Gorn is one of those games you can describe in just a few words. It's a VR beat-'em-up where you engage gormless gladiators in a bloody fight to the death. That's kind of it, really, but that simple concept makes for a more engaging experience than you might think. One of virtual reality's first success stories on PC systems, it's finally out on PlayStation VR, and it's easy to see why people like it.
Armed with a pair of Move controllers, you'll enter each stage with set weapons and waves of enemies to kill. There's little story or context to worry about; you're a warrior, and it's your job to entertain your king (and some giant floating heads) in over-the-top battles within a colosseum. It's just an excuse for you to wield deadly weaponry and beat, bash, slash, and stab each foe in brutal fashion.
There are some occasional controller-tracking issues, but on the whole it works well. With mostly melee weapons like maces, flails, axes, swords, and spears, playing Gorn is as simple as swinging your arms around. Each weapon has a cartoon-like wobble to it, which pairs well with the visual style, but it also lends each blow a kinetic feel. When you land a hit on an enemy, it strikes with cathartic force. Combined with gnarly audiovisual feedback, you'll feel very powerful in the arena (you can turn the blood off, if you'd prefer to beat up piñatas). Frankly, it's a great stress reliever, and not a bad workout.
Other weapon types are trickier. A bow and arrows is a little fiddly to use but very satisfying when you hit your target, and throwing knives rely on your own ability to chuck things accurately, so results will vary. Wrist-mounted crossbows are fun to use but take a long time to wind up, and the game doesn't do a good job of telling you how to use them. Then there are two-handed weapons. These suffer most from any tracking troubles and are generally harder to wield effectively. That said, when you successfully smash an oversized hammer down on an opponent's head, or send one flying into a spiked wall with a staff, they can be some of the game's most entertaining weapons.
It might sound like you can get through the game simply flailing about like a madman, but there are ways the game forces you to be a little more careful than that. Many gladiators emerge wearing pieces of armour, which bladed weaponry will struggle with. You'll either have to strike exposed areas or use blunt weapons to bash armour off. You can also block incoming attacks, and shields are great for countering archers. Gorn is mostly a silly way of letting you carve up an army of goons, but occasionally it asks you for a hint of strategy.
If you're hit, though, strategy may quickly go out the window. Taking damage is merciless; your vision turns red, and you have just a few precious seconds to kill someone or it's game over. Checkpointing is relatively forgiving, but getting hit puts you in panic mode, and you're not really given enough time to fight back. It's not impossible, but it is frustrating to die from one strike when enemies often require several blows to the head -- possibly more depending on how armoured they are.
Locomotion can also make things a little tricky. You get about by holding one arm in front of you, holding the Move button, and pulling your arm back. Rinse repeat to "walk", and use a couple of face buttons to turn in increments. It works well enough and allows you to navigate the arena freely, but it takes some getting used to and is definitely on the fiddly side.
Fortunately, you don't need to move an awful lot during each stage. Levels throw waves of warriors at you, and most of them will beeline towards you. After defeating enough enemies, a free-for-all will start, and this is when opponents will target each other unless you happen to be closest. After all that, each stage ends with a boss fight. These guys look intimidating, but in truth can go down pretty fast. Achilles, for instance, is armoured head to toe -- aside from his left foot. You know what to do.
There aren't many levels to play through, but they have optional objectives to encourage you to return, and an Endless mode pits you against as many baddies as you can handle. Playing each stage unlocks the weapons it introduces for use in custom battles too, so it's worth going through everything to ensure you have all the toys to play with.
Gorn puts you in the boots of a powerful gladiator and gives you everything you need to let loose on hapless opponents. When it's at its best, this is a satisfying PSVR experience, offering up truly physical and cathartic action with over-the-top violence. Sadly, it does run into some problems, such as iffy movement and motion tracking problems. There's plenty to like about this OTT title, but without these sticking points it could've been a real PSVR champion.