When I initially saw the reveal of The Lost Bear, it seemed like an odd choice. A 2D side-scrolling platformer never seemed like something that’d work that well in virtual reality, and if I’m being honest, I didn’t really expect big things from it at all before I started playing. Boy, was I wrong. Whilst The Lost Bear isn’t necessarily going to blow you away, it offers one of the most heart warming and imaginative experiences I’ve played in a VR headset so far.
The Lost Bear tells the story of a young girl named Walnut who loses her teddy bear whilst out venturing through the woods with her father. Desperate to get it back, she heads out on a little adventure across the land that ends up becoming more perilous when she falls down a great height and sees a mechanical crab run off with the bear.
A lot of the game’s tale seems to show a metaphorical representation of childhood and innocence, with it all feeling like a clear representation of how vivid a child’s imagination really can be. It’s something that’s better to see unfold yourself, so I won’t spoil any plot details here – let’s just say that despite the threat of the mechanical beasts that are lingering throughout the land, The Lost Bear always has a light hearted vibe.
Most of The Lost Bear’s action takes place as a 2D platformer in front of you, with the main game consisting of a series of platforms to jump between, puzzles to solve, and enemies to defeat. There’s no actual in-game combat though, so you’ve got to be a bit creative in your approach. The world is a dangerous place, so it’s not too difficult to cleverly exploit it to take out the deadly mechanical hounds that are on your tail if you’re clever enough.
In honesty though, there isn’t a whole lot to the platforming that’ll really blow you away; it’s all incredibly simple and the puzzles are easy to solve, so you’re never going to feel particularly challenged by anything that’s put in front of you. It’s never going to compete with the likes of Limbo or INSIDE as far as providing a gripping 2D platforming experience goes, though there is some enjoyment to be found in its simplicity. It’s not bad, but it’s all very basic from a gameplay perspective.
What’s most impressive about The Lost Bear is how the virtual reality elements are integrated. You’re essentially on a theatre stage with the 2D platforming action playing out like a show in front of you, yet the scenery that surrounds you on this stage feels like it has come right out of the environments you’re adventuring through. If you’re exploring a forest in the game, you’ll see a luscious selection of trees surrounding you on the stage. In a scrapyard in the game? Then expect to see the rusted remains of cars scattered around you. It’s a small detail, but one that actually makes venturing across all these levels feel all the more immersive.
Not only does this look great from a visual basis, but the atmosphere of each area is finely crafted too. You’ll see the leaves from trees falling around you and blowing in the wind, little bugs or birds flying past, or, my personal favourite, the little mechanical crab that has stolen our hero’s teddy bear crawl out and give you a whistle to mock you. Every puzzle you interact with in the game seems to modify the environment around you too; one particular puzzle requires you to shoot bells in a specific order, but you’ve got to carefully look at some bells on the stage to work out what that order is. There are so many small details that the game manages to nail down perfectly, which in turn helps to provide an experience for the player that’s incredibly immersive in the most delightful of ways. Honestly, I had a smile on my face from the start to the very end.
You won’t just be taking in pretty sights in virtual reality though, but actually interacting with the game too. You’ll have to use the dual shock controller as a sort of crank to help Walnut navigate across bridges and use lifts, or even use it as a spotlight during one of the game’s darkened out levels. You’ll even have to help her aim her slingshot by pointing the controller in the direction she needs to shoot, adding a small but neat touch to proceedings. The Lost Bear puts all of these little innovations together to make for a thoroughly enjoyable and interactive experience that ensures the player is always a part of the action, both in and out of the 2D platforming.
The main problem with The Lost Bear is that it’s just so short. You can easily beat it in under an hour, and besides the firefly glasses that are hidden in the environment for you to smash with your slingshot, there isn’t much on offer to make you return to the game. Whilst the sheer delight it offers was enough to justify more than one playthrough for myself, you can’t expect a massive adventure with The Lost Bear. Fortunately, it doesn’t have too high a price tag at £9.99, but that still might be too much for some players considering the short running time.
One thing that there’s no denying though is that the game is beautifully presented, both in the 2D side scrolling sections and on the virtual reality stage. It’s got this hand drawn style that’s stunningly crafted, helping bring the naturalistic environment to life with vibrant colours. I really fell in love with the art style from the get go, with each environment I visited in the game full to the brim with personality. Even the audio design was absolutely on point; whilst there isn’t a lot on offer in the form of voice acting, the acoustic tunes that play in the background fit in perfectly within the almost harmonious vibe of the game.
I absolutely love The Lost Bear; it’s just an utterly delightful experience that utilises virtual reality in a variety of clever ways, with the gameplay mechanics perfectly mixed together with a stunning and immersive world. It really is unique and unlike anything I’ve played in a VR headset so far.
The only real downside is just how short the game it is. It has launched with a low price point which I feel is justified, but some players might be disappointed to see that they could easily beat the game in well under an hour with very little on offer to really justify a second playthrough.
Still, I had a great time with The Lost Bear and it’s certainly something I can see myself adventuring through again when I want to have a pleasant little journey. It might not be very challenging and is over too soon, but don’t let that put you off giving it a try.
Developer: Oddbug Studio
Publisher: Fabrik Games
Release Date: 05/09/2017
Format(s): Playstation VR