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App Lab Roundup

App Lab Roundup: Puzzles, Blocks and Smashing

This week we’re fixing priceless artefacts, playing 3D Tetris and smashing out our anger!

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 videogames come in varying states of completion, so each title is subject to change.

This week we’re fixing priceless artefacts, playing 3D Tetris and smashing out our anger!

VRPuzzle

There’s a wonderful simplicity to VRPuzzle; as the game starts I find myself in a museum room surrounded by valuable sculptures and earthenware. Tapping the grip button while aiming at a sculpture breaks it down into shattered pieces, across three difficulty levels. Choosing the easiest, I tapped the grip button again and found myself in the centre of the room, pieces of statue around me.

From here, it should seem quite obvious that I needed to put the bust together again. There’s a lovely, very satisfying click as the correct pieces slot together. Manipulating the pieces is smooth and intuitive, they can be passed from hand to hand in order to find the sweet spot.

At the easiest level, VRPuzzle is a ridiculously calming experience. It’s still relaxing at the hard difficulty, but the sheer number of broken pieces can feel a bit overwhelming, as I picked through the tiniest shards to form the sculpted face or waves of hair. I found myself playing for much longer than I intended, picking bowls and urns to puzzle over, feeling satisfied once the sculpt clicks together and fully completes.

Flickblocks

I don’t know why this game is called Flickblocks, there are blocks, but there’s no flicking. Definitely lots of blocks though. They fall from the sky at timed intervals and the idea is to grab them and place them on a grid which floats in front of the player. 

At first, I was unsure I’d have enough space to play because the game requires free movement around the grid, particularly to pick up any pieces which land on the floor, and you’ll need to grab those because if too many pieces fall to the floor, it’ll be game over.

Much like Tetris, once the bottom layer is filled the layer disappears. Because I was using 3D shapes, though there are some familiar shapes from the classic title, it forced me to think in more dimensions, leaving gaps open on higher layers for more blocks. For example, sending a four-block piece on its end means thinking about the three layers above the base. 

At first, Flickblocks feels simple, but it quickly becomes a devious puzzler. Thankfully the gameplay loop just screams out ‘one more turn’, particularly if you, like me, enjoy trying to beat your own high scores.

Smashy Smashy VR

Your mileage may vary with Smashy Smashy VR. For some, it’ll be a few minutes of distraction, for others it might be a much-needed way to unload some stress; because this is literally a destruction simulator. I first chose a corporate office to smash up. I was throwing telephones through windows, picking up potted plants and launching them across the office to shatter TV screens. I found a fire axe and crumpled every desk into splinters. Obviously, I was having a bad day.

I then chose an overly large chess set. Kind of like those toy versions you sometimes see in parks. Except these pieces are made of concrete and I had a huge hammer. Using that hammer I decimated every single chess piece before jumping out of that world and into a supermarket. 

I hate supermarkets so I grabbed a trolley (cart for those across the Atlantic) and brandished it above my head, bringing it down on each display. I pulled boxes out from the bottom of stands, watching everything tumble. I picked up six packs of beer and smashed every window I could see.

It was a satisfying fifteen minutes. It got a bit of rage out, it cracked a few smiles, but then I was done. I don’t really feel a need to pick it back up again, because there’s no tactility and the smashing can only go so far. Totally worth a little time being Smashy Smashy, though.

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