The Wizards (Enhanced Edition) | PSVR | Review

Carbon Studios has fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine. To actually feel like a full on bad ass wizard, casting spells with hand gestures and taking down giant monstrosities with relative ease.

Oddly enough, despite being ripe for it, PSVR has severely lacked in the bad ass wizard realm since launch. I mean sure, you can play a mage in Skyrim, but your spells come at the press of a button, you don’t have to work for them. Nothing quite compares to noticing a fireball headed in your direction and being able to quickly swing your left arm in a way that produces a shield, whilst simultaneously clenching and flipping your right hand in a manner that produces a fireball of your own, then tracking the enemy in a manner to lock on and physically flicking it towards them with a hefty, yet satisfying gesture. This is one of the easier combinations to pull off.

My personal favorite was the ring of diamonds spell (probably not the official name) where you close both fists in front of you – side by side – then raise your right hand and lower your left, this is followed up by sweeping both to the opposite position in a large semi-circle motion, essentially making a circle in front of you. If successfully pulled off, a ring of diamond shaped crystals will appear. If you touch them (one by one) they will fly off and auto lock on to any enemies on screen causing mass damage. Nothing felt quite as cool as pulling those bad boys up mid-fight, then making a dramatic circular gesture and unleashing them all at once – just decimating anything on screen.

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These are a few of the 6 element-based spells you can learn and upgrade during your play through. I won’t spoil the rest, but be assured they feel equally as cool.

Luckily the aiming of said spells is mostly tight. Occasionally, with the fireball spell, I had to adjust my flick or be sure I had locked on to an enemy before unleashing the fire towards them. It was only practice makes perfect though. Within an hour or two I was topping a multitude of creatures with precision. Frankly by that time there were a lot more interesting spells to play with anyway. This is part of the earnest charm of The Wizards. Just when you think “Is this it?” you get thrown a curve ball. Honestly at times it feels a little similar to DOOM VFR. Just a touch slower and using magic instead of guns.

I say this because most of the time when facing enemies. You’re facing a LOT of them at once, they come in waves, and you have to kill everything in the room before you can continue. Occasionally, you’ll get a surprise enemy burst out of a wall or something, but largely they stick to the arena-battle style of fighting. As such, you’ll find yourself franticly using your teleport to jump to a better location when an ogre gets too close. Don’t over use it though, it gets shorter and shorter each time you do.

Teleportation is not your only means of transportation, free roam is also accessible alongside teleportation. Making the movement mechanics feel comfortable to use and full of options.

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Giant bosses are one of the more fun changes of pace that show up during your play through. The first one is pictured above. This big bastard shows up after an evil mage performs a ritual of summoning. The first time you see his big, clammy hands climb over the wall in front of you is quite awe inspiring. VR is built for these moments. The following moments, however, involve you dodging enemies, the big guy lobbing everything but the kitchen sink at you…not to mention the floor occasionally turning into a pit of fire in several places. At some point you also have to hit the guy. You definitely feel like you earned it after you topple him.

One of the more interesting additions to the game are called Fate Cards. This cards can be found throughout the game in various chests. Each card offers a unique change to gameplay. Amongst other things, giving enemies and/or you, more or less health, and effectively making the game harder or easier. These can be stacked as long as they are not opposing. The introduction of these cards gives a bit of longevity to what is around a 5 to 6 hour title.

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The story itself is told in quite a charming way. Mostly through disembodied narration as you play. Nothing quite like a charming English guy telling you he fucked up multiple times after landing in various places you’re not supposed to.

Outside of killing beasties, there are plenty of puzzles to keep you going. These get particularly interesting with the introduction of time voids. Giant glowing purple time anomalies that give you fresh paths to areas in some kind of hidden plane of existence. It all comes together nicely to create an overall gaming experience that feels fulfilling and well thought out. If I had any complaints about the story mode it would be that the enemies do start to feel a touch repetitive at times, they are a decent variety, but due to there being so many, you often times feel like you’ve kind of “seen one, seen ’em all“.

Story mode isn’t the only way to enjoy the game though, there is also an arena mode for those that hate puzzles. Allowing you to test your skills against waves of enemies. Those fate cards become particularly useful here. Also good for practicing your spell casting before attempting a hard run at the story mode.

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The Wizards is not a tentpole game. Carbon Studio is not Bethesda. They are very much punching above their weight, but boy do they make every punch count.

Considering the indie sensibilities of the studio, they have put together an impressive display in The Wizards. Sometimes games can’t be quantified by just “nice graphics, nice gameplay, nice writing“. There is something more, a feel if you will, The Wizards has that. The hand gestures for spells add that je ne sais quoi that other games of its ilk are missing. It’s clearly a labor of love and that bleeds into every moment during your play through.

