If you look through the titles available on Playstation VR at the moment you’ll see there isn’t a massive variety on offer. Whilst I’m not doubting the quality of these games (believe me, I’ve had a lot of fun with them) it’s a shame that we’re not seeing more releases that offer something a little bit different to just your typical first-person action or puzzle solving. Enter Mervils: A VR Adventure – Playstation VR’s first full-fledged third-person platforming title.
Mervils: A VR Adventure puts you in the world of the Mervils, a peaceful race who have lived in a time of harmony. That harmony seems to be coming to an end though when Merlyn, an ancient wizard of time, foresees the return of the evil Dark Lord Balazar. The only way to stop him is by uncovering all of the missing pages of the ‘Great Mervil Book’, so it’s up to you to find them and destroy the evil threat once and for all. Once you’ve created your hero (the game offers full customisation which is always great) you’ll set off on your adventure as you explore a variety of colourful lands and take on hordes of enemies.
Mervils: A VR Adventure’s gameplay reminded me of a mixture of ‘Mario 64’ and the original ‘Jak and Daxter’. You’ll explore vast open worlds that are full of collectibles to find and quests to complete. What’s really impressive though is the sheer variety in the quests on offer – whilst it’s often just a case of finding collectibles hidden in the environment, you’ll also be shooting at enemies in the sky with a cannon, dashing across a track in a speeding mine cart, making tricky jumps as you bounce between springboard mushrooms, or even speeding down an icy slide aboard a sleigh. I’m barely scratching the surface there, with the game offering an abundance of fun tasks to complete throughout the roughly eight hour adventure. Sure, these might sound like run of the mill tasks when you compare it to other platformers, but when you’re doing all of this in virtual reality it makes the experience a lot more immersive. Plus, it’s good old-school fun – something I’ll never get bored of.
Whilst Mervils: A VR Adventure is full to the brim with a variety of fun things to do, I found the combat was a little lacking. Outside of boss battles, enemies will barely cause you any problem at all with their predictable attack patterns and often poor AI. There’s not a whole lot to the game’s actual combat mechanics either, with most battles simply resorting to button mashing until your enemy is dead. I can appreciate that platformers aren’t always known for their slick combat mechanics, but it was a bit of a shame that taking down enemies wasn’t as enjoyable as other areas of the game.
You won’t just be finding missing pages in each of Mervils: A VR Adventure’s worlds, but will also collect gold too. Sometimes you need gold to unlock an item for a quest but it can also be used to purchase new weapons and armour for your character, offering a real sense of progression to the game that sees your character improve with time. It’s a shame that the level of depth with combat mechanics doesn’t match up to that of the character customisation, because there’s a lot of potential on offer here.
Mervils: A VR Adventure offers multiple camera modes that’ll suit all different kinds of players. If you’re a newbie to virtual reality and struggle a bit when the camera is in full motion, there’s the default ‘blink’ option that fixes the camera into a set location that can be teleported around to follow the player with the press of a button. I actually liked toying around with this; whilst it’s not my preferred choice of camera mode, seeing my character run off into the distance whilst the world went on around him added an almost physical sense of depth to the game’s environments.
I didn’t stick with the ‘blink’ mode though and instead chose the ‘smooth follow’ option that sees the camera follow the player in the style of a traditional third person platformer. I found it simply made for a much better experience – after all, virtual reality is designed to allow you to get up close and person with these gaming worlds, so I was glad to be able to do so here. Of course, not all gamer’s stomachs will be able to handle the constantly moving camera, so I’d recommend anyone who plays the game switches camera modes around a bit and sees what works for them.
Alternatively gamers can switch to a first-person view if they prefer, though I don’t see why they’d really want to – there’s a lack of third-person virtual reality titles available on Playstation VR at the moment, so playing through Mervils: A VR Adventure not only felt refreshing but proved that virtual reality works incredibly well outside of first-person viewpoints too.
If you liked the visual style of ‘Mario 64’ then you’ll love the world of Mervils: A VR Adventure. I’m not saying that it looks exactly like a twenty year old game (it’s deserves a bit more credit than that) but there are a lot of similarities to be found with their aesthetic styles. Everything is incredibly simplistic but still manages to look charming, with the vibrant colours of each world really bringing them to life – I actually had to get used to seeing such bright colours in virtual reality after spending so many hours with the more dreary ‘Resident Evil 7’ lately. You travel across a good variety of worlds, with typical platforming locales like glistening ice levels, golden desert levels, and treacherous lava levels a real treat to venture across. Don’t get me wrong, Mervils: A VR Adventure certainly isn’t the prettiest game you’re going to come across, but there’s an undeniable charming simplicity to the visuals that manages to really stand out when seen in virtual reality.
One obvious flaw with Mervils: A VR Adventure is the voice acting, with some performances actually a bit laughable for all of the wrong reasons. Whilst you do get the occasional NPC who manages to sound believable, most come across flat and uninspired. I normally wouldn’t mention this (after all, Mervils: A VR Adventure is hardly a massively story-driven title) but the fact you can’t skip through conversations means you have to listen to each dreary performance all the way through. It doesn’t take anything from the gameplay, but it is a nuisance and something players might struggle to ignore.
Playstation VR has been lacking a good virtual reality platforming experience, but fortunately Mervils: A VR Adventure fills the void. Whilst it doesn’t deliver on all fronts thanks to its lacking combat mechanics, poor voice acting, and slightly dated visuals, it does offer a unique, fun platformer that proves that the Playstation VR can do a lot more than just first-person titles.
I had a lot of fun playing through Mervils: A VR Adventure and I can see myself going back to the game again, especially when I want something to show people what virtual reality can bring to a traditional platforming experience. I’d recommend all Playstation VR owners give it a look – not just to have something a little bit different to everything else available on the system right now, but to also have a full-fledged title that’ll offer hours of enjoyment.
Release Date: 21/02/2017
Format(s): Playstation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive, Oculus Rift