Call me a pacifist, but is it such a crime to want to save cuddly alien creatures instead of slaughtering them? As I write this, I realize the irony of claiming that while nearing 100 percent completion on DOOM. No matter what your preference might be, two games playable on VR headsets, Fly to Kuma and Kittypocalypse are here to hopefully satisfy your urges to be either a murderer or savior, you dreadful monster.
Fly to Kuma puts you in charge of rescuing a colony of of tiny pink alien bears (who just happen to wear business suits and lab coats) from their rogue spaceship A.I. after their bear-shaped planet dies. Depending on who you are, that either sounds like an incredible fantasy, a bath salt fever dream, or Stephen Colbert’s worst nightmare.
Thankfully, Fly to Kuma’s overall aesthetic is one that works marvelously in VR. From the moment you boot up and learn of the bears’ sad, but adorable plight, everything just clicks narratively. Seeing the bears gathered around a hologram displaying the main menu, their mustached leader, and their little quirks during actual gameplay all builds towards an endearing world that feels worth rescuing.
While Kittypocalypse might come from an entirely different angle, one of intentional death and destruction, it feels notably less fleshed out. Humanity is tasked with defeating an army of invading aliens who’ve adapted to look like felines after mining mankind’s depleting “LOLcat” resources.
I always knew those damn memes would be our own downfall.
In any case, if that sounds dumb in a not-so-self-deprecating way, that’s because it is. Ultimately, Kittypocalypse feels like it could have replaced the titular creatures with anything else and still make the same game. You’ll want to crush them into green pulp, but mostly because you’re just annoyed by them. Enemy types tend to just be simple skin swaps, easily identifiable enough but lacking any real originality. Bears in business suits, they are not.
Fly to Kuma’s gameplay borrows heavily from the classic Lemmings franchise. Players must guide the alien bears from one end of a treacherous map to the other without succumbing to traps or an unfortunate fall. The bears like to run in a straight line, so you’ll have to make use of moveable platforms and blocks of various shapes and sizes to keep them on the right path.
While maneuvering around each level can be a chore (the game makes use of that 20-degree view shift seen in other VR games like Windlands, as opposed to a more fluid pivot), and finely adjusting blocks can be difficult with an Xbox One controller, Kuma’s puzzles are leant a sense of spatial inventiveness thanks to the VR implementation. Though your brave bear squad will likely suffer a thousand bombastic injuries, including being severed by lasers, dashed by spinning spike wheels, and roasted under volcanic ash raining from the sky, that inevitable “aha” moment is made all the more resounding when the puzzle feels like an object you can almost wrap your literal hands around.
The bears themselves don’t just sit idly by either. They’re constantly animated, finishing up their pre-run stoutness exercises and looking up at you to wave hello if the camera is close by.
While Fly to Kuma focuses on getting your alien friends from point A to point B, Kittypocalypse focuses on keeping the little jerks from reaching your base in a classic tower defense gauntlet. Using predetermined tower locations, you’ll build various defensive weapons and tools like a gatling gun, laser beam, anti-gravity “blobcelerator,” and more. Each tool is upgradeable along differing skill trees, allowing you to emphasize speed, power, or special abilities.
It’s good fun to figure out how to utilize each item in your arsenal best, but it often comes at the expense of allowing enemies to get a free pass at attacking your base if you don’t have the right assortment deployed. Enemy types easily exploit this inevitable lack of foresight by introducing new enemy types midway through missions, each of which feature 20 waves. It’s not unusual for tower defense games to throw curveballs from time to time, but having to restart an entire level because an enemy slipped by a previously impervious defense is just annoying.
This is compounded when a special enemy’s armor seems to be incredibly resistant to all but one type of weapon upgrade you might not have even begun to invest in yet. It’s the gameplay equivalent of your pet knocking the milk glass off the counter for no reason. What are you going to do about it, huh? Foolish human.
It’s my humble opinion that VR is hurting for quality games developed outside of larger studios, and puzzle games have historically been a great breeding ground for smaller successes. It’s also common to see early adopters of new technologies like VR carry a larger sense of ownership over its success. We feel compelled to sing its praises so we can get more quality experiences out of it, and so those who create them see their due reward.
If you’ve been itching for a semi-comfortable puzzler, and maybe if you also have a tendency to enjoy accidentally sending small creatures to their doom, Fly to Kuma feels like the obvious choice. Its world is vibrant and occasionally hilarious (check out the manic scientist bears in the early levels), its gameplay is rewarding enough to merit a fair amount of replay, and ultimately it feels like a cohesive, tightly designed package, flaws and all. Kittypocalypse is a fine game in its own right, but it feels much less “put together” or inspired. The world of VR could definitely use more games like Fly to Kuma to accommodate those seeking less intensive experiences.
Plus, I just really kind of want a Kuma bear plush toy now to perch up in really high places. Is that so wrong?
Joseph Knoop is a freelance writer with work published at Game Informer, PC Gamer, Playboy, and other outlets. You can follow him on Twitter: @.