I highly recommend that if you enjoy mages and magic and fancy a chance at feeling like a bad ass wizard…you give this one a shot.

The Wizards releases on March 12th for PSVR.

Sony Files For A New Patent On Local Multiplayer VR

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Recently reported by Android Headlines is a new patent registered by Sony, concerning a new and potentially unique way to play VR together locally. It would appear the system seems to be some kind of wireless base hub that connects to multiple headsets in a localized area. Sony-Patent-Multiplayer-.jpg

There are a few things to unpack about this. For one thing, it shows Sony is at least eyeing up some form of potentially wireless solution for a future iteration of it’s popular PSVR system. For another, it would mean some form of room scale tracking (similar to the HTC Vive) would be necessary in this situation, not least to stop people from walking into each other. That camera system would also have to recognize multiple headsets in 3D space at the same time.

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If this is something Sony could pull off, it would mean a giant leap forward for the future of VR gaming, which remains in a kind of constant state of flux due to hardware limitations and developers having to balance the risk of developing for a smaller install base.

However, with what we now know about Sony’s focus on mediating motion sickness and improving their VR kit in general – this all adds up to the possibility of a very impressive showing whenever the next iteration of Sony’s VR hardware hits shelves – presumably alongside or shortly after the Playstation 5.

Here’s hoping.

Sony tightens the timeframe around the release window for Everybody’s Golf VR to Spring 2019

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Sony recently posted an updated list of game release timeframes to their official Blog and we couldn’t help but notice that the vague “2019” date that was previously used during the announcement for their much anticipated VR golfing adventure has been tightened to “Spring 2019” – so sooner, rather than later!

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They again reiterate on the page that you can use both the analogue stick (very awkwardly we imagine) or the Move controller for the game, but haven’t given away much more than that.

Déraciné also gets another nod for its November 6th release, as well as a slight delay on the fan favorite Days Gone – which is now to be expected on April 26th, 2019.

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It’s worth mentioning they do point out that we can expect a date for the Beta release for Dreams (another one PSVR fans are looking forward to) and Blood & Truth some time in the hopefully near future. They aren’t quite ready to share those yet though.

We are very excited for Everybody’s Golf here at Level 2 – and hope to cover the game in full come Springtime next year.

PSVR horror title ‘The Persistence’ adds a host of accessibility features with new update

Good news for gamers with accessibility needs and especially those who really love VR!

Developers Fire Sprite have been hard to work adding in a host of new features to cater to gamers with specific needs, recently highlighted in a brand new video on Sony’s official Youtube channel.

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Amongst those things mentioned in the video are the ability top control the difficulty at a macro level, including enemy speed and ammo for yourself, the ability to see enemies through walls as large red silhouettes, sound cues (which are very important in this game) are now represented on screen with a giant skull and a direction and most importantly FULL controller button mapping is now available too.

Oh, and did we mention this is an entirely free update?

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We here at Level 2 work a lot with Ablegamers.org in trying to make it so every gamer, regardless of disability can enjoy the escapism and thrills that games offer, however VR gets largely ignored when that  conversation comes up – with the exception of the little ASL knowing mouse.

So let this be a lesson to those in the VR industry, to truly be the future of gaming, you have to cater to all gamers, everywhere – #Soeveryonecangame

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For more info on The Persistence head over to http://www.firesprite.com

For more info on accessibility in gaming head over to http://www.ablegamers.org

 

 

Dark Eclipse | Review | PSVR

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Sunsoft recently released not only the first official MOBA for Playstation VR, but also made it free for anyone who fancies dipping their toes in.

For anyone unfamiliar with the term, a ‘MOBA’ is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena game. MOBA games tend to hold huge popularity in eSport circles. Mostly because the strategy involved makes for exciting competition if you understand what’s going on.

If you don’t understand what’s going on though, they can seem like quite the convoluted mess.

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What makes this one unique of course if the fact that it’s in full VR. So you can actually move the map around at your leisure, and watch the fighting unfold in glorious 3D in front of you.

Oddly enough the game has very few actual controls. It can be played on a single Move controller or half a Dualshock 4. It really just boils down to you dragging your characters (‘Leaders’) around the map and occasionally clicking on the environment or enemies, the rest is map manipulation. This will be good news for people who are intimidated at the idea of things like hot keys in more traditional MOBA fare.

