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Viveport Review: Guns'n'Stories: Bulletproof VR Play a story-driven, first-person wave shooter that stands out in a crowded genre by doing just about everything right. By Bill Loguidice, Greenlit Content First-person wave shooters are among the most common gaming genres in virtual reality. This take on old-fashioned shooting galleries commonly features many different types of weapons, various defensive capabilities like ducking and dodging, and a limited player movement area, as waves of typically fast-moving enemies intent on your demise emerge from on- and off-screen locations. It's a straightforward concept to implement and works particularly well when paired with virtual reality's inherent immersive properties. Unfortunately for developers, since we see this the type of game so much, whenever there's another release in this genre, our expectations are sky-high. And rightly so. If a first-person wave shooter isn't up-to-snuff, and in fact doesn't elevate itself well above the average, we may as well just play one of the other countless options that are available. That's the challenge that Guns'n'Stories: Bulletproof VR is up against. In the game, you take on the role of Grandpa Bill, regaling his grandson Robbie with wild tales from his younger days. In the stories, Grandpa Bill is a legendary cowboy who uses increasingly powerful and fantastic weapons as he battles countless enemies on his way to ultimately rescue his beloved Charlotte in a Hollywood-style Wild West. Your job is to play the young Grandpa Bill as the stories are set up and unfold, all while keeping Robbie's skepticism in check. It's a great conceit for what might otherwise be just another action-packed shooter and helps to set up a lot of the game's cheeky humor, as well as helping to give each of the three acts more purpose, meaning, and interest. While the fun backdrop might be enough on its own to keep you playing to advance the story, the gameplay is fortunately just as engaging. Although it's still just a first-person wave shooter at its core, the variety of weapons, defensive actions, and precise control put it at the top of its genre in those areas. A variety of modes and difficulty levels doesn't hurt either. Designed for Vive, Vive Pro, or Oculus Rift, Guns'n'Stories: Bulletproof VR can be played standing or seated in just about any size room. The Vive controllers are used to dual-wield various weapons, which are used not only to take out enemies, but also to shoot at and bat away projectiles. Combined with the usual ducking and dodging, this game can be quite the multi-tasking workout, particularly in the later stages of the game and when playing on the higher difficulty levels. Like the well-written, humorous story that book-ends the three levels and boss fights, and the excellent controls, the audio-visuals are also top-notch. Detailed environments, stylized character models, and smooth action all come together with strong sound design. Did we really need another first-person wave shooter? Prior to Guns'n'Stories: Bulletproof VR, I might have said no. Fortunately, this game proves there's still plenty of life left in the genre. When a game like this features such high production values and clearly pays real attention to what makes a game in this genre great, it’s proof you can still beat the odds and stand out. Guns’n’Stories: Bulletproof VR is available on Viveport or with a Viveport Subscription.
Viveport Review: Fruit Ninja VR The fruit-slicing, bomb-avoiding mobile smash hit is back and more immersive than ever. By Bill Loguidice, Greenlit Content When it was first released back in 2010, Fruit Ninja took the mobile gaming world by storm. From there, it received ports to various other platforms, including Microsoft's Xbox 360 console with Kinect, and even the arcade. In most versions of the game, players use a touchscreen to slice and splatter fruit, all while avoiding bombs, which are explosive when touched. In the Xbox 360 version, Fruit Ninja Kinect, the Kinect’s cameras make your arms the blades. While all of these previous Fruit Ninja experiences were an undeniable blast to play, there was always a certain sense of immersion lacking. Fortunately, Fruit Ninja VR takes the lessons learned from these past versions of the game and uses the unparalleled immersive possibilities of virtual reality to create the ultimate Fruit Ninja experience. Each Vive controller represents a katana (sword) whose blade you use to slice, juggle, and skewer various types of fruit, including watermelons, pineapples, and oranges. The more fruit you can hit at once, the better your combo bonus. Naturally, you also need to deflect or avoid any bombs. There are four different modes to choose from: Arcade, Classic, Zen, and Survival. In Arcade Mode, you have to slice as many fruit as you can in 60 seconds, using combos and special bananas to rack up huge scores. In Classic Mode, it's the original Fruit Ninja experience with simple fruit-slicing and bomb-avoiding fun. In Zen Mode, which doubles as a practice mode, you have 90 seconds to slice as many fruit as you want with no need to worry about bombs. In Survival Mode, the difficulty is ramped up as you face off against flying cannons, and, just like in Classic mode, three strikes (misses) mean you're out. As you would expect for this type of game, it's best played standing in a room-scale environment. You'll only need enough space to comfortably move your arms and controllers in a roughly 180-degree arc in front of you, but of course you'll also occasionally be raising your arms above you when the action gets heated, so for those with low ceilings, consider this your warning. Most modes also make great workouts. Audio-visually, Fruit Ninja VR is on point. The same type of satisfying music and sound effects from the other versions of the game complement the bright, cel-shaded graphics. Every object, be it the flying fruit or the buildings in the environment, is well rendered and easy to identify. If this were the first release of the game, Fruit Ninja VR would have likely caused the same type of sensation it did when it debuted on mobile devices all those years ago. As it is, some of Fruit Ninja's potential impact is a bit muted by the fact that we're already about a dozen platforms in. Despite its familiarity, Fruit Ninja VR has proven to be a sublime virtual reality experience, creating the best and most immersive version of the game to date. With its proven, short-form gameplay paired with an excellent physics model, super responsive motion tracking, and polished audio-visuals, Fruit Ninja VR is the type of game that can please virtual reality enthusiasts of every stripe. Fruit Ninja VR is available on Viveport or as part of Viveport Subscription.
