A mysteriously abandoned facility, a sci-fi setting, and a focus on first-person exploration and puzzle-solving – sounds like all the ingredients you need for your typical PlayStation VR title, right? There’s no denying that there’s a trend to be found amongst a lot of games that release on the platform these days and admittedly it can be a little tiring seeing a lot of the same things over and over again. That’s not to say that these common tropes mean that a game is going to be bad though, but rather that it might feel a bit familiar.
It came as a surprise then that despite adopting similar themes, Red Matter stands out as something a bit special. Don’t get me wrong: you’re still out on a moon in space solving puzzles through an abandoned facility, but the way that the story is told, the puzzles are presented, and that the world looks ensures that it’s easily become another one of PlayStation VR’s stand out titles for 2018.
Red Matter puts you in the shoes of Agent Epsilon, an astronaut who belongs to the Atlantic Union that heads out to a strange and abandoned moon base that belongs to the nation of Volgravia to investigate a mysterious project they were working on. With themes of the Cold War and communism clear throughout, the tale leads you on a dark journey that becomes more intriguing (and even a bit eerie) as you begin to uncover what’s going on at the base. I don’t want to say too much more so that I don’t spoil anything for the player, but just know that it’s easy to get completely hooked in and you’ll definitely want to see how everything wraps up in the end.
The controls can often make or break a PlayStation VR game, especially when using the Move controllers, but Red Matter absolutely nails them. For movement, there’s both free locomotion and teleportation movement that’ll see you hover to each spot you point at, and fortunately they can both be used together – it’s certainly useful when you need to hit a precise point and don’t want to faff around moving your character to get there.
The free locomotion involves pressing the Move button on the right controller to go forward and two of the face buttons to turn. Admittedly, I would have preferred it if the turning controls could’ve been assigned to the left controller instead, but it’s not the end of the world. If you want to teleport you just press the triangle button on the right Move controller and aim where you want to go, with your suit then hovering that way. It can take a short while to get used to (especially since the game doesn’t really give you too many instructions on the controls to begin with) but once you figure it out it feels really intuitive and ensures movement throughout the game is a breeze.
Seeing as you’re an astronaut exploring a strange environment, it’s only natural that you come equipped with a few tools, though they’re not as scientifically advanced as you might think: you’ve got a translation tool, a grabbing claw and a flashlight.
You’ll need to use each one carefully as you work through the game, with the translation tool proving mighty useful when trying to decipher the different Volgravian signs and notices. Your character isn’t a dab hand with foreign languages, so understanding what’s happened and the history behind the folk who inhabited the facility will require the frequent use of your translation tool.
Your grabbing claw is more commonly used for puzzles, with plenty of things in the environment for you to reach out and interact with as you solve each of Red Matter’s enigmas. One thing I really appreciate in a VR game is when you can grab at and interact with every item you see though, which is something the game allows you to do – sure, it’s a small detail which doesn’t affect gameplay, but using my claw to grab out at everything in the world and then swing it away never grew boring. Besides, there’s so much attention to detail in the game world that it’s nice to take a closer look and appreciate the visuals.
Of course, it’s with the puzzles in which the grabbing claw will come the most handy and Red Matter is full of different perplexities to really test your wits. There are some simple environment-based puzzles to be found (playing around with levers and buttons in the environment), but there are also some real clever ones that utilise Red Matter’s unique setting in a more meaningful way – you’ll definitely be impressed with the variety of puzzle on show.
None ever felt too difficult to solve though, with the ‘eureka’ moment either coming from simply checking out the environment carefully or reading one of the many clues that are littered around. Still, it was hard not to feel satisfied when you solved one of the ingenious puzzles, especially when you’d be stumped on it for a few minutes beforehand. It’s a credit to the team at Vertical Robot that they managed to put together a good blend of puzzles that aren’t only fun to solve but varied enough that you don’t tire of exploring the facility.
One thing that’ll be obvious about Red Matter from the moment you hit the title screen is that it’s a very attractive game. Whether it’s the detailed interior environments, the stunning space vistas, or just the impressive lighting effects, Red Matter will wow you throughout with its stunning visuals. There’s just a level of finesse and detail to everything that’s often been missing in a lot of other PlayStation VR titles, and it helps the game truly stand out as one of the more special releases available this year.
Developer: Vertical Robot
Publisher: Vertical Robot
Platform(s): PlayStation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive, Oculus Rift