Owlchemy Labs is a pioneer in the virtual reality (VR) space, clearly understanding from the outset that what gamers need is plenty of interaction, no matter how silly or small that might be. Job Simulator was a testament to that, switching between various job roles that were instinctively easy to pick up whilst adding some humour to flavour the whole experience. And that methodology hasn’t really changed in the years since, simply adapting to evolving hardware becoming more immersive in the process. So stepping into Cosmonious High doesn’t feel unnatural or alien, more like putting on a new Christmas jumper after the one you’ve loved for 6 years has finally needed to be retired.
If you have played Job Simulator, Vacation Simulator or Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-Ality, enjoying their Nickelodeon-like charm and sandpit gameplay then Cosmonious High doesn’t exactly break new ground. This is Owlchemy Labs knowing exactly its forte when it comes to VR and why change? Job Simulator still maintains its number two spot on PlayStation VR’s download charts for 2021, no small feat considering it was a launch title for the headset in 2016.
Anyway, onto Cosmonious High which has a bit more of an educational vibe to parts of the gameplay (hardly surprising) whilst still adding some innovation and managing to put a smile on my face at the same time. This was only a demo gmw3 got to play but it provided a tantalising treat as to what’s to come.
The storyline revolves around you being the new kid at school, an intergalactic high school full of kids from various corners of the universe. You’re slightly different though, you can gain abilities that can help repair the school, aid assignments, impress your fellow classmates or just create a little havoc should you wish (and I did). You’ve basically got magic hands, and by pressing the back of each you can swap to different abilities once they’ve been unlocked. For the demo, there was the ability to shoot water from each palm, freeze stuff or a crystal making ability that also functioned as a way to connect electrical circuits.
Half the school was on fire upon entry so it was instantly out with the hand sprinklers to douse everything so the place didn’t burn to the ground…in space. Owlchemy Labs, being the savvy developers they are have ensured these hand hydrants aren’t simply good for extinguishing fires; water the plants and watch them grow or find a paint station, pick a colour, go wild and decorate the place a bit!
The key here is experimentation. Two classrooms were available, a chemistry lab with its own particle accelerator and an art class, full of paints, blobs to splash paint and more. So each has its own particular attributes where you can spend as much or as little time as you like. There are assignments to complete to earn credits – you are a student after all – but they weren’t fixed into a rigid order, mixing time between each class saw an hour go by easy as I picked, pulled, flung and just played around with everything. Both relaxing and immensely enjoyable.
Yet there were a couple of negatives worth mentioning. First up is locomotion and the fact that only teleport was available. Great for new players but for me and other VR veterans smooth locomotion is sorely needed, hopefully, that’ll be in the final version. The other was selecting those abilities on the back of each hand. You can have different abilities on each, say freeze on your left and water on the right but it was always awkward to press that button as it is, essentially, directly on the back of your hand. Trying to press it meant hitting the controllers together numerous times, trying to twist them at odd angles to get the stubby virtual finger even close to the button.
Aside from that my time in Cosmonious High was a joyous one. Considering it was only a demo there was already plenty to do so expect the final version to be extremely feature-rich that players young and old could easily spend hours and hours in. I’ve mentioned it once and I’ll do so again, this is Owlchemy Labs doing what it does best, providing a sandbox of fun and humour in a vibrant world; who could say no to that? Cosmonious High is due out real soon for Meta Quest and PC VR headsets.