Honestly, it took a lot longer to see a game like this than I thought it would. After people saw how fantastic Adventure Time: Magic Man’s Head Games played inside of a VR headset, followed by the fantastic Oculus Rift bundle title, Lucky’s Tale, I thought we might be on the verge of a resurgence in 3D platforming. Upcoming games like Yooka-Laylee seem to indicate as much for non-VR platforms, so why not VR too?
Luckily, Mervils from Vitruvius VR is an upcoming third-person VR platformer aiming to provide a jolt of much needed energy into the genre to help us all escape the endless downpour of zombie and robot shooters.
In Mervils, you take on the role of a lone adventurer on a journey to defeat Balazar the Evil and return order to the kingdom. From the opening moments of the game, you get to customize your character, choosing between male or female, and various different face, hair, and clothing options.
As you complete your adventure, you’ll also accrue gold coins that can be used to purchase upgraded weapons and armor to improve your heroes efficiency in combat. In this way, Mervils takes on an RPG-lite design that rewards your progression and completionist mindset. Instead of simply amassing coins to unlock achievements and pride, you’ll actually use them to upgrade your hero in the game itself.
There are several different worlds in the game, each of which are split into a few different levels, very similar to Super Mario 64 in design. From the hub Home World, you can access each of the subsequent worlds and their corresponding levels. Each level has NPCs to talk to, with voice acting, quests to complete, gold to collect, enemies to defeat, puzzles to solve, and book pages to locate. This all adds up to a hefty amount of content, making this one of the more robust Early Access VR titles available right now.
By deploying a visual aesthetic that’s similar to Lucky’s Tale in terms of style and color, albeit of a much lower production value, Mervils captures your attention immediately. However, if you look carefully, the fact that this was made in a short amount of time by a relatively small team of only 2 full-time developers and 2 freelance artists, it’s not quite as attractive as it first appears.
Many of the environments are quite nice to look at — from a distance — and are thematically consistent, but up close you’ll notice the lack of detail in the textures and character models. It’s an early build of the game and it’s obviously made by a very small team, but it’s worth mentioning that you shouldn’t expect something with the same production values of Lucky’s Tale, despite the visual similarities in terms of style and tone. The simple act of running and jumping, for example, lacks the fluidity and precision of other, bigger budget games.
Given the focus on adventure and upgrading your character, Mervils is much more than just another third-person platforming game though. There is a lot of depth here in the way of a larger and more open world ready for adventuring and surprisingly detailed RPG mechanics to keep you coming back for more.
“I’d say the environment, theme, and graphics are all very similar [to Lucky’s Tale and Adventure Time,] but Mervils has much more of a role-playing (Zelda-esque) element,” Blake Stone, CEO and Co-Founder of Vitruvius VR, in an email. “Instead of just pure platforming, the game is more quest-based, with mini-games and puzzles throughout. Another main difference is that our game is more open-world, you get to explore each level and take your own path throughout the game and due to that there’s a lot more self-discovery to be had within the game.”
Whether on the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, the game is intended to be played with a gamepad. Interestingly, Mervils utilizes two very distinct camera options that can be toggled from the main menu. The blink camera option, which is most notably used in first-person games, allows you to press a button and have the camera teleport to behind your hero. Otherwise, it stays stationary. The other, following camera, option, which is used in the aforementioned Lucky’s Tale and Adventure Time games, is also available. Both camera modes allow you to use the right analog stick on your controller to snap the direction its facing to reorient yourself.
However, it’s worth noting that the following camera in Mervils, while functional, felt a bit fast when compared to that of its contemporaries. And due to the design of the game and its non-linear levels, I often found myself running towards the camera or backtracking to previous areas, which makes the right analog stick more functional than in most VR games.
Mervils is the type of game that, if it weren’t in VR, it likely wouldn’t be worth mentioning. However, due to the early nature of VR and the experimentation we’re seeing from budding new developers like Vitruvius VR, Mervils is notable for being one of the first robust platforming games in the medium. It doesn’t do a whole lot that’s new for the genre as far as I can tell, but it plays well, offers a lot of content, and employs innovative design techniques that are unique for VR.
From what I’ve played, I can easily recommended Mervils for early VR adopters, especially for those only with a Vive that are aching for a Lucky’s Tale-esque fix.
Mervils will be available in Early Access for $9.99 on Steam for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift today, as well as on the Oculus Home store for Rift at the same price. This version of the game features 4 open environments, or worlds, to explore and approximately 4 hours of content. When the finished game releases, it’s expected to contain roughly 7-8 hours of content and will increase its price to reflect the additional levels. You can see a bunch of videos explaining different aspects of the game on the Vitruvius VR YouTube page for more information.
The final edition of Mervils is expected to be completed by mid-October, near the launch of the PlayStation VR, which Vitruvius VR is also planning to target as a platform for release.