There is a sensation that I have been waiting for virtual reality to provide me since the first moment I strapped on a headset. This sensation has nothing to do with living inside The Matrix or slaying vicious dragons with a sword. It’s something much more simple in terms of concept, but seemingly more difficult in terms of execution than the vast majority of VR experiences have been able to capture.
What I have been dying to see is for VR to make me feel the way I did on the Walt Disney World ride, Soarin‘.
Soarin’ is, in many ways, a mirrored version of the modern VR headset. Rather than going small and focused, Disney went big and bold in order to achieve immersion. The experience wraps the audience in a massive screen and physically lifts them off the ground with hydraulics.
As amazing as Eve: Valkyrie and Elite Dangerous are, neither of them were able to give me that same sense of seated exhilaration that Soarin‘ provided all those years ago. That honor goes to a newly released Oculus Rift title named iOmoon.
Soaring Through Space
iOmoon is a VR space exploration title created by Headtrip Games. Your adventure begins as you shove off towards the the titular Jupiter moon of IO in a large interstellar pod. It was this initial journey that finally filled me with the exhilaration of flight that I had been longing for in VR.
There was just something about the spacious cabin Headtrip designed and the beautifully rendered visuals that made me feel as if G-forces were actually pressing me back into my seat.
This rush only increased as my spacecraft began to malfunction and plummet toward IO’s surface. I physically flinched at the moment of impact and when I opened my eyes I was greeted by an entirely different experience.
iOmoon is not about combat or speed; it is about the simple joy of discovery. You have two main objectives during the game: to find your way to rescue, and to document as much alien life as possible.
You do this by taking control of a smaller outer space rover and snapping pictures of the creatures you find in the various caves, swamps, and lava pits you encounter on the mysterious moon. It’s reminiscent of Pokemon Snap, except in outer space, and not on-rails.
You’re only armed with flares and that merely serve to light your way towards more creatures, which can be downright rattling in appearance. There’s no shortage of things to see in iOmoon and you’re given plenty of freedom to explore as much of the alien world as you see fit as you move around through the environments at your own pace.
One thing that deserves particular recognition in this game is the music.
Composer Gary Schyman has put together arguably the best soundtrack of any VR experience I have ever tried. The music is so cinematic, and so perfectly timed to your progression in the game, that it adds an entirely new-level of immersion to the experience.
iOmoon also handles its control mechanics particularly well. There are enough viewing and locomotion options to chose from that you never feel as if motion sickness is a concern as you play. All of these options can be toggled on or off in real-time as well, which is a very nice touch by Headtrip.
Eve: Valkyrie and Elite Dangerous are amazing games in their own right. But, to me, when it comes to cockpit experiences on the Rift, there’s simply no topping iOmoon at the moment.
It’s beautiful, engaging, easy to control, and most importantly, a blast to experience. Fans of heavy combat games may find its lack of aggression upsetting, but for my money you won’t find a better time amongs the stars than you will on Jupiter’s fifth moon.