They say one of the best things about VR is showing VR, but I respectfully disagree. Instead, I’d argue it’s more about sharing VR; having experiences that either enrapture people outside of the headset just as much as they do inside or, even better, actually involve them in it. Puppet Fever is very much one of those kinds of games.
Like most great VR experiences, Coastalbyte Games’s debut is actually incredibly simple to get the hang of. Up to four players gather around your PC. One sticks on the headset — either Rift or Vive — and finds themselves hidden behind the curtains of a puppet theater. Beside them sit a selection of stick puppets, closer to stickers than anything else. You’re given choice of two themes to pick from, either one of which will give you are a word to act out. Using your motion controllers, you’ll then grab the props you deem necessary and start to mime actions or build scenes alluding to your given word.
Players in the real world, meanwhile, are watching the scene from the other side. They try to guess the word you were given and, when they get it right, they’re given a point inside the game. You then switch the headset over and do it all again, pretty much for as long as you like. It’s Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes by way of Punch and Judy, or a gamified version of Mindshow stripped down to its basics.
As someone that’s had Christmas afternoons spent playing Pictionary with Tilt Brush and entertained youngsters with Playroom VR, this feels like a worthy addition to the growing collection of ‘social’ VR games. Ridiculous laughs come from the performances you generate. It can sometimes feel like you don’t quite have the tools to effectively communicate your phrase (I was given a set of farmer’s tools for ‘Peasant’, which seemed like a red herring), but half the fun comes from filling in the blanks.
Puppet Fever is more of a visual aid for a classic party game, then, but it’s not without its charm. It’s not the deepest, nor most technically impressive experience you could have with your headset, but it does get you using it in new ways and, crucially, bring friends and family that don’t like to shoot aliens in on the fun.
One could argue, though, that the local-only multiplayer is a step back. As it stands, Puppet Fever enhances a game you could just as easily play without a VR headset around when friends are visiting. But it would really open up as a game that lets four headset owners come together online to have that boardgame-style experience from different corners of the world. Fortunately, the developer says this is coming later down the line.
You probably already know if you’ve got enough people around you to make Puppet Fever worth your time and, if you do, I encourage you to check it out. It’s launching in Early Access tomorrow, where it intends to remain until this Fall. Over the course of pre-release Coastalbyte plans to add much more content including new modes, puppets and special effects. That said, it’s hard to imagine this not showing up on PlayStation VR (PSVR) at some point, where it feels like the ideal fit.