Since Playstation VR’s release there have been plenty of different titles come out that put you in a variety of exciting situations. You might be involved in a heist gone wrong, taking part in some carnival games, shooting at hideous monsters, or even guiding an ever-growing shape through a hole in a wall. Statik, the virtual reality puzzler from ‘Little Nightmares’ developer Tarsier Studios, puts you in another wholly unique situation – you have to solve a series of tricky enigmas brought forth from your hands being trapped within a variety of strange machine-like contraptions. It might sound odd on paper, but believe me, it’s one of the most thoroughly entertaining titles I’ve had the pleasure of playing on the Playstation VR so far.
Statik puts you in the role of an unknown man who finds himself trapped within a testing facility, tasked by the enigmatic Dr Ingen to solve a series of perplexing puzzles that explore the complexities of the human mind. These puzzles aren’t your run of the mill kind either, with each taking on the form of varying machine-like boxes that the player finds their hands stuck within. It’s a clever premise that takes strange turns to keep you entertained right until the very end of the game; Dr Ingen becomes more erratic the further you progress (he speaks of an erotic dream involving a dog upon the back of a chicken at some point…. very strange) whilst the events than transpire around you become all the more peculiar too.
The game can also be pretty eerie at times, with a few of the puzzles taking a somewhat dark turn. The fact that Dr Ingen’s face is permanently blurred out is incredibly creepy too, with a sense of anonymity kept with the mysterious doctor throughout the game. You never fully understand what’s going on and with no sign of life outside of Dr Ingen (and his robotic companion Edith, of course) you’ll be left wondering what exactly is going on. It does a good job of creating an atmosphere that’ll keep you guessing, with almost nothing in the game ever simply black and white.
The only disappointing aspect of Statik’s story is the lack of a pay-off. There are moments in the game where you’re questioned about your reaction to different sights, sounds, and situations, but your choices never seemed to hold any real bearing on how events pan out. Maybe there’re just some secrets I’ve yet to find, but the finale felt a little underwhelming based upon the suspenseful build up.
Still, the most important aspect of the game is within its puzzling and it is here that Statik really shines. It follows the whole ‘no tutorial’ approach, with the player having the work out the intricacies of each puzzling box on their own. Fortunately, the game is so intuitive in design that it’s easy to grasp how to utilise each box’s functions – that’s only half of the battle though, with knowing HOW to use something completely different from actually knowing WHAT to use it for.
As you examine the box in front of you (cleverly controlled by simply moving the Dualshock controller), you’ll notice small mechanisms that react to each button on the controller. You’ll have to mash each button to see what effect they have; one time it might be something as simple as activating a light on the box, but as you progress you’ll find yourself utilising more complicated instruments such as a tape deck, a radio, a telephone, and even a remote control camera. No two puzzles ever feel the same, with each one offering something completely unique that’ll constantly have you scratching your head.
The puzzle design itself is superb; I never found myself bored of what I was doing, with each enigma that came my way testing me in a whole new and satisfying way. Most of the puzzles are incredibly simple in design, but the way in which they are implemented together will really have you baffled. You’ve often got to look further than just the box too; sometimes there’ll be a well-hidden clue in the environment that’ll offer you a solution, whilst other times you’ll simply need to pay some attention to Dr Ingen himself. You’ve really got to be switched on if you want to progress through the game with some of the clues to solving the puzzles so subtle that you’ve got to really get your head in gear to notice them.
One area in which Statik also really delivers is with just how immersive the virtual reality elements are. You’ll actually feel like you’re confined in this mysterious place with a box stuck on your hands; there aren’t many video games out there that make having a controller in your hand feel like part of the experience, but you’ll easily find yourself believing that the buttons of the Dualshock controller are actually part of the mechanics inside each tricky contraption. The visuals of Statik look fantastic within the Playstation VR headset too, with the game not necessarily offering the most original of environments to explore but definitely one of the cleanest. Everything is crystal clear with no detail spared in providing both a believable and attractive setting.
I’ve tried not to go into too much detail about what Statik offers – it’s certainly one those video games where the less you see of it beforehand, the more you’ll enjoy it when you actually get to play. It really is a rewarding experience that becomes more satisfying the further you progress, so you’d certainly be doing yourself a favour to avoid as much coverage of the game as possible (except this review, of course) and just buy it.
It’s probably worth mentioning that Statik will only take you around two hours to complete, though that could easily be a little more or a little less depending on how good you are at solving each puzzle. There’s no real reason to come back to the game for a second playthrough either* – once you know the solution to a puzzle, it’s unlikely you’re ever going to forget it. This might leave a few people on the fence about buying, especially with a £16 price point, but I’d still recommend giving it a purchase; it might have a short running time, but it’s so enjoyable and compelling that it’s worth every penny spent.
Edit: Upon spending extra time with Statik, I discovered that each level had an additional secret puzzle to complete that’s solution was hidden elsewhere in the game. You might be oblivious to them to begin with, but after witnessing all of the game’s boxes you’ll start to notice how something that just seemed like part of the environment to begin with is actually a clue to another puzzle. I’m ashamed at myself for not noticing these the first time around, though it’s easily done if you’re not fully switched on when playing through the game. When you do notice these hidden subtle solutions though it’s hard not to be intrigued at what they might lead to.
These secret puzzles are a fantastic addition that not only offer an extra incentive to play through each level again, but also add a bit more depth to the game. Whilst they don’t necessarily make each level particularly different to play through, you won’t be able to help but attempt to solve them all and see how the game rewards you.
I absolutely love Statik. The puzzles are incredibly well designed and satisfying to solve, the premise is eerie and will keep you intrigued throughout, whilst the whole concept of the game utilises both virtual reality and the Dualshock controller in a unique and intuitive way. It really ticks all of the boxes in proving an engagingly entertaining puzzle experience.
It loses a few points for the lacking finale and short running time, but the package as a whole is fantastic and one I can’t recommend enough. Statik is simply one of Playstation VR’s must-own titles.
Developer: Tarsier Studios
Publisher: Tarsier Studios
Release Date: 24/04/2017
Format(s): Playstation VR