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App Lab Roundup: Art, Singing and Bar Fights

Highlighting some of the interesting indie VR videogames appearing on App Lab.

Each week we will be taking a look at some of the upcoming videogames, demos and unique experiences available through Oculus App Lab for the Meta Quest headsets. Many of these games come in varying states of completion, so each title is subject to change.

In this edition, we get creative, sing terribly and fight monstrous aliens.

Drawing Desk

Drawing Desk has two options for creating art; 2D or 3D. If you choose the latter, you’ll have the option of picking a blank 3D model – a rocket ship, or a flying unicorn, for example – and you can highlight the different sections to lay down some colour. It’s a very ‘bare bones’ approach to artistic creativity as you can’t really put together your own 3D model. It feels pretty lacklustre and because of this, it might be best suited for kids to mess around.

Picking a 2D project, however, opens up a very robust suite of tools. You’ll find yourself in a small studio room, with a blank canvas. Your non-dominant hand holds the palette with a full-colour wheel and several options for mediums. All the usual tools are here – paintbrush, sketching pencils, spray paints – and each is nicely responsive.

The whole package isn’t overly competitive compared to other art apps available on the Quest headset, but it’s a nice place to start for those thinking of creating art in virtual reality. Given that you don’t have to put down any money for this app, it’s perfect for kids to collaborate with adults.

Sing Together

I will happily admit, I cannot sing. My singing voice sounds like someone hitting a baby with a cat, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy singing, or that I don’t enjoy a spot of karaoke. Get some Dutch courage in me and I’ll take the stage and wail along to Whitney Houston. Sing Together removes the potential crowds you’d find in bars and settles you into a private room as you’d find in Tokyo or London.

The room features a large screen for the lyrics, comfy looking sofas where virtual friends can hang out and listen to you sing, while behind you is a pulsating wall of lights. It’s a simple presentation that leans into the kitsch cheesiness of karaoke perfectly and this mirrors the songs available which take popular chart hits and make them sound like elevator music. The songs are surprisingly up-to-date. I chose to sing (and rap) along to Jack Harlow’s newest tracks, while I could also choose classic Tupac songs. 

Is it a good app? Kind of. Personally, I don’t really see the point of creating a karaoke experience like this, especially as it’s not really gamified by ranking your singing. This makes playing on your own a little pointless and if you’re going to sing with friends, then you might as well find a karaoke bar. It’s a bit of fun to drop into, but it’s unlikely you’ll keep coming back.

Galactic Bar Fight

I’m going to get this out of the way, App Lab often features games that are considered experimental or early access. With this in mind, I have to say that I broke Galactic Bar Fight several times. In one instance I managed to walk through a bar and out of the area I was supposed to be confined within. Another time a cleaning droid on the main spaceship managed to push me through a wall. Both of these issues resulted in me having to reset the game.

Aside from these bugs, which will hopefully be squashed over time, Galactic Bar Fight is a remarkably impressive game at points. The idea is simple, you live on a spaceship where you can live and train to enter into bar fights. Bar fights is an underwhelming way to express the battles. Yes, they take place in a bar, but given the vast range of weapons available and the large waves of enemies, this feels more like an all-out war.

What positively struck me the most was the visuals, which are beautifully crisp and well rendered. There’s none of the VR smudging which can occur in fast-paced games and each model makes the game world feel more immersive. Enemies however are a little bland and their movements feel sluggish, which makes them easier to kill in the fighting. The weapons, both guns and melee, have enough variety that you’ll soon find a favourite and they’re honestly great fun to use. My last gripe with this game, and it appears in others too, is a recent surge in using AI voices to deliver dialogue. While it doesn’t sound overly robotic here, the AI emphasises the wrong words in sentences, which is incredibly jarring. All in all, though, it’s worth a dabble just for the gunplay in lovely environments.

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