than applying many of the available mods to the game’s original PC version. If you have missed our advice earlier this month, your modding dreams may be toast, though—as Rockstar has formally delisted all older versions of the games from storefronts like Steam. (If you had previously bought those games, at least, you can still download, access, and mod the heck out of them.)

GTA Trilogy: The Definitive Edition trailer

Continue Reading

Trending