The only part of the controls I found a little odd was moving your on screen *hand* (this represents your controller) out of field of view and double tapping the Move button to rotate the board. I don’t know if I was doing it wrong or not, but I felt like my board was a million miles away every time I did this and it took forever to get the orientation right. This was literally the only thing  struggled with control wise and I assume it was mostly just me being an idiot. If I was doing it correctly, this definitely could have been implemented smoother.

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Worth pointing out that despite this game being free, there are micro transactions. Everything from new and exciting Leaders to avatars, skins, on-screen hands and more…

Everything non-cosmetic can be earned with in-game XP. In fact some of the Leaders can ONLY be earned with in-game XP, so you definitely will either need to grind your way to a full roster or drop a small amount to pick up the ones you’re after. Currently they have quite a few deals going on in bundle packs though, so if you dig the game (and of course you can test it for free) then you’ll know if its worth dropping some hard earned cheddar on those goodies or better to just grind it out.

I will say, most of my favorite Leaders were ones that are purchasable, however I am still getting to grips with many of the characters, so don’t let that put you off.

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So let’s talk about the game itself.

Dark Eclipse is a very simple concept with a potential for deep strategy behind it. At the beginning of the game, you select three Leaders and your opponent selects three Leaders. You start the game on either side of landscape board. There are several that show up, in order to keep things fresh and interesting. You then set about moving your Leaders around the board to open up areas that are beyond your line of sight, by simply moving into them.

On the board are several things. First of all “Eaters” which are just random enemies natural to the environment. They vary in size, shape and difficulty. Killing these bad boys will net your Leaders the ability to level up faster, and thus be more influential in the game. There are even mega sized epic Eaters that will show up and fuck everybody up.

You, your enemy, everybody. Those are particularly cool.

Next up are Base nodes. These little purple areas show up in various places and can be used to build mini forwarding bases along the map. These bases have many uses, you can actually select which type you want to build, and dependent on which you choose, they’ll have different levels of sustainability and firepower. If you choose to fight an enemy in an area controlled by your base, it kind of becomes an extra warrior in its own right – reigning down hellfire on those who would try to take it, and you, out.

To build a base of course, you’ll need resources. These come in the form of trees that are littered around the environment. Each Leader has one or two little soldier types that follow them around and can be sent out to gather resources for base building purposes. They’ll also join in on the fights too, but don’t expect them to last long. The type of mini soldier you have can also be changed and upgraded from the original base you start and respawn at.

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So then, why are we doing all this base building and Eater stomping? What is the end goal here? Quite simply….to destroy your opponents main base. That’s it. Wreck that and it’s game over.

In one of my online matches a cheeky bugger kept sending a lone guy just to come and attack my base over and over again all by himself. Whilst it was a brazen move, the poor little guy continually just got #Rekt over and over. Eventually he gave up on that strategy., and eventually the match itself. Glad to see rage quitting is still alive and well.

Speaking of online. You can play this game against AI, friends, online (friendly) and online (ranked) I highly recommend starting out against the AI (after the tutorial) to get a handle on the ebbs and flows before taking on a human opponent. You’ll be glad you did.

Once you get it though, it really clicks. The strategy, the timing, the flanking and using of abilities. All building up to a crescendo of owning so much territory and being so powerful that the only logical move is to walk onto the opponents base and beat the shit out of it. Preferably whilst all three of their Leaders are respawning from a lost fight.

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The graphics are serviceable (I played on a PS4 PRO) but nothing dazzling. Considering the amount of on screen chaos from time to time with zero frame drops, i could kind of see why this might have been a wise choice on the developers behalf.

Graphics aside, what you will get in spades from Dark Eclipse is solid, lengthy gameplay. One match can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on how well matched you are with an opponent. Sadly twice during my time playing i did receive a disconnection error that stopped the game mid-match, pretty frustrating after building everything up for such a long time and being in a prime position to make my move on the enemy base. I’m uncertain what caused the disconnects though. At least one of them had my opponent leave, the other was not explained. Hopefully this was mostly just an anomaly and not a regular occurrence.

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Dark Eclipse does exactly what it says on the tin. It is a well put together, enjoyable MOBA in full VR and at no charge to you. Unless you wish to play it a lot more with better options, in which case you can either grind or pay for more characters. Despite a few kinks with my online connections and board rotation skills, I really enjoyed the game and can definitely see myself getting sucked in on a regular basis. It has that “one more game” element to it that fans of the genre will know all too well.

If you own a PSVR, you owe it to yourself to give this one a shot.

Check some of my finer gameplay in the video below:

 

DARK ECLIPSE is available now to download for free on the PlayStation®4 Store.

Blind | Review | PSVR

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Blind is built from the ground up for VR.

