The first thing you'll probably hear about Arca's Path by Dream Reality Interactive, is that you control the game exclusively with your head. Normally, such an idea would be an immediate turn off for most VR enthusiasts. The Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and HTC Vive all feature capable motion-controllers, why not take full and total advantage of them? In fact, I was wondering the exact same thing in my first five minutes with this game. Why can't I simply use the thumbstick on my Oculus Touch controller to guide the ball through the beautiful environments of Dream Reality Interactive's first major release?
The answer to that question is two fold. First off, the developers could add thumbstick/touchpad control to the game with very little effort. However, the challenge and difficulty of the game would be compromised in such a way, that players would breeze through the levels with the greatest of ease. Complaints about head-movement would be substituted for complaints about a lack of difficulty. The other answer to why they settled on a hands-free, gaze-based approach to the game, is because it works. Surprisingly well in fact. I was fully prepared to write this game off completely because of the control scheme, but the more I gave it a chance, the more I could see why they made the decision in the first place.
By allowing the player to control the game with simple, subtle movements of their head, it opens the game up to a much wider audience. Imagine putting a VR headset on Grandpa and instructing him on how to play Fallout 4 VR. It would likely be an exercise in futility. There's so many different buttons to learn, all while the player is blindfolded by the VR headset on their heads. Not a great recipe. However, you put Grandpa in Arca's Path, and it only takes a few seconds of explanation before Grandpa will understand how to move the sphere around with reckless abandon.
The gameplay of Arca's Path is not unlike Marble Madness or Super Monkey Ball. You're guiding this ball through a twisting course of various ramps and platforms, while trying to collect as many crystals as possible. You'll see a triangle on the ground very close to your sphere, and this triangle is what you're actually controlling. If you move your head in such a way as to move the triangle forward, away from your ball, the ball will start to pick up speed and momentum. You move the triangle back, closer to the sphere, and it will start to slow down considerably. It doesn't take too long to get the hang of it, and before you know it, you'll be able to stop your sphere on a dime. Which is absolutely critical as you get into later levels where the intricacy and challenge is upped significantly.
The true star of the show in Arca's Path is actually the sound design. The sound effects and background soundtrack fit the game like a glove. Ninja Tunes artist, Raffertie is responsible for the chilled, experimental electro music featured in the game. I'm not personally familiar with this artist, but I can say that the music reminded me of Daft Punk's Tron soundtrack. The sound effects were done equally as well. Conveying information and purpose. It all comes together nicely. Even more impressive though, is the ambient sounds that you hear as you make your way through the various levels and stages. These atmospheric sounds breathe life into the world and give it a unique flavor all it's own.
At this point, it may seem like I have nothing but praise to heap onto Dream Reality Interactive's inaugural VR effort, but there are some minor issues to consider. First off, some may find the game a bit short. Twenty Five levels is a pretty decent amount of content, but if you blow through these courses quickly, you could feel a bit shortchanged at the overall brevity of the experience. I personally find the content-to-price ratio perfectly reasonable. The game is currently being sold for $19.99, although it has a small discount of 10 percent to celebrate the launch. The other issue, is that the pinpoint control required in later levels might be a bit too challenging, even bordering on frustration. I understand this is a tricky balance for a developer. Some will complain the game is too easy if the difficulty never spikes. Others will say the difficulty spikes too much, too quickly. You really can't please everyone in this regard.
My final takeaway, is that this is an extremely polished and well made VR game, priced appropriately. Had this been priced at $29.99, I'd probably find the value proposition a bit lacking. I never thought I'd appreciate a VR game controlled exclusively by head movements, but Arca's Path has shown this is indeed possible, as well as pleasurable. There's something nice about sitting in a comfy chair, playing Arca's Path, with your controllers sitting on the ground, unused. You can really get snuggled up into your chair, while at the same time enjoying a powerful VR experience that you have complete control over. Lazy gamers rejoice!