Hands-On – ‘Robinson: The Journey’ is the Dinosaur VR Experience You’ve Been Waiting For
When I take a step to the right, a head the size of a small van follows me. When it breaths, nostrils that could fit a bowling ball flare with interest. And, as I stare up into eyes the size of dinner plates all I can think is: “Finally.”
Thanks to Robinson: The Journey – an upcoming VR video game coming to Playstation VR – I finally had the chance to interact with the object of my eight-year old affections: dinosaurs, and plenty of them.
In this experience, you take on the titular role of Robinson – the twelve year old survivor of an interstellar “shipwreck” who currently finds him stranded on a mysterious alien world. That world is, unfortunately for you and Robinson, completely full of dinosaurs – and not all of them are friendly.
Your job is to find your way through this unknown realm while overcoming obstacles, navigating treacherous terrain, and climbing to precarious peaks. Aiding you on your journey is a hovering robot companion who speaks with a soothing British accent and does his best to keep you out of harm’s way.
The voice over for your robotic friend is superb and the juxtaposition of a highly advanced automaton floating in a prehistoric jungle never really gets old.
Your primary tool in Robinson is a sort of tractor beam that works along the same principle as Half Life’s gravity gun. The beam is controlled by your gaze and will be your main puzzle-solving implement as you move debris, fire projectiles you’ve picked up, and otherwise interact productively with the environment.
The studio behind Robinson is Crytek – the developers behind Back to Dinosaur Island and The Climb – and this game seems to be a fusion of those two properties. The overall world and beautifully rendered dinosaurs are all clearly inspired from Dinosaur Island and the game’s many climbing puzzles are a somewhat watered down – but still very enjoyable – version of the same system found in The Climb.
The demo I played at E3 2016 was only about 10 minutes long, but that was enough time for me to be chased by raptors, surprised by pterodactyls, and to have a staring contest with a massive Brachiosaurus.
There were several awe-inspiring visual moments that really emphasized the power of VR to imply scale in a virtual experience. Standing on a tree branch a mile above the ground, or looking up into my new long-necked friend’s massive eyes, are just two examples of the game’s ability to draw sweat from my palms.
There isn’t a ton of action in Robinson as the game seems to be primarily about exploration and discovery. Your main goal is to find out what happened to your crashed spaceship and if there is any way it could be repaired to take you home.
Robinson is a very welcome thematic entry into the VR landscape. With the exception of a few experimental, brief experiences (such as Oculus Dreamdeck) dinosaurs have been notably absent from virtual reality platforms. Thanks to this game and others like Time Machine VR and Island 359, however, they seem poised to come roaring onto your headset sometime very soon, and I for one cannot wait.
Crytek is not releasing a price, or overall playtime yet for Robinson: The Journey. But it did confirm that the game will launch, with the Playstation VR, on October 13, 2016