With Oculus Touch in-hand you can turn yourself into amazing things. How about a badass warrior that’s able to control time with his movements? Or an artist capable of creating amazing sculptures out of thin air? Or perhaps you desire to embody the master of two neon laser-shooting dragons hell-bent on destroying entire solar systems?
That’s pretty much the premise behind SpaceDragon, one of the first new Oculus Touch games of the year from Detroit-based 3lb Games. This is a quirky new space shooter that’s released in Early Access on Oculus Home — no sign of a Steam version yet — and has you controlling a mythical beast in each hand, touring solar systems and blowing up planets. It’s a premise unlike anything else we’ve yet seen in VR, though SpaceDragon has some way to go if it’s to make full use of it.
Each of the game’s levels starts out with you facing a sun that’s guarded by shield generators on several surrounding planets. These planets in turn have their own shields powered by moons and enemy space stations. You’ll visit each planet, systematically destroying their power supplies before cheerily bringing an end to millions of lives by eviscerating them with planet-eating lasers. The game has very little concern for the lives lost, making you a super villain of sorts, just with no one to swing in and save the day. It’s a darker, care-free side of VR we don’t often explore, though SpaceDragon isn’t really concerned with diving deep into its subject matter. Instead, it opts for simple arcade thrills.
On paper, there’s promise here, and SpaceDragon does deliver on some of it. Movement is handled by holding down a grip button on a Touch controller and then pointing towards where you want to go. Holding down both grip buttons causes you to shoot forward at warp speed, and you’ll find yourself elegantly weaving your dragons as if they were winding down the path of a Chinese festival while you stand behind them on an invisible chariot of death. Locomotion is so interesting here that I wish I had more to use it for other than simply moving from A to B on a large map. SpaceDragon‘s environments are sparse and unpopulated, and more could be done in that regard.
Combat, too, has its perks. This is essentially a cockpit space flight simulator, without the cockpit, and that encourages you to psychically duck and dive out of the way of incoming fire. Smaller ships orbit each planet, keeping your head on a swivel as you take down objects, though they never pose much of a threat. The biggest danger is the lack of HUD, which leaves you guessing as to how much health you have left and just how bold you can be. The answer is quite a lot; you can take a beating from incoming lasers without much worry.
But there’s an undeniable lack of structure to SpaceDragon that leaves you wanting more right now. Levels get progressively harder, but each comes and goes without anything to add to a story, and there’s no scoring system to make you aim for better performance. In a way, it reminds me of last year’s No Man’s Sky, with a seemingly endless set of systems to explore but ultimately very little to do within them. Systems also fail to portray a convincing sense of scale; planets and suns simply look like over-inflated beach balls, and moons appear like large baseballs, not huge surfaces that you could touch down on (try to do that and you’ll simply clip into them).
As a result, repetition rears its ugly head just a few levels in, and you’re left questioning what the point of doing everything over again really is. Right now SpaceDragon simply meanders from one level to the next, a seemingly pointless tunnel shooter minigame breaking up each solar system. The developer is promising to add new modes in the path to a full release, but I’d definitely like to see the main campaign bolstered with more enemies, elaborate level design, and diverse objectives.
SpaceDragon has a fun core hook that 3lb Games needs to build upon if it’s to make anything of the game. The concept alone makes this unlike any other game currently available on Touch, and that’s something we’re always on the lookout for, but a little more core design is needed here to make it work revisiting.
You can download SpaceDragon on Oculus Home now for $14.99 — the Oculus Touch controllers are required.