The best thing about Arca’s Path? Booting up your headset of choice, selecting the game and then putting the controller down. This is a hands-free VR game that’s controlled by your head alone. It’s not an especially new concept but, unlike most other games that do this, Arca’s Path feels like an impressively full package.
It’s a marble maze, essentially, one that you navigate by leading a ball by looking in the direction you want it to travel. Shift your head a millimeter to the side and it’ll roll off at a crawl. Look further away and it’ll charge towards your cursor with determination.
With 25 levels that’ll take around three hours or so to run through, Arca’s Path offers more bang for your buck than any real maze that exists on this mortal coil. It helps that the game itself is tightly polished and perfectly entertaining throughout. The controls have been refined to the point at which you can quickly master the intricacies of movement and most accidents will be on your head and not the game’s. You’ll inevitably encounter a handful of more frustrating deaths but I was pleasantly surprised to find that its harder levels weren’t as irritable as I suspected they’d be.
This might all sound a little too, shall we say, ‘casual’ for VR enthusiasts looking for their next big epic but developer Dream Reality Interactive (DRI) has done an admirable job of catering to both that fanbase and those that are going to be unwrapping an Oculus Go this Christmas. Optional collectibles hidden behind more demanding challenges will allow the latter to breeze through the game without worry, but they’re basically a necessity for anyone looking for that more addictive challenge. Not only do they encourage you to explore environments rather than roll on through them but they also unlock masochist-only time trials for completed levels.
Perhaps unavoidably, though, there is a ceiling here. Arca’s Path doesn’t do much wrong but it’s also not the most eye-opening use of VR, especially when you consider that the movement mechanic stops you from looking around to admire the vibrant neon world DRI has built. It’s a shame given that the world unfolds into reality with beautiful papercraft-like animation reminiscent of Tearaway. There is a free-look button but it essentially pauses the game and, like I said, it’s best to play this without holding a controller. Level design also repeatedly borrows from what’s come before, which is especially hurtful when some of its best ideas (like navigating obstacles on a moving platform) feel underutilized.
With a core mechanic that’ll be familiar to anyone that plays it, though, Arca’s Path’s story and world-building do feel somewhat supplemental but appreciated all the same. The game’s motion graphics cutscenes make for a surprisingly engaging way to tell a story in VR even if they’re used sparingly, but special mention has to go to the soundtrack, composed by UK musician Raffertie. It’s a strange, scratchy beast that effectively evokes the rusty VHS-era quality of the world around you.
There’s no denying that Arca’s Path is a safe debut from DRI (or at least as safe as you can get with VR), but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time. This is a perfectly palatable little marble maze that straddles the line between challenge and fairness with mostly successful results. Most importantly, though, it’s that rare VR game that genuinely feels like anyone can pick up and play. For DRI, I suspect that’s mission accomplished.