I’m a big fan of co-operative virtual reality titles, especially those that have one player take on a role using the headset and the other by playing traditionally on a TV. I’ve had a brilliant time in the past playing titles like Black Hat Cooperative and Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, so having more games that offer unique co-operative experiences based around using a headset and TV in synchronicity is always going to pique my interest.
Carly and the Reaperman – Escape from the Underworld is the latest release on PlayStation VR to utilise this method of play, with the TV player having a platforming experience and the virtual reality player having to solve simple puzzles and ensure the pathway is always safe and clear. It makes for a really good time too, with plenty of laughs guaranteed as you work together (sometimes with great difficulty) with a friend.
Both players in Carly and the Reaperman – Escape from the Underworld get a completely different experience: the TV player will play as Carly and guide her along through simple platforming, whilst the PlayStation VR player will control the giant Reaperman and ensure her path to safety is always clear. No matter who you’re playing as, you’ll need to ensure you’re constantly communicating with each other in order to solve any enigmas that might block your path, with co-operation essential to simply progress through each level.
Carly’s role is pretty straight forward in the game, with the player essentially just traversing through the level and jumping across the platforms that the Reaperman provides for her. There are enemies to avoid too but no combat, so it’s platforming in its most basic form – it’s not a bad thing, but it’s worth keeping your expectations in check if you’re expecting an overly intricate platforming experience.
The Reaperman player will use the Move controllers to grab at objects around them to open pathways, create platforms for Carly to jump between, or even protect her from any incoming hazards. They’re also able to get a better view of the level to guide Carly along, whilst some platforms are only visible to the Reaperman – guiding Carly through those will require some specific communication between players, and failing to do so will see plenty of (humorous) failures before you succeed. Whilst the Reaperman technically has more to do, it’s also the role that can leave you waiting at times, especially when the Carly player is working through the platforming sections and you’re just left twiddling your skeletal thumbs whilst watching. Still, there’s enough going on that you won’t grow bored when working through each of Carly and the Reaperman’s levels, with both roles offering plenty of co-operative action for any dynamic duo.
It all comes together to make for a neat little experience, with both roles proving to be accessible and fun. Carly and the Reaperman – Escape from the Underworld can be guilty of keeping things a little simple and those hoping for an intricate platformer or puzzler might be slightly disappointed, but the co-op focus and way that everything ties nicely into virtual reality ensures that a good time is had. There’s a decent amount of content on offer too, with plenty of levels to complete, bonus challenges to conquer, and collectibles to find across the world, so you won’t run out of things to do fast – even if there isn’t anything too challenging to face during that time.
Those who prefer a solo experience can actually play Carly and the Reaperman – Escape from the Underworld alone, though you’re restricted to using just the Dual Shock controller and controlling Carly traditionally whilst also having a big pair of motion-controlled skeletal hands floating in front of you to grab at stuff. It’s not really the best way to experience the game, with the fiddly camera controls making it difficult to keep track of Carly’s movements and the lack of synchronicity between the Reaperman and Carly’s actions making it more cumbersome to clear basic objectives. Of course, it’s not impossible to play this way, but it’s certainly a lot less satisfying and immersive than playing with a buddy in co-op.
Visually, Carly and the Reaperman – Escape from the Underworld is a pretty little game. Sure, there are better looking platformers available on PlayStation VR, but the aesthetic of the gloomy world and the bizarre Halloween-eque vibe certainly ticked a lot of boxes for me. Everything looks pretty sharp and detailed in the PlayStation VR headset too, whilst the eerie music fits the tone of the game perfectly. It’s good stuff.
Carly and the Reaperman – Escape from the Underworld is a whole lot of fun to play, with the co-operative elements between the virtual reality and TV player not only offering fun co-ordinated play but also demanding communication between both players. Sure, the gameplay mechanics themselves are fairly simple and the game isn’t too challenging, but it’s finely designed to ensure both players have a good time.
Playing alone, though? Not so fun. Carly and the Reaperman – Escape from the Underworld was clearly designed with co-op play in mind and whilst it’s viable to play solo, it’s probably not the best way to experience what it has to offer.
Still, if you’ve got a buddy on hand to play with you, Carly and the Reaperman – Escape from the Underworld is a fine multiplayer platforming experience for PlayStation VR owners to enjoy. If you’re planning on playing alone though, you might want to stick to Astrobot or Moss…
Publisher: Odd Raven Studios
Platform(s): PlayStation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive, Oculus Rift