I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to play a VR tie-in that isn’t utterly underwhelming. After VR apps for The Martian, Spider-Man: Homecoming and more left me wanting, I have to say I really wasn’t expecting much of Dreamworks’ Voltron VR Chronicles, a tie-in to the ongoing Netflix cartoon series. How nice it is to be proven wrong for a change.
Not to say Voltron is great by any stretch of the imagination; it’s still short and the price is way too high, but fans of the show will find a lot to like in this interactive experience, with one big caveat holding it back.
Developed by Digital Domain, Voltron tells an original story in the new Netflix universe, which itself is based on the classic 80’s cartoon. Players control Lance, one of a group of Paladins that operate mechanized space lions (which is an awesome phrase to write) that link up to form the titular war machine. Over the course of just under an hour, you’ll take a tour of the galaxy as you travel to various planets, fighting off enemy craft and solving some light puzzles.
Anyone that enjoys the show will be delighted with the amount of polish that has gone into the VR spin-off. The cell-shaded art style is not only wonderfully faithful to the cartoon but also takes on a whole new life in 3D, with the anime influence translating into bright, clean images that really pop inside the headset. Characters have fluid animation worