Reviews// Robinson: The Journey

Posted 28 Nov 2016 12:37 by
Robinson: The Journey offers a beautifully constructed world and some of the best graphics yet seen on PSVR. Just prepare for some obtuse puzzles, barebones gameplay and some possible nausea along the way.

Robinson: The Journey is a first-person puzzle adventure game and takes place one year after a spaceship crash lands on a dinosaur-filled planet called Tyson III. You assume the role of a young boy called Robin, a child who appears to be the only human survivor of the crash. But you're not alone. Also joining you is a spherical floating robot companion (stop me if you've heard this before) called HIGS, and a pet baby T-Rex called Laika. Oh, yes. There are dinosaurs everywhere, too.

From the opening seconds of gameplay which see you exploring your escape pod - the walls of which are lined with posters and other clutter like a teenager's bedroom - you can appreciate the amount of detail that has gone into creating this prehistoric planet.

Graphically this is definitely another Crytek game - it looks gorgeous. And although this game was primarily reviewed on a PS4 Pro, I did spend 30 minutes playing on a regular PS4 and the game looked fantastic on the base hardware too.

Locations are interesting, teeming with wildlife and lush vegetation, and they never shy away from showing the player a stunning vista or interesting background imagery. Graphically this is definitely the benchmark for all future PSVR titles.

Each of these locations comes with its own set of puzzles and things to do, and this is where the game lets itself down. Most of the puzzles in this game are seriously obtuse.

These puzzles aren't complex, they're just frustrating. But not frustrating in a way that a puzzle game frustrates you because although you fully understand the mechanics, you can't find the solution. Frustrating because after trying the obvious solutions, then trying other ways that couldn't possibly work, you find yourself clicking everything on screen in the vain hope that something works. When I did eventually learn a solution, mostly thanks to Google, I came away feeling annoyed because the solution rarely felt obvious.

Frustrating puzzles aside, the game has plenty to offer. Even scanning the local wildlife is fun. Using the tool held in your right hand (which looks conspicuously like a Move controller, yet the game doesn't offer Move functionality) animals and other wildlife all contain a number of green and red lights. Scan all the green lights without hitting any red lights and the creature is scanned and added to your database. Even six hours into the game, this mechanic was still fun.

While Robinson only offers a few locations (from farms to tarpits, jungles to caves) each one provides new opportunities to be wowed, and when I got a chance to progress to a new area I wasn't disappointed with what I found.

In fact, I found that the desire to see new locations was pulling me along more than the rather lacklustre story, told through short videos that you can access after collecting HIGS units along your journey.

The game also boasts some interesting gameplay mechanics. One of the common puzzle mechanics involves you going into 'HIGS Mode', which transports you above the local environment to re-route power to open different areas or provide power to machines that help you progress. Moving to this new viewpoint is interesting, and makes the area feel more like a model train set than the detailed and immersive environment you were just in.

Along your journey you also need to climb, and this is where Crytek took the rock climbing mechanics from its own Oculus Rift VR title, 'The Climb'. Using L1 and R1, you can move your left and right hands independently to grab onto ledges as you scale trees, traverse rock faces and climb up cliffs, and this meant that even simple excursions proved to be enjoyable and rewarding experiences.

Speaking of controls, Robinson: The Journey uses traditional FPS style controls, with the right stick rotating your view, the left stick used for strafing. Although the game offers 'comfort settings' that reduce the speed of rotation, or the amount you can rotate with each press, there is still a need to take this game slowly to reduce motion sickness. Although the first few goes I was having to take the headset off after 15 minutes, by the end I could play for 90 minutes with no problem. So yes, this is another game to test out your 'VR legs'.

The thing I enjoyed most about Robinson: The Journey wasn't the graphics, or even the sight of seeing huge dinosaurs right next to me. It was the strong sense of place that I felt. It wasn't just another 3D environment, the likes of which we've explored and run through a million times before. The addition of VR, and the level of detail and fabulous art design meant that it truly felt like I had BEEN there. I had travelled there. I remember more about specific vantage points that I stood at for 10 seconds just looking at the view, or climbing across an area in the jungle, than I have in tons of other games in the past.

Not only that, but the base game is good enough even without the added element of viewing the world in 3D virtual reality, but the benefit of that is that I felt like I truly visited Tyson III.

Many have complained about the high price tag for this game, and the fact you can race through the main campaign within two hours. My playthrough lasted closer to five hours, and there's plenty more for me to go back for. With its impressive graphics and potential for a greatly enhanced sequel, I think this is one of those games that people will look back on as quite an important title in PSVR's early life. There's plenty to see and do in Robinson: The Journey, and this is only the beginning.

Pros:
+ Some of the most impressive graphics on PSVR so far.
+ Seeing huge dinosaurs up close is a special moment.
+ The world Crytek has built is expertly realised.

Cons:
- Control system can definitely lead to motion sickness.
- Puzzle solutions are far from clear.
- Weak story.

SPOnG Score: 7/10

Version tested: PS4 Pro

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