Sony’s VR headset has had a reasonably consistent release schedule when it comes to new software. Some of these titles have been rather good, while some have been less than stellar. The Lost Bear is a new side-scrolling platformer by indie team The Odd Bug Studio, and it’s another of the smaller VR titles worth putting your headset on for.
The Lost Bear is a charming little side-scroller, which, while that may not sound like an ideal match for VR, manages to delight at just about every turn. The game is presented and plays like a traditional side-scrolling title for the most part, but the key difference is, naturally, the VR element. This sees you sitting in a comfy chair, essentially looking at a stage production. Within the stage is the side scrolling portion of the game, while everything around you is an extension of the environments that you're seeing. Walking past a smattering of fireflies in the game will see them head outwards and surround you - stuff like that. While this VR portion doesn’t really add anything to the gameplay - other than a mechanic where you have to attach the DualShock 4 to levers to operate them within the virtual space - it adds a lot of depth to the environments, upping the immersion factor significantly.
But, like we said, this is a small title. The entire game clocks in at barely an hour – five rather brief chapters - and that accounts for us dying and messing up jumps on several occasions. This makes the price point feel a little steep at $12.99, but for better or worse, that’s par for the course when it comes to many VR titles. The narrative in the game, given the brief runtime, is also rather threadbare. You play as a little girl who lives in the woods with someone - maybe her father? Uncle? It’s never made clear - whose teddy bear gets stolen by some kind of spider creature. While chasing down your teddy, some disturbing mechanical thing called “The Snatcher” pursues you, and with the help of a mystical bear, you must cavort through the game's wonderfully crafted environments trying to retrieve your estranged stuffed animal.
The gameplay consists mostly of very basic platforming. However, the timing is easy to mess up in several spots, leading to a few deaths, and the long load times that accompany them. This makes some gauntlet segments feel more like trial and error rather than something designed to complete in one go, which, while a little cheap, doesn’t happen often enough to truly feel problematic. The other really major mechanic involves using a slingshot to dislodge things from branches or brambles to create the path forward or destroy enemies, and there's a standout slingshot puzzle where you have to match the notes played by a series of bells by hitting them in the correct order. While not terribly complicated, it's a nice addition all the same. The only other real mechanic to speak of is the aforementioned one that uses the DualShock 4 to operate machinery, which is the only real VR-focused gameplay element. All in all, it’s a pretty standard title on the gameplay side of things.
Fortunately, the presentation is far and away the thing that sold us on The Lost Bear. Everything has a folksy charm to it, from the acoustic guitar soundtrack - which is delightful - to the woodsy environments, to the player character's home. Everything just feels like it’s bathed in this wonderful atmosphere, and that helped put a smile on our face throughout our playthrough.
A short runtime paired with a comparatively steep price shouldn’t be enough to keep you away from The Lost Bear. The title’s simple gameplay may not challenge you, but the overwhelming charm of the title should win you over. Between the calming soundtrack, beautiful art direction, and delightfully impressive environmental depth afforded by the platform, The Lost Bear is a cute and worthwhile addition to your VR library.