Despite climbing and parkour being popular in video games for years now, we haven’t seen it properly embraced in PlayStation VR yet. Sure, there’ve been releases where you have to climb the odd wall here and there, but none that have built an entire competitive experience around it. TO THE TOP changes that, bringing its high-speed exciting climbing mechanics to PlayStation VR gamers.
TO THE TOP challenges gamers to climb, jump and glide their way across huge levels where their only real goal is to get ‘to the top’, all whilst a banging soundtrack plays in the background. It’s a simple concept, but one that’s a hell of a lot of fun to play.
Getting around is easy enough, with the Move Controllers acting as your hands as you grab onto all of the climbable surfaces of a level (which are clearly indicated by a blue colour). You’ll need a bit of space around you to reach out to everything in front of you, but it’s always really easy to get around. There’ll also be certain objects in levels which you can quickly teleport to, which makes traversal even easier again. Want a piece of advice? Make sure you use these in order to activate the in-game checkpoints, because falling and having to replay through entire sections again is a pain.
However, simply climbing isn’t always enough when trying to get to those hard to reach areas – this is where jumping comes into play. By using both hands, pulling and releasing the triggers, you can send yourself jumping between platforms. If you quickly pull off another jump on the next platform in succession, you’ll send yourself jumping even higher again. The more jumps you pull off in a chain, the more momentum you’ll hit and distance you’ll zip yourself across.
It’s an intuitive system that works well in-game, with all traversal simply dealt with by grabbing the world around you. It can take some getting used to (especially stringing jumps together), but after a short while with the game you’ll find yourself speeding between ledges, platforms and huge jumps with ease.
TO THE TOP’s levels are all massive in size (you’re working up huge heights after all) and varied in design, with each one featuring more than one route to reach the end. You’ll see plenty of walls, platforms, and floating objects that you need to speed your way across to reach your goal, and whilst one route is typically made obvious, players who take the time to look around them might find a few hidden platforms that’ll get them there a lot quicker. As much as the game pushes you to go as quickly as possible, its design also encourages exploration and experimentation. It makes the whole thing a lot more enjoyable and each run you take through a level can be completely different each time.
Each level has three different tiers of completion based upon how fast you get through it, whilst there are also plenty of collectibles to find across each one too (some of which are really well hidden or require some insane acrobatic skills to reach). I found myself returning to some levels time and time again just to try and get those fastest times, though sometimes it just takes a bit of experimentation – given the aforementioned level design and how there are multiple routes to take, you’ve often simply just got to play around in a level and see what works out quickest for you.
There are over thirty levels to play through too, so you can expect to spend quite a bit of time with TO THE TOP before you master everything. Some of the levels can be incredibly challenging and will require both quick reactions and a mastery of the game’s control schemes before you complete them. There were more than a few occasions where a level would cause me to have a little swearing outburst, but at least it was down to my lacking skills as opposed to the game being too unfair.
Outside of the single player experience, TO THE TOP also has a multiplayer component that allows you to take on other players in hectic races ‘to the top’. Whilst it’s primarily designed as a competitive experience, you can actually work together a bit – each player is able to create a floating platform, which when strung together and jumped between can create all new pathways through levels. It’s an intriguing approach that allows gamers to discover all new ways to tackle the obstacles in their way.
Still, it’s the racing that’s most fun. Taking on others and seeing them behind you as you speed your way to the finish line is mighty satisfying, especially with the sense of scale that exists in the world. With up to eight players per match, it really makes for one of PlayStation VR’s most exciting multiplayer experiences.
TO THE TOP isn’t a visual marvel, with the game focusing on offering minimalistic environments that have plenty of colour but not a whole lot of detail. Typically, this kind of blandness is something that might put me off a game, but it actually works quite well here – it ensures that every climbable area of a level is clear, whilst the quick-paced nature of the game means you don’t always have time to take in what’s going on around you anyway.
It’s worth noting that the game wouldn’t be the same if played outside of virtual reality. One of TO THE TOP’s most appealing features is the sense of scale felt as you leap up these huge courses, all whilst seeing yourself get higher and the platforms you were previously atop of slowly move out of sight. It’s just one of those games that utilises virtual reality and the motion controls that come with it perfectly.
Developer: Electric Hat Games
Publisher: Panic Button
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): PlayStation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive, Oculus Rift