Head-tracking control has already been led in some interesting directions. Developers are taking that core feature of virtual reality (VR) head-mounted displays (HMDs), primarily used to simulate moving your own head within a VR environment, and creating some innovative new mechanics. The results thus far have been mixed; Land’s End manages to remove some barriers to immersion by doing away with the controller while other titles have that same factor broken without more precise control methods. Likeable but flawed, Vektron Revenge lands somewhere in the middle of this experimental field.
Developed by Luovic Texier and entered into this year’s Oculus VR Mobile Jam, Vektron Revenge is an intriguing, light take on the arcade shoot ’em up that ultimately fails to overcome the hurdles of its control scheme.
Played from a third-person perspective, you guide a ball on a 2D cylindrical plane that constantly fires in four directions: up, down, left and right. The core principals of the arcade shooter remain untouched, as players must destroy enemies, collect extra points and power-ups and raise as high a score as possible before their three lives are up. It’s about as simple as the genre gets, with only four enemy types that attack in varied formations, though large obstacles do begin to reduce the room around you very early on.
What’s different is how the player moves the ball. Instead of relying on an analogue stick to nimbly weave around enemies, the ball follows a small marker placed in the centre of your display. As you drag the marker round by simply moving your head, the ball will give chase at a fraction of a slower speed. It’s easy to see the potential for this in your first round, and the developer has clearly spent time fine tuning the experience to achieve an appropriate speed for the ball to follow at.
The simple truth, however, is that this never proves to be a fitting replacement for twin stick controls in which you would have command over the direction of your fire and much more accurate movement. Vektron Revenge is certainly tailored for the unconventional control scheme, at first giving you plenty of space to operate within. The nature of the system, however, makes it all too easy to make mistakes when you clear a screen and quickly throw your head around in search of new enemies. There are twitch-based controls and then there’s this; a system that relies on a part of your body you instinctively move every time you notice something out of the corner of your eye.
Again, it’s not an especially frustrating experience nor a poorly designed one; it’s a noble attempt to see if this type of control scheme could work that doesn’t quite convince you. And, at $2.99 USD, its failure if far more forgiving than if it had been one of the higher priced titles on the platform.
Presentation-wise the title boasts a neon wireframe look that – like a lot of VR videogames – can be traced back to Tron. What’s especially appreciated about this is a novel menu sequence, in which you’ll travel through the screen of an arcade cabinet. It’s a nice touch, though you’ll pass some arcade sticks on your way in, and wonder what might have been if the developer had opted for a more traditional control scheme.
Vektron Revenge causes pause for thought about how head-tracking could change the arcade genre, if never providing definitive proof that it will. It’s an admirable experiment and one that the developer will have no doubt learned a lot from making. Let’s hope that Luovic Texier’s next VR project builds upon these foundations.