No new hardware launch is complete without a minigame collection; PlayStation VR Worlds, however, is not your average Wii Sports knock-off. Developed by Sony's own London Studio, this is a hodgepodge package collating the half-dozen or so tech demos that the studio has concocted over the years. As such, while the compilation includes some of the most impressive experiences that you'll find on the Japanese giant's virtual reality headset at launch, it lacks consistency and focus.
We'll start with The London Heist, which is easily the set's greatest, er, asset. A short story set in Guy Ritchie's gangster-infested East End, this 30 minute adventure underlines all of the advantages of virtual reality with seeming ease. Whether you're perched in the corner of a seedy pub puffing back on a cigar or shooting at motorcyclists from the passenger seat of a getaway car, this is a real tour-de-force that you won't want to end.
The game changer here is the way in which the title tracks two PlayStation Move controllers, and transforms them into your gloved Alice Bands. By pulling the trigger on the back you can grab objects, which opens up all sorts of opportunities. Whether it's slurping on a fast food soda or changing the radio station, the motion tracking is so precise that it feels borderline real. And when the excrement inevitably hits the fan, you'll find yourself naturally reaching for ammo in order to manually reload your firearm.
There's just so much cool stuff packed into this brief demo that we'd exhaust our word limit simply describing it all. One sequence sees you locked up with a Vinnie Jones-esque thug, and as he proceeds to blow smoke in your face, you can either blow it back (with the microphone on the headset detecting your breath) or waft it out of the way with your hand. The characters even appear to react to your actions, knowing where you're looking at times, and commenting on it.
It's a shame, then, that rather than flesh out the demo and transform it into some kind of virtual reality The Getaway sequel, the remainder of this package generally falls short. Ocean Descent, the second part of the package, is a decent enough demo to show friends and family, but it wears out its welcome once you've experienced it a couple of times. There are slightly different takes on the deep sea dunk that you can try, but they all more or less amount to the same thing.
And from there, it really starts to go downhill – literally, in fact. VR Luge sees you strapped to a skateboard and racing down a steep decline, attempting to avoid traffic and set a fast time. It's a nice concept in principle, but steering using your head is jerky, and once you lose control, it can feel like you've completely squandered your run. Practice will make you better at this mode, but we never really felt the urge to replay it enough to hone our skills.
Danger Ball's a bit better – a virtual reality adaptation of the brilliant browser-based Pong clone, Curveball. You use your head to control a paddle in a futuristic sports arena here, and must bat a ball back to your opponent, craning your neck to add slice to your shots. There are a number of different enemies, each with a unique ability, from a fan which pushes the ball back faster in your direction, all the way through to a mimic who'll add multiple objects to the playing field.
And then there's Scavenger's Odyssey, which wins the award of being the first (and only) virtual reality experience thus far to make us feel violently sick. This is a sci-fi shmup in which you assume the role of an alien in a spider-like mech suit. It controls a little like a standard first-person shooter, with the one major exception being that you have to look around you to aim. What really stinks about this short campaign, though, is the platforming, which sees you leaping through the deep expanses of space, running up walls and going upside down.
While we've been absolutely fine playing practically all of the other PlayStation VR launch titles, this hour-long interstellar adventure caused our stomach to perform pirouettes, and we were glad to see it end. It's not exactly aided by particularly poor combat, which relies on the same two or three enemy types – one of which is a complete bullet-sponge, which seems to shake off your futuristic firepower like it's not even there.
To be fair, despite the hotchpotch nature of the package, London Studio has come up with a really nice virtual reality wrapper that ties it all together. Moreover, it's tried to invent reason for you to replay the demos, adding mini-challenges and assigning them to the Trophy system to augment a little longevity. But, quite simply, it's too inconsistent to really recommend – and with two of the five experiences being sub-par, it's not great value for money either.
PlayStation VR Worlds is messy attempt at repurposing tech demos into a retail package. While there's no doubt that The London Heist is among the best that Sony's headset has to offer, Ocean Descent is short-lived and Danger Ball won't hold your attention much longer. VR Luge is a nice idea that demands a more precise control scheme, while Scavenger's Odyssey will leave you reaching for your sick bucket. There's some amazing presentation and tech on display here, but despite London Studio's best efforts, it never really comes together as a complete, cohesive package. And while it's undoubtedly left us excited to see which worlds the developer will take us to next, it's hard to shake the feeling that these ones are nothing more than proof of concepts.