From the moment it was initially revealed I’d been busting to play Robinson: The Journey. The fact it was a virtual reality title coming from the powerhouses at Crytek was enough to have me excited, but the inclusion of dinosaurs that you can get up close and personal with has had me buzzed the most. Finally it’s here and whilst it doesn’t deliver the most enthralling video game experience out there, it’s definitely worth checking out just to be blown away by the stunning world on offer.
Robinson: The Journey begins with protagonist Robin crash landing on an alien-like planet full of prehistoric dinosaurs. Rather than opening with the player in a desperate situation though, the game goes a bit further in time with Robin having settled on the planet with his own little campsite. You won’t start with zero survival skills and trying to find safety; instead you’re fully prepared to begin to scout out the planet and look for any other signs of humanity. You get a little help along the way from your flying robotic accomplice HIGS (who bares a similarity to Wheatley from ‘Portal’) who will actually help you solve puzzles as well as provide the occasional quip. Oh, and you have a pet baby T-Rex named Laika, so you’ve got that going for you too.
There’s no doubting that Robinson: The Journey is the best looking game on the Playstation VR at the moment. The visuals are incredibly impressive, though it’s something that we’ve come to expect from Crytek – a team known to push hardware to its maximum and bring visuals that are typically mind blowing. There’s quite a shift when going from other Playstation VR titles to Robinson: The Journey, but it’s certainly a good early sign of the kind of visuals we might expect from future titles for the system.
It’s not just that everything looks great though, with Robinson: The Journey actually managing to completely engross the player with its luscious, vibrant world. Whether it’s the huge overhanging trees that you venture across, the bustling streams and bushes that are full of life, or the treacherous oozing tar-pits that might bring you an early demise – everything always manages to look phenomenal and completely immerses you in the fantastic world. I won’t lie and say that it matches the visual quality seen across the multiple screenshots that have been released for the game (the Playstation VR headset’s resolution couldn’t re-create that), but it still comes pretty close. The only real flaw that broke the immersion a little was the pop-in of objects in the environment, but even that sees a vast improvement when played on the Playstation 4 Pro.
I’ve always loved the feeling of uncertainty that comes with horror titles; you know, that sensation where you’re expecting to be spooked or actually feel at threat. Virtual reality has been perfect for that so far, but I certainly didn’t expect to feel that way when playing Robinson: The Journey. When you see the raptors though you won’t be able to help but to feel the fear, something that’s probably owed to watching ‘Jurassic Park’ over and over again. I expected to be in awe of the sights and sounds of the game; what I didn’t expect was for things to feel so tense. It was great.
All of the dinosaurs featured in Robinson: The Journey are fantastic though. It’s the closest you’re going to get to some of these creatures, and believe me, you do get pretty damn close. My dinosaur knowledge is terrible though, so you’ll have to bear with me here: you see the long-necked bad boys, the long-faced flying guys, a lot of smaller dinosaurs, as well as a T-Rex (I knew that one). Encountering each prehistoric creature is great with each one’s presence adding to the already impressive atmosphere. You can scan each creature and add them your in-game catalogue too, expanding your knowledge of the creature as well as adding a sort of collectibles element to the game.
You control Robin with the dual shock controller, something that I initially found as a bit of a surprise given that he looked like he was actually holding a move controller throughout the promotional material for the game. I’m actually glad that the game uses a standard controller though, especially considering all the walking around you’ll be doing in the game and no effective means to travel with the move controllers yet. Virtual reality nausea sufferers needn’t worry either, with the game allowing you to modify the control scheme to best suit you. I’m lucky that I don’t tend to suffer from nausea when playing VR games, so the freedom to move around with no restrictions was great. I did witness someone else play the game though and they’re stomach was flipping as soon as they started walking – the problems were mostly fixed after playing around with the control scheme, but it’s certainly something that’s worth baring in mind if you’re new to the technology and just finding your VR bearings.
The bulk of the game is spent solving small puzzles by finding and moving objects, interacting with the environment, or by directing Laika and HIGS to assist you. Laika follows simple directions and can frighten off other dinosaurs, HIGS can navigate freely from above, whilst you also have a multi-purpose tool that allows you to carry heavy objects around. You’ll spend a lot of time climbing too, which could be a little hit and miss – it was neat to make these dangerous climbs at first, but it became a little overused and there was no real suspense with climbing. It was the only time in the game where I would’ve loved move controller support, especially considering how well the climbing mechanics actually worked. It just doesn’t feel all that satisfying with just a normal controller in your hand, especially after doing it so many times in-game.
In honesty the puzzles of Robinson: The Journey are far from thrilling and there’ll be nothing that will blow you away or even make you think outside of the box. In fact, some puzzles just felt a little boring with no clear direction of what you need to do or where exactly you need to go. It’s never out-right awful puzzle design, but it’s rarely satisfying – you might be better off looking further afield for your virtual reality puzzling fix…
Despite this though I never felt TOO frustrated with the game, though that’s probably owed to the fact that the Playstation VR technology is in its infancy. If the game released a little further down the line I mightn’t have been so forgiving of the complacent puzzle design; I was too busy being blown away by the immersive experience the game offered to feel too bad about being stuck in a particular area completely stumped on a puzzle though. I’m not sure if all players will share that mindset, but I gave Robinson: The Journey a little bit of leeway in regards to overlooking some shoddy design choices.
Robinson: The Journey took me around five hours to complete, though that could easily be a bit less or more depending on how much of the world you take in as well as on how stumped you get on the puzzles. It’s the perfect length for a virtual reality title in my opinion, though the high price point of the game might leave some players desiring a little more. I’ve seen it available for £49.99 at most places which is crazy – I’m not saying it needs to be launched at a budget price, but that’s even more expensive than standard AAA games. It might put some gamers off, which is a shame given that the game is certainly worth checking out – it’s hard to justify that price tag though…
Simply playing Robinson: The Journey left me astounded thanks to its breath-taking world, with the virtual reality elements of the game really making you feel like you’re on this luscious strange planet and actually surrounded by prehistoric creatures. Crytek certainly know how to craft a world and create a jaw-dropping atmosphere.
It’s a shame that the puzzles and gameplay elements don’t quite have the same quality though, with the uninspired and unclear design choices holding Robinson: The Journey back from being the killer piece of software on the Playstation VR. Nothing is ever abhorrently bad, but there are plenty of moments in the game that will probably frustrate a lot more than they entertain.
Still though, the world of Robinson: The Journey is a must-see place and seeing the dinosaurs up close will certainly appeal to a lot of gamers. No other Playstation VR title offers the same level of immersion right now, so it’s worth checking out for that reason alone. Robinson: The Journey certainly won’t be the most astounding video game you’ll ever play, but you’ll definitely be blown away from a technical standpoint.
Release Date: 10/11/2016
Format(s): Playstation VR