Viveport Review: ReMind VR: Daily Meditation Become more relaxed and mindful through three different types of meditative experiences. By Bill Loguidice, Greenlit Content Meditation is probably as popular today as it's ever been. In our stressful world of work, partisan politics, social media, always-on technology, and general hustle-and-bustle of everyday life, it's no surprise that many of us seek out techniques for a daily reset. This mentally clear and emotionally calm state, where stress, anxiety, depression, and even pain can be greatly reduced, can be achieved through focus or mindfulness techniques. ReMind VR: Daily Meditation offers a guided method for achieving this more relaxed state of being, which, thanks to the power of virtual reality, can help transform even the most novice practitioners into a more Zen-like state. As you might expect, an experience like ReMind VR: Daily Meditation has minimal requirements, so it can be enjoyed by anyone with the base hardware and just about any size room. It supports Vive, Vive Pro, and Oculus Rift setups, and can be experienced standing or seated. In fact, as a further testament to its versatility and adaptability, one of the scenarios doesn't even use the Vive controllers and can be enjoyed while lying down. There are three short exercises, or scenarios, to choose from. The first, called "Letting Go," places you on top of a high building overlooking a peaceful city landscape filled with skyscrapers. From this vantage point, you toss paper airplanes, watching them slowly glide through the air. This scenario is meant to represent and encourage the release of negative thought patterns, leaving stress behind, replaced instead by feelings of peacefulness, happiness, and freedom. The second scenario is called "Drop the Habit." In this scenario, you're placed on the shore of a lake in the Japanese countryside and skip small, smooth rocks along the water's surface. This exercise is meant to represent and encourage observation of how a clear mind can be disturbed by the impact of negative thoughts as the ripples extend across the water's surface. In turn, you're meant to learn how to remain focused and centered despite the presence of disruptive thoughts and feelings. In the third and final scenario, "Infinite Lightness," you simply observe changes as the sun slowly moves and the sky changes colors. This exercise is meant to represent and encourage transformation of our perspective and clearing of the multi-tasking mind as you maintain a forward gaze. This is also the only scenario that can be fully experienced without use of the Vive controllers and works even if you wish to lie down. While ReMind VR: Daily Meditation is not the most attractive game, the clean, crisp visuals still suit the experience well. The soothing sounds and music are similarly effective in setting the mood. Meant simply as a brief, regular meditation experience, ReMind VR: Daily Meditation, delivers in spades. You don't need to be well-versed in meditation or meditative benefits to get full value out of this enjoyable, well-thought-out experience. With regular usage, this really should be a great way to become more relaxed and mindful. And putting the meditative benefits aside, the three experiences make for a nice, relaxing change of pace from the usual goal-driven games or hot-spot-driven educational titles. ReMind VR: Daily Meditation is available on Viveport or with a Viveport Subscription.
Viveport Review: Starbear: Taxi Take remote control of Starbear’s taxi as you help him move passengers in a miniature world full of bandit raccoons and other wily obstacles. By Bill Loguidice, Greenlit Content Following in the tradition of classics like Muse's Space Taxi (1984) and Sega's Crazy Taxi (1999), Starbear: Taxi takes the mundane task of conveying passengers from one destination to another for a fee and makes it fun. Like its predecessors, Starbear: Taxi accomplishes this feat by setting its action in an outrageous world with quirky passengers and crazy obstacles to overcome. The time is 3064 A.D. and Starbear is fresh out of "hibearnation," which is a nice way of saying unemployment. Starbear needs to deliver as many busy bears to their desired destinations as possible, all while avoiding whatever the pesky raccoon bandits–and rush hour traffic–throw at him. As you might expect from its title and this description, Starbear: Taxi doesn't take itself too seriously. The bright visuals, funky animations, silly sound effects, bouncy music, and miniature environment all exude cuteness. Fortunately, there's nothing cloying about this aesthetic. It's just good, clean cartoon fun, reminiscent of a more juvenile take on the world of The Jetsons. Interestingly, you don't control Starbear directly. Instead, when seated or standing, you use one Vive controller like a remote control. Think of Starbear's taxi like a little RC flying saucer. The main challenge here is using this control scheme to carefully move Starbear between each pickup and drop off point. Each passenger, who is tethered below the taxi and further affects its balance in the physics-based flight model, has their own requirement, be it something simple like going from point A to point B, or picking up a series of honeypots. As with a real world flying RC vehicle or low-end drone, staying in control is easier said than done. In the first several play sessions, you'll likely have difficulty just moving Starbear's taxi to the Start portal to begin the game, let alone consistently pick up and move passengers. Fortunately, while practice can probably never make perfect here, you can definitely improve your score between each play session. And, as an extra scoring incentive, as you reach higher and higher point thresholds, you'll be able to unlock more content. Of course, the wily raccoon bandits who want to knock you out of the sky and take your earnings, as well as the natural environmental obstacles, also significantly add to the challenge even if you do get a good handle on the controls. Perhaps the most insidious challenge of them all, however, is the aggressive time limit. As you try and rise up the ranks of the leaderboards, running out of time will likely remain your most consistent adversary. Starbear: Taxi is the kind of gaming experience that really shows off how fun a VR-first design can be, helping transform what could be a pedestrian concept into something magical. It really does feel like you're remote-controlling a little bear's taxi in a miniature world that you're looking over. With its one-more-try gameplay combined with the added incentive of seeing more of the crazy characters, quirky animations, and new ways to find your progress impeded, Starbear: Taxi makes for a must-try experience. Starbear: Taxi is available on Viveport or as part of Viveport Subscription.