Virtual reality (VR) puzzle experiences can offer some of the most engaging and thought provoking challenges, providing a real sense of immersion with gameplay mechanics that truly get players engrossed. Charm Games’ latest title FORM has this in spades, alongside a beautifully surreal visual aesthetic that makes the experience a joy to play.
FORM is an amalgamation of science fiction and the otherworldly possibilities of the mind where you play Dr. Devin Eli, a scientist trying to unlock the secrets of The Obelisk, a recently discovered ancient artifact that could hold clues to life, the universe and everything in between. In unlocking its secrets you’re transported to a plane of existence inside the doctors mind, where his memories are interwoven with abstract puzzles that unlock evermore weird and wonderful imagery.
Charm Games has created a visual and audible treat for HTC Vive players with puzzles that interlock and expand the world around them. The actual puzzle challenges themselves aren’t horrendously difficult by any means, they can range from aligning shapes, or forming patterns, to memory challenges involving music. By taking careful note of your surroundings and the tools presented none of the puzzles should leave you stumped for any length of time – to complete the entire videogame for this review took around an hour.
That might be off putting for a lot of people, if an experience can be completed within such a relatively short length of time, as that can air on the side of a tech demo – previous VRFocus reviews have chastised videogames for being to short – but by the time you’ve finished FORM you’re likely not to be that annoyed with this particular shortcoming due to the quality of the entire experience. In fact you’ll probably start playing it through again just to see if you’ve missed anything – during one segment a small golden present can be found.
FORM makes you feel like you’re inside the puzzle more than anything else, and if you’ve played Fireproof Games’ series of puzzle titles The Room you’ll feel right at home as the first challenge is a puzzle box of sorts – it doesn’t stay that way for long though. As you progress through the videogame you’ll come across snippets of Dr. Eli’s thoughts and memories, fleshing out the backstory somewhat. These thoughts appear as bubbles which become clearer when picked up and elude to a much bigger story arc.
As with any decent VR title audio has a primary role to play in the festivities. While subtle and ambient at first, the latter stages unleash into a full crescendo of music and sounds, interplaying with the puzzles for maximum effect. FORM is one of those experiences that makes you realise what a good set of headphones can provide, turning the ordinary into the extraordinary.
While FORM isn’t perfect, it sure comes close. Yes it’s a bit too easy, and could do with an extra hour or two of gameplay (the latter is really just a moan because you’ll just want more to play), but Charm Games has created a mesmerising experience from start to finish.