What happens when a Rift developer designs an puzzle game around physically standing, walking and ducking? You get Dimensional.
Launched as a Kickstarter campaign (with a fully-featured demo available for everyone to try), the concept of moving around while wearing an Oculus Rift headset almost seems dangerous — especially with the Rift’s cabling length of 10 feet — but developer Brett Jackson has devised an ingenious way for the player to walk, step and duck without bumping into furniture or getting tangled up in the Rifts headset cord; and here’s how it works:
After loading the demo for the first time an in-game guide tasks the player with creating a virtual safe zone by facing the Rift’s camera and then moving as far as possible in each direction. In-game you’ll see a grid of dots appear below your feet, while a glowing blue rectangle marks the real-world location of the Rifts camera. Get too close to the edges of your safe zone and a red grid appears in-game, preventing you from bumping into objects or head butting the camera. It’s a clever system that works remarkably well, and helps the player to feel safe as they physically move around the room without sight.
In The Rift Arcade office we keep the main test PC below a desk, which means the headset cord has to trail around the PC, out from under the desk and up to our head. That left us with just enough cable length to play the game (as seen in our gameplay video above), but for the best experience we’d recommend locating a gaming PC on top of a desk, or even better – chest height on a shelf.
So what kind of puzzles can you expect to find? There’s a surprising variety, including leaning and stepping through tight spaces, crouching to avoid laser traps and timing your progress across rotating platforms. To prevent players from becoming dizzy Dimensional doesn’t have full freedom of movement, instead the player needs only to gaze where they want to move next then press a button to instantly teleport there. It works well, and enables the player to line themselves up against puzzle walls, drops and traps without worrying about straying too far.
From a presentation standpoint the Dimensional Kickstarter demo is a simple-looking affair. Colours are muted, the environment is made up of simple shapes and there’s little life to the world, but it has a retro charm that reminds us of Knightmare – a 90’s TV show that challenged it’s contestants to navigate CGI-generated puzzles and traps while blinded by a large metal helmet, while their team mates shouted instructions from afar. Audio on the other hand, still needs some work, with some rough voice work and repetitive music, but the demo is an early build, and there’s plenty of time for improvement.
We’re really impressed by the Dimensional demo. It successfully incorporates physical movement into an Oculus Rift game, and then uses puzzles and traps to really make the most of this feature – without players ever bumping into furniture or real-world objects surrounding them. The game’s Kickstarter campaign is only looking for £1,000 in funding, and with various backer rewards on offer (including a copy of the game for only £4) it’s worth checking out. Hopefully with more polish and further development we’ll see a fun title appear later this year.