Sometimes, simplicity can be used as a negative in regards to how a game is rated. In some cases, simplicity can have its drawbacks. For example, a simple gameplay mechanic can change the difficulty of a game, resulting in a less stimulating or engrossing experience. But simplicity can also be rewarding and enjoyable. In some situations, it is easy to recommend a game even if it is simple. In the case of Arca’s Path, I might mention frequently that the gameplay mechanic is simple. But in this case, the simplicity adds an extremely enjoyable element that I would love to see in future VR titles.
The simplicity starts in the controls. Arca’s Path does away with the traditional control scheme in favor of…having no controller at all? Arca’s Path does not use a controller in any way. Rather, your movements are controlled with the VR headset and, in essence, your head movements. Before I talk further about how it controls, I just want to point out how incredibly fun it is to have this kind of simple innovation to VR. And I’m not saying that it was a simple process to create a mechanic like this. But using a tracking system instead of a controller is a simple change that will hopefully convince other developers to try controller-less mechanics in future VR titles.
Now Arca’s Path reminds me of a marble game. Using the hands-free mechanics, you will guide a ball along long, winding pathways over 25 levels. Your head movements not only control the direction of the ball but the speed of the ball. The development team uses simple indicators to show how fast and slow you are moving, so you can adjust the speed accordingly. This is really important when you have to speed up to cross over gaps and slow down to navigate tight pathways. Thankfully, the development team has done such an amazing job of fine-tuning the hands-free mechanic. You don’t need to jerk your head in all directions. Subtle head movements will take care of your movements. And the indicators are more than enough to help strategize through the more difficult levels.
The hands-free controls are extremely responsive, which is such a necessity when you have hard levels and pathways to navigate. If you need help, you can use a controller to pause the action. This allows you to use the headset to look at the upcoming paths. Just keep in mind that there are no camera controls when the game is live, so your point of view is stuck in a fixed position. There were a few moments that I wish it wasn’t in a fixed position, but those were few and far between.
Even though Arca’s Path reminds me of a marble game, it is wonderful to see an actual story with some interesting story elements. One of the more interesting of the elements is that these marble levels are a VR simulation that the protagonist is in. The story is set in a dystopian world, and the protagonist finds a VR mask in the garbage that gives her access to Arca. The story plays out visually like a comic, with panels that explain the story. To me, the story is a little slow, but it is worth getting through the levels in order to see the story progress.
Visually, Arca’s Path uses colors to show the differences between the real world and the world of Arca. The comic-like visuals of the story are pretty similar to something you would see in a typical dystopian reality story – drab and gray. But the virtual world of Arca is pretty different. The world opens as you progress in the level, and the levels are filled with geometric shapes and lines. It’s colorful, but the colors are muted, which was a reminder to me that this world is surrounded by the dark, dystopian reality of the main character.
At first glance, Arca’s Path looks like a simple marble game. But it is much more than that. The story helps motivate you to keep going through the challenging levels. And the hand’s free controls work extremely well, and ties into what the protagonist is going through. I really enjoyed Arca’s Path, and recommend you add it to your growing VR library.
Note: GameOctane editor Ryan Welch received a digital code from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing this game. Any code or product intended for reviews is distributed to the team to review and stream for our audience.
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Intuitive, hands-free controls
Wish the camera wasn't fixed