I know what you’re thinking; a VR tie-in to an upcoming blockbuster debuting on Google Cardboard? Best prepare for the worst.
Well, surprisingly, Justice League’s VR teaser app, available now on both iOS and Android, isn’t terrible. As we learned a little earlier, this is a little taster of what’s to come in a bigger VR experience debuting on HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, Gear VR and Cardboard in December. The irony of this being a promotional piece for a promotional piece isn’t lost on me, but the 10 minutes of content here actually leaves me hopeful for the main release.
The app is split into five different minigames in which you play as a specific member of DC’s flagship superhero team: Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, The Flash, and Aquaman. A sixth level for Superman is teased but unavailable right now.
More the most part, the games are quite good at catering to each hero’s strengths. Playing as Cyborg, for example, involves a simplistic wave shooter where you destroy drones using the hero’s built-in weapons, while The Flash speeds down a subway, Aquaman chases a giant fish, and Wonder Woman fights off minions. Batman’s experience focuses on driving the Batmobile.
For the most part these games are simple fun. In the Cardboard version they all use gaze-controls, making much of the action automatic but promising some added depth in the eventual bigger release. It feels strange to simply look at enemies to slash them as Wonder Woman, for example, but I can’t wait to do with it a Vive wand in hand instead.
If you’re prone to sim sickness then it might be a good idea to skip The Flash’s mission, though that would be a shame as it’s the most unique of the bunch, getting you to run along walls and ceilings as you dodge obstacles in pursuit of an energy force. All things considered you don’t actually run that fast, but there’s still a satisfying rush to it. The same goes for Batman’s car chase, in which you have to balance steering with locking onto enemies and blasting them away.
The only real dud here so far is Aquaman’s mission, which again involves a chase, though it’s a little more awkward than the others. I was following a giant fish, but found myself easily able to catch up with it, and then oddly clip through the fish’s character model, all the while not sure what was really going on. It came off as a little confusing.
For the most part, though, I was surprised at how solid a teaser this was, even if its gameplay lacks any real depth at this point. Unlike the recent Spider-Man: Homecoming tie-in experience this piece tries to play to the strengths of its heroes and is all the better for it. I was also impressed by the app’s polish. It’s definitely one of the better looking Cardboard games out there right now and each hero gets their own unique environment and enemy designs.
If you’re going to New York Comic Con next month then keep an eye out for the debut of the Vive version of the app at the Justice League booth. Then in November you’ll be able to visit one of IMAX’s new VR centers to play the app in an exclusive two-week window before it finally launches for home-based headsets in December. The movie itself opens Nov. 17.