It has been a while since I had fired up my PlayStation VR. In fact, I literally had to blow the dust off it when I launched Light Tracer. It isn’t because I don’t enjoy using Sony’s gaming goggles, but more that there really isn’t that much to get stuck in to. Most titles are experiences more than games, and those that do go all in on VR often feel out of place to me, like they are just trying to force the VR thing into the game, even if it doesn’t properly fit. Light Tracer seems to be trying something different; meshing a well worn game genre and building it from the ground up with VR in mind, and in some ways it does work, but unfortunately it just falls short where it counts.
A puzzle platformer at heart, Light Tracer sees you stepping into the gloves of some kind of god, whose job it is to guide a small princess up a very large tower, floor by floor. Each floor provides a new puzzle to conquer, and each is a little bit more devious than the last. The tower is broken up into chapters, with each chapter having its own theme that affects gameplay and a boss to defeat at the end, mixing things up and actually giving the player a good cut off point to take a break. I found this useful, as I find using the VR headset uncomfortable after prolonged periods of play. As such the length of each chapter was ideal for me.
Platform: PlayStation VR
PlayStation Move Required: Yes
Price I’d pay: $9.99
Each floor is presented as a three dimensional single path, and the aim is to get the princess from point A to point B. To do this you will need to take control of two floating hands; one holds a wand with which to guide the princess, and the other is used to manipulate the camera and certain environmental obstacles. This is where the game starts to fall down, along with the princess. Firstly, guiding the princess is done via a beam of light. Pull the trigger on the right hand Move controller and it fires a constant beam of light. Straight away the princess will start running to that point.
If you’re not careful, this will result in the princess falling off of the narrow paths. And as this is a platformer you can expect lots of gaps to jump, which makes things even more precarious when trying to navigate the levels. Trying to line up the princess, getting her moving at speed and then having to jump a gap takes preparation, which slows down the pace of the game. It is also frustrating if, like me, you are not used to using the Move controller, as jumping requires pressing the X button, which I kept missing as you cannot actually see the controller. This lead to me falling off the map several times. The left Move controller isn’t completely devoid of problems either. Pressing the trigger unlocks a free camera mode, which you control with motion, allowing you to get a lay of the land, and even helps solve some puzzles. But the camera can be a little janky when controlling it, leaving me with scenery in my face. Luckily pressing the X button on will reset the camera and also offers up four different preset camera views.
The puzzles themselves however, are great. Using the VR platform and the Move controllers to come up with a wide variety of challenges, all of which feel natural and cleverly thought out. This includes the boss fights, which are puzzles in of themselves and require both thought and dexterity. The control issues almost vanish in these encounters, due the large area you have to play in. With each new chapter comes a new mechanic or environment to test you, and it keeps the game interesting.
Visually, Light Tracer keeps things simple. Cute character models and a minimalist approach to the levels not only means that the game looks good in VR, but also is a must due to the nature of the gameplay. I found the style and layout of the levels to be well thought out with what they were trying to achieve, even if it is sometimes at odds with the controls. And putting too much on screen would make the levels complicated to navigate and cause even more issues when playing. Sound design is also spot on, with the voice acting and the music fitting the themes of the game perfectly and the sound effects sounding suitably chirpy and cheerful.
I have to give props to Light Tracer for attempting to take a classic genre and flipping it on its head to fit in VR. In some areas it shines, but it is where it counts the most, in the controls, that the game just falls short on. If you have a PSVR collecting dust, then there is value in picking Light Tracer up and giving it a try, if only to experience a platformer in VR. But I would recommend maybe holding off for an inevitable sale.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.