Which is a phrase i don’t often get to say, but when i do, it always means you’re in for a little extra treat. Blind is no exception.

Why that little phrase means so much is because the developers took into consideration everything in the virtual environment whilst piecing together their vision. So everything from the visuals, the binaural audio, and very specifically the immersion level – go that extra mile.

In a case like Blind, they kind of have to.

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In Blind you play Jean, a young girl who has had a horrific accident and no longer has use of her sight. Bad time to wake up in a mansion with a creepy spiky-headed goon giving you the Jigsaw treatment then?

Jean soon comes to terms with her predicament and her captor is relatively calm and actually a little soothing, considering the situation.

He explains that you will need to partake in a bit of puzzle solving to find out why you are trapped in this house, but does not leave you alone in the dark. So far you’ve been relying totally on environmental audio to use your Daredevil-esque echolocation abilities. Ole’ spiky lends you something better for the journey.

A cane.

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You can whip your cane out in either hand by simply pressing the Move button. The fact it comes up so quickly and is so easily interchangeable is a god send given the amount of times you’re going to be using it over the next few hours.

Blind does indeed control solely through use of the Move controllers. The button layout isn’t terribly confusing, but it is a shame about the lack of VR control options. The most similar scheme i can think of is The Solus Project. You use the left controller buttons for Forward, Backward, Menu & Centering yourself. The right controller turns you 30 degrees incrementally in either direction and allows you to crouch – which you’ll use more than you think.

Hopefully later on the developers will consider adding a smooth turning option – frankly it should be standard at this point.

Although, it is worth pointing out you can kind of steer a bit with the direction your head is facing. Another welcome option when in the thick of things.

The game can be played standing up or sitting down, however if you have a couch set up similar to mine and are as care free with flinging useful items around as I am, you’ll be doing a bit of both. Honestly it’s only a short game, so if you’re looking for a recommendation – try standing first.

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After getting a handle on how to move, you have to get a handle on how to move in the dark. After all, you are blind.

To put it quite simply, you whack your cane against things to see the surrounding area. The bigger the whack, the more sound you make, the more you see. Sequential whacks will make it brighter, but don’t push it too far, you can actually hurt yourself if you go too cane crazy. As pointed out by Ole’ Spiky (correctly referred to as “The Warden“) you tend to get into a rhythm pretty quickly.

It does, however, take a lot longer to get into the rhythm of the puzzles.

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Early in the game i picked up a gem stone of some kind from a toolbox, which prompted an audio line – “I’m on the right track” I thought.

Wrong.

The gem promptly disappeared from my grip, leaving me to believe i had dropped it, glitched something out, and was now stuck forever in a dark room. As it turns out, I was being melodramatic. There are many of these stones dotted around the place. I’ve no idea what they mean, but once i figured that out i felt a lot better about the situation and decided to proceed as normal.

The game does little in the way of holding your hand, which i suppose is appropriate given your situation. Occasionally you might get lucky with a voice line that hints at something, but largely you just have to be very observant of your environment. Plenty of things are DEEPLY hidden away, in draws, behind books on bookshelves, behind innocuous paintings. Dig deep friends.

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“But Tom”, you may ask. “Why the hell am I in this mansion to begin with?” Great question. Unfortunately that’s on you to find out. As you make your way through the labyrinth of doors and staircases you’ll begin to discover things about your family.

Bad things.

When you were in your accident – the one that left you blind – you had your little brother in the car with you. He is seemingly nowhere to be found. So that is pressing issue number one. Everything beyond that is an intricately woven narrative of domestic abuse and disfunction. One that The Warden seems dead set on having you relive, to some extent.

Things definitely get a little intense towards the end. I won’t spoil it, but if you were wondering if you’d be ok playing this if you did not like horror games. I might steer clear.  Just to be safe. Even I was a little on edge at times, Anything that hunts by sound is inherently terrifying right?

I’ve said too much…

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Of course Blind isn’t the first of its kind. An earlier PSVR release by the name of ‘Stifled‘ claimed a similar mechanic and vibe, but the two are innately different in presentation and play style. It’s an unfair comparison outside of the echolocation mechanic. Blind is leaps and bounds ahead of Stifled in terms of presentation, and i really liked Stifled.

The voice acting is welcome, but stiff in places. With the exception of Jean’s mother, who nails her scenes well and brought about genuine emotion in me.

My only other major complaint is that the ending definitely could have been stronger. The entire game took me around 2 to 3 hours to complete, I did it in one sitting. Considering how strong the family drama narrative was at the beginning and throughout most of the middle sections of the game, despite the big reveal (which was well implemented stylistically) and the overall change of pace (which was stellar) the *actual* end was kind of….meh.

Maybe i built it up too much in my head? Maybe it should have ended on the reveal?

It wasn’t bad, by any means, it just felt a little like it was shoe horning existentialism into something that already had strong, dramatic roots in reality.

All in all, Blind was time well spent. The thing about virtual reality is that an experience as unusual as this one will stick with you. It almost becomes a false memory of “that time you were blind and fumbling ’round a mansion with Ole’ Spiky” Weird how that works. If nothing else i have new found respect for those of us in society who don’t get to take the headset off, and really do have to use a cane to *see* the world around them.

There is no other medium that can give you that experience.

Built from the ground up.

Tom’s full gameplay experience (with no commentary) was captured above. If you plan on picking this up, avoid watching too far in for fear of spoilers.

You have been warned. 

Blind is now available for PSVR. Oculus Rift & HTC Vive.

 

Catch & Release | Review | PSVR

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I remember fishing.

I only went once or twice back in England, but always had a good time.

Admittedly that had more to do with the copious amount of drugs partaken in before getting anywhere close to sticking a maggot on a hook, but i still look back fondly on those trips and remember the rush of catching my first carp with a wry smile.

The worst part about fishing was always a combination of the weather and the wait. England is wet, dull, miserable even, so hanging around on the side of a lake for HOURS at a time in the small hope that you might get a nibble on the end of your line was somewhat of a chore.

Hence the drugs.

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I have since grown up (arguably) and no longer need recreational substances to enjoy a trip to the river. To be honest though, i rarely feel the call of the wild. I’d much rather just hang out in my basement and do things on my own terms.

Catch & Release is perfect for me.

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PSVR has had a few fishing games, although none of them really hit the nail on the head. I mean unless you like demon fish in a Final Fantasy setting or Dream Angling…whatever the hell that is.

Catch & Release seems to be the first game of its kind to actually get the idea of fishing right. Just you, a lake, and a mixture of relaxation and excitement for when you eventually do get a bite.

After the initial “what button does what” breaking-in phase, and a quick glance at the options, I was ready to hit the lake. Mercifully, everything is relatively simple and explained well. The VR settings don’t run awfully deep, but why would they need to? It’s not like we’re ripping around a futuristic racing track at 200mph. Rowing a boat is fairly intuitive and definitely doesn’t need a vignette for sharp turns.

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After rowing out to the center of the lake it’s time to get to grips with my surroundings. I notice a couple books, a sandwich, a beer, a stone, a radio, a cooler, some bait and of course, my rod.

The tutorial does a great job of explaining the opening salvo. So i thread my bait (much less icky than real life) and cast out. Within a minute or so i get a bite, and before i can even really register what’s going on, my line breaks.

Apparently this is going to be a little tougher than first thought.

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I need some tunes. So i reach for the radio and find the least audibly offensive station i can (hope you like country) and give it another shot. This game is all about give and take. If your fish is pulling hard, slack the line. If your fish isn’t doing much, reel it in. This to and fro is what eventually tires your enemy and allows you to pull it aboard. Once aboard you have two options – stick it in the cooler, or let it go.

You get cash either way, but the amount varies. Smaller fish should be thrown back, bigger fish kept and sold. You can even buy a small weighing station for the boat to determine if a fish is worth it or not, In fact you can buy a lot of things. Bait, food, drink, stones, hats, rods, all from your handy dandy magazine. Think the lake equivalent of Sky Mall.

Lake Mall…if you will.

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Honestly this is pretty much all there is to it. Which in my eyes, is fucking great!

Row boat, catch fish, buy stuff, catch bigger and/or more interesting fish…repeat.

Mix in some decent music and some fun VR distractions, like drinking virtual beer, and you’ve got me hook, line and sinker. Pun intended.

That’s all it ever needed to be. Just you and the lake. The fish genuinely feel massively procedural. It is exciting to get a whopper…and they do exist.

Being able to travel to different areas and make use of your little guide book to discover exactly what your fish likes bait-wise and its whereabouts, is fun, and makes you feel like you have to do a bit of detective work to truly get what you’re looking for. This makes it vastly more enjoyable when you finally hook it and start the fight to reel it in.

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Catch & Release is everything it needed to be. Light on exposition, fun mechanics, replayability, decent graphics and actually benefits from a VR setting. It’s the ultimate palette cleanser after digging into something more spooky or adrenaline peaking. If you’ve been looking for a relaxing fishing sim in VR…look no further.

You can see 30 minutes of uninterrupted gameplay right here and make up your own mind.

Catch & Release is available on PSVR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive & Windows Mixed Reality.