VR has an obvious opportunity to pull users into virtual spaces modeled after fantasy or reality but there are some experiences that may not have immediately come to mind for the medium. Many of us have watched game shows from an early age and possibly even fantasized about being on one of the many shows. Remember the youth-friendly experiences like Legends of the Hidden Temple and GUTS? What about Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune as you got a bit older?
Then you’re in luck! While CoLab from Pixel Federation doesn’t quite mirror those experiences exactly, it does drop you into a game show of its own design with quite a bit of fun in store.
As a contestant on CoLab, the game show involves over 100 puzzles that center around a few mechanics you’re introduced to during “tryouts”. On the Samsung Gear VR the whole game functions without a gamepad if desired, as any puzzles can be solved with a mixture of your gaze and the side touch pad. On Rift and Vive, you’ll use your gaze and a button on your controller of choice.
With the style of puzzles presented in smaller rooms, you half expect not to have to change your perspective in the virtual space very much outside of turning in 360-degrees. Before tryouts end though, you’ll be moving around via teleportation and even using static portals (a Portal joke is made, of course) as the designers better utilize the 3D space from top to bottom.
In said space, you’ll be connecting blocks to others in order to create a flowing current, maneuvering plates in sliding puzzles so that you can direct lasers to their target, moving your head as you guide a dot through a maze on a floating sphere, and a few others. Combinations of the mechanics of these puzzles and some new ones start to pop up as you get further into the game and the final boss, without spoiling things for you, adds a layer of excitement that’s not in any other part of the game.
The game show of CoLab eschews a virtual audience, instead inspiring you to progress by way of the promise of “premium access” in the grand finale. The episodes are of a decent length, with the experience rounding out at around 4-5 hours if you don’t have any significant trouble with some of the puzzles. Once you reach the end of the episodes that are presented to you, there are a few secret levels to work through before the final chapter. Even after that, there’s a puzzle segment to conclude the story that involves a very annoying task that ends on a very hit or miss joke.
In game shows the contestants switch with every episode and very rarely leave an impression, so the show’s host has to be a charismatic character that carries the event. Initially, the CoLab host’s enthusiasm is off putting. The floating robot gives off an air of disinterest while maintaining an energetic speech pattern, which I initially felt would limit the immersive trip into this virtual experience. Soon, though, it’s understood that the robot’s manner is purposeful as it ushers you through the experiences with a mixture of clever and not so clever quips much like Portal’s GLaDOS and that’s not a bad character to aspire to emulate. It even clicks into place in a more firm way in the closing moments.
CoLab, as a package, is a lot of fun. Instead of innovating a great deal, it presents a well made package influenced by well known puzzlers, utilizes the 3D space well, and closes out in an interesting way. There’s not much replay value to be found, considering the structure of the game has you retreading the same mechanics multiple times, but it’s worth a purchase for fans of the genre.
Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score. You can purchase CoLab on the Oculus store for Gear VR at the price of $1.99 or on Steam for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive at the price of $4.99.