This is one of those reviews that comes with a caveat. If you’re a Spice and Wolf fan, then you’ll be able to glean more out of this VR adaptation than most. Even then, though, Spice And Wolf VR struggles to justify its premium pricing.
That is in spite of its polished visuals. This 30-minute experience takes place entirely within one room as two characters take shelter from the rain. You embody Kraft Lawrence, a traveling merchant that finds a companion in Holo, a wolf-deity that appears as a teenager with a tail, despite being 600 years old.
The selective focus of the experience allows developer SpicyTails to deliver an incredibly sharp environment. The shack you house yourself in feels worn, with the chilly night’s rain quickly turning to warmth in the orange glow of a fire. Holo herself is the star of the show, though, dutifully animated to mirror her anime counterpart. She struts around the scene with a mind of her own, erratically interchanging facial emotions with a pace that makes her consistently entertaining to watch.
Unfortunately, though, all you’ll really be doing is watching. Spice and Wolf’s three chapters consist of you just passively observing Holo talk to Kraft. In the narrative component, there’s nothing in the way of interactivity to give the experience any weight. Their discussion is far from captivating and I tailed off more than a few times. In 2019 there are plenty of examples of more active character interaction in VR that could have brought Spice and Wolf to life. As it stands, this feels decidedly stuck in the past, especially when Holo stands in the way of subtitles.
Once you’re through watching the story there is an interactive minigame. You look around the same room and locate items to win Holo’s favor. You’re ‘rewarded’ by being able to pet her. Again, it’s something I found more unsettling than anything, but series fans might enjoy that opportunity.
Final Say – Not Recommended
Ultimately Spice and Wolf VR only scratches the surface of VR anime adaptations. It plays out like a 2016 promotional tie-in to a movie, not a VR project worth some $292,000 in crowd-funding, let alone a price tag anywhere north of a few dollars. If you’re a series die-hard, you’ll probably enjoy the fan service on offer. Everyone else should steer clear.
Spice And Wolf VR is available now on Steam and Oculus Home for PC VR and is coming to PSVR and Nintendo Labo VR later this week and a Quest version is on the way. For more information on how we review experiences and games, check out our Review Guidelines.