As virtual reality becomes less and less the purview of wealthier players, those who find themselves stuck in apartments are continuing to look for attractions that might satiate their taste. Already, facilities like the Void, Urban Safari, and Dave & Busters are throwing their weight into the ring, but plenty more competitors are popping up to take a bite out of the market.
Skonec Entertainment, a South Korea-based company, is one such company among many. UploadVR took some time to check out their latest at the 2017 Game Developers Conference (GDC). At the show they had an updated build of Mortal Blitz VR, a shooter that’s already available on the Oculus Home Store for Gear VR, but this time it was adapted for a larger roomscale complete with a gun peripheral. It’s all part of their plan for a multi-room business that caters to quick experiences.
This newer version of Mortal Blitz was on display using Skonec’s VR Square setup at their GDC booth. It was designed for a roughly 20 foot by 20 foot space, though the developers plan to release on PlayStation VR in the near future, so one assumes the experience can be scaled down.
The first thing players may notice after entering the world of Mortal Blitz is how much it feels like a classic arcade shooter such as Time Crisis or House of the Dead, for better or worse. While wearing a mobile VR backpack that lets you traverse at your leisure, Skonec also gives players specialized gloves that track your interactions with wall-mounted buttons that activate doors and elevators, plus a full-sized rifle that feels ripped right out of Aliens.
My demo starts off with a quick introduction to a shadowy industrial complex filled with demon-alien hybrids similar to Dead Space’s necromorphs. After they take out a friendly soldier, you’re escorted through a series of areas where enemies quickly advance on you, before positioning themselves as easy targets on all sides of the room, including the walls and ceiling. Once they’ve advanced far enough, enemies spit out balls of blueish fire that quickly damage you. It’s possible to shoot them out of the air, and almost preferable, considering any amount of physical dodging seemed ineffective.
To Skonec’s credit, it’s not as uninventive as it could be. After a relatively drab series of shooting galleries, a quick trip in a plummeting elevator allows players to defend themselves from the enemies from behind the lip of a half-opened door, lending some thrill to it all. Unfortunately, by the time you’re shooting down winged versions of the same enemies (and witnessing a relatively cool explosion take any remaining enemies down), and a quick jaunt across a thin railing suspend in “midair,” my time with Mortal Blitz was over, and the experience quickly faded.
It’s important to note that, depending on your tastes in VR, Mortal Blitz may either remind you of the arcade’s classic shooter days, or bore you to tears. Even though I’m a child of Time Crisis (I once spent my entire 11th birthday’s earnings on a single run of the original), I found the experience quickly fading from memory after a few minutes. While a sense of rigid mobility was understandable for a game played on a screen, Mortal Blitz still feels restrictive in a similar way, despite the freedom that full-scale VR could ostensibly offer.
When a lit path appears to guide your next footsteps, it doesn’t feel like exploration. It feels like those precious moments in-between shooting galleries when you can see your character ducking into the next bit of cover. It makes me wonder how much more intense or frightening the experience might have been if I had the extra room to move around. To make matters just slightly worse, I did experience a slight amount of motion sickness as well.
Altogether, the experience lasted roughly 10 minutes, and it’s currently unknown if the experience will translate to a considerably longer adventure, in or out of full-scale VR. Mortal Blitz is far from the only game Skonec is planning on offering, and thankfully their catalog of experiences looks to take from far more than classic arcade shooters.
Skonec’s ultimate plan is to open up attraction centers with a number of rooms and “pods” that multiple users can cycle through, each with their own attraction taking roughly 15 minutes to get through. It sounds similar to VR arcades that have popped up in China, or even the recent IMAX centers.
Such attractions include Dino Adventures: Secret World, evoking a Robinson: The Journey vibe, The Road of Fear, and the family friendly, far-off Dark Tale Heroes, a supposed blend of Disney-esque characters and magic. Perhaps most notably, Installation VR will be Skonec’s attempt to branch out into more tangible experiences, supposedly incorporating stairs and various obstructions synced to your movement in the app.
At the end of my time with Mortal Blitz, a Skonec representative asked me to fill out a survey. When asked what I thought I might pay for the pleasure of experiencing something like Mortal Blitz at one of Skonec’s planned outlets, I half-heartedly answered $10. Granted, that would ostensibly be per attraction, but it remains to be seen, like any other virtual reality arcade, if Skonec Entertainment can manage to stay afloat when these aggressively “okay” attractions may not necessarily instill enough “awe” in its customers.