Pop-Up Pilgrims

In Dakko Dakko's recently released PSVR title you play as a floating cloud god, controlling the actions of tiny pilgrims as they hop from island to island, dodge enemies, fight bosses and band together to collect their deity's stolen source of power.  The game is unique in that it presents a 2D space in a very appealing and aesthetic 3D manner.  The game utilizes simple gameplay but visually is one of the most impressive in PSVR.  

Quick Facts

Game Style: 2D Pop-Up Platformer
Controller: PS Dual Shock
Length: Approximately 6 hours
Price: $14.99

As I began my adventure with Pop-Up Pilgrims I went in knowing nothing about the game, like I typically do.  However, I had somewhat of a negative attitude because honestly I was thinking "A 2D game in VR? C'mon, we don't want this, how good can it be".  I have yet to play a 2D game since I purchased my PSVR.  VR has literally ruined any 2D game for me, it just isn't impressive to me anymore.  So needless to say, I had some pretty big doubts right off the bat.  However, I am happy to report that Pop-Up Pilgrims has totally changed the way I view possible 2D games in VR.  The presentation was beautiful and crisp.  Various aspects of each landscape "popped-up" from the foreground to create a 3D sense within a 2D world.  I was blown away with how the game looked and it was a good reminder to me that VR isn't always about first person shooters and horror experiences. This type of level design reminded me big time of Paper Mario, but with a VR feature in that you can in fact move closer to the pilgrims and physically move around in the level to view it from different vantage points. 

In the beginning of the game you find out that the sacred source of power has been taken from the pilgrim's cloud god (which you control, so essentially you are the cloud god) and it is your job to guide the pilgrims through a multitude of worlds and levels to help reclaim the prized power.  To do this you control a small floating cloud with your head movement.  You pick a specific pilgrim to control and then can dictate where they walk to, when they jump, etc.  There are several items within a stage that dictate whether a pilgrim must walk a certain direction, jump toward a specific platform or pick up valuable tokens.  

Each world has multiple levels to it and the pilgrims start spawning at a random part of each level.  The goal is to guide them to an endpoint in the level represented by an arch.  Each level will have a series of jumps that the pilgrims will need to make as well as enemies to avoid/jump over, items to collect and every now and then a boss to defeat.  It is really simple in theory and one reason why I think this game is so attractive.  You just look at the pilgrims you want to control, press L2 for a jump, R2 to designate what way you want the pilgrim to walk/jump(if jumping to a platform that is further/closer to the foreground).  When done correctly this simple type of gameplay is a breath of fresh air and well received.   

The game was confusing at first because there was not much instruction given.  However, after a couple levels you get used to the controls and the rest is very self-explanatory.  In general, I would say that the actual gameplay is simple and relatively easy.  The learning curve is relatively steep, but the difficulty is easy enough to make the game still enjoyable to play.  At times, when you have multiple pilgrims walking around, enemies to jump over, platforms to migrate to, tokens to collect all while ensuring pilgrims avoid death the game can be stressful and hectic in all the best ways.  Unfortunately, these scenarios don't happen very often.  This makes for a fun experience but for the more advanced gamer who enjoys a challenge, it may be a bit disappointing. 

I have already discussed the graphics a bit, but I want to talk more why they are so impressive.  So the resolution is fantastic on the game first of all.  Second, because each island of a level pops up and has no connections between any other part of the level, it adds a very unique vantage point for the player.  One level I was playing and there was a tree blocking a portion of an island behind it.  So I actually stood up to look over the tree and to my surprise there were some items to help raise my score.  It was like watching a puppet show, where if you look dead straight it is very 2D-like, but if you look at an angle or stand up you can see the breadth of the stage and the full definition of the props/characters.  It was unlike anything I had ever seen in a video game before and I absolutely loved it.  It also made me feel really good about the future of VR because there are many games that aren't first person (like the upcoming games Moss and Star Child).  So although I am not "in" the game, the experience is still exquisite. 

This is one of the better developed games I have seen for the PSVR.  Everything is crisp, perfect and exactly as it should be.  There are no glitches, no funny "whoops" moments.  As you play the game you can see the painstaking detail that was put into the development of the game from the hand drawn level designs to the pristine game controls.  After playing many VR games that seem to have still been in the final stages of development, I really appreciate a game that is fully polished and executed to perfection.  

Pop-Up Pilgrims is a good game, but unfortunately for me it just wasn't that "fun".  It was exceptionally developed, well designed, but the actual motivation and gameplay wasn't that enjoyable for me.  I wouldn't say it was boring or dull, but I never got a rush that came with sniping a robot out of the air like in Farpoint, shooting down your rival like in Cold Iron, going on a monster-like killing spree like in Doom VFR, etc.  It was just a quaint game you could sip some tea while playing some games during a quiet Saturday night.  The game is very "safe". This is the way it was developed, so i don't think this is necessarily a critique or a fault, but I tend to like more action.  If you are like me and are looking for games to get the blood pumping, anxiety to rise or simply a thrill, then Pop-Up Pilgrims isn't for you. 

For $15, I was very very pleased with the amount of content that I received.  The game would take about 6 hours for an average gamer and much longer if you are hunting trophies or trying to get the highest honors on each level.  As mentioned above the gameplay isn't very difficult so you won't have to replay levels very often because you continually die.  It is one of the more cost effective games for the PSVR (I'm looking at you The Inpatient). 

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Pop-Up Pilgrims as it was a relaxingly fun and addictive game that would be easy to pick up and play again at any point in time.  If you are a fan of enjoyable and somewhat serene gameplay or interested in seeing one of the more visually enchanting games for the PSVR (as well as cost effective) then Pop-Up Pilgrims should definitely be on your radar.