It seems like in gaming more so than any other medium, the truest works of art, the most conceptually challenging games, are the ones that are almost offensive at first. “Deadly Premonition” was railed against because of its wonky driving mechanics. And I had many friends scoff at “Rez” with its wire-frame graphics and its unorthodox approach to audio implementation. “Nier” leveraged broken, horrible side-quests into a critique of the entire RPG genre as a whole. But all of these games are lauded today as borderline masterpieces. The game mechanics, while often sound in these games, were secondary to what the game demonstrated on a higher level. Now, here we are, with “Verti-Go Home.” I accept the scoffs, hate, and ridicule I’m going to receive for this: “Verti-Go Home” is one of the greatest works of art on PSVR.
Developer: Trucker VR
Genre: Tunnel Crawler
Game Length: 3 hours
PlayPSVR Score: 8
WIthout boring you and myself with the details of what constitutes art, I’ll simply state that art by nature is inconsistent in meaning and intent. The developers at “Trucker VR” likely weren’t pushing to create a masterpiece when they threw together a random assortment of default Unity assets around what amounts to a Windows ‘98 era screen-saver. But Gene Roddenberry likely didn’t mean for Leonard Nimoy to turn Spock into an insatiable sex symbol, yet here we are.
Getting down to brass tacks: “Verti-Go Home” is a tunnel crawler wherein I had to simply tilt my head to the left or right to avoid collisions with the scattered elements around the inside or outside of a tunnel. The game moves forward automatically, and after a certain distance, the level changes to a different design with different elements to dodge, and the speed of progression increases. After three levels, your progress is checkpointed, ensuring that there’s never really much frustration to be had in at failure. Clocking in at about a minute or two per each level, I never felt like I had wasted my time when I died before hitting the next checkpoint.
The elements and tunnel designs offer a decent amount of variety in the randomized assortment. Sometimes I’m dodging spinning knives, sometimes it’s a group of wavy skulls. My favorite obstacles are the spinning, rotating dumpsters and the dancing troupe of skeletons, as they highlighted the absurdly wide range of tone presented in each environment. Trucker VR isn’t trying to delight you with the visuals here. That is not the point. And that’s okay. I’m not sure what the point is, though, and I’m not sure there was even supposed to be a point.
The irony of “Verti-Go Home” is how flippantly the game presents itself to the player, while carefully taking into account the player’s time and potential levels of enjoyment with its simple concept. In terms of presentation, you get a total feeling that Trucker VR simply didn’t give a damn. Pictures place dividing levels are strictly 2D, and rotate about the axis with the player in a hilarious low-rent fashion. It’s as if they inserted a high quality PNG file as a placeholder, and decided eschew with any flourish as the point of the game is not these pictures. My first impression of the game’s soundtrack was that it was hilariously awful, with lazy rapping, hilariously bad lyrics, and repetitive rhythms. But in short order, the songs shifted from bad, to so-bad-it’s-good, to “I must have the soundtrack, this music is feeding my soul.” I say this without sarcasm. Here’s a screencap of my e-mail to the developers to prove it.
The game’s inauspicious beginning of a simple splash screen challenging you to survive the wonky roller-coaster ride of the tunnel, and tells you to “Go Home” if you can’t handle it. And in short order the game has begun. There’s no time wasted holding your hand, and there’s no real time spent waiting to play after a failure. The game makes sure that almost all of your time is spent playing the game, and that it maximizes the effect of its offering.
On the podcast I lovingly called this game “trash,” in the kindest sense of the word. But in hindsight, it’s unfair. Despite the randomness and feeling of laziness in the overall design, I can’t help but feel like Trucker VR meant every single bit of what they did with this admittedly simple game. It’s incredibly honest in its approach, and what began as an offensively simple and lazy seeming game because a joy-inducing, butt-shaking, and incredibly satisfying experience, the likes of which I’ve rarely seen in gaming. It’s not a masterpiece like some of the aforementioned games, and it is unlikely to ever go into the All-Time lists, but that’s not the point.
I don’t know what the point is. All I know is that this game is not a toy. It’s a work of art.
PlayPSVR Score: 8 out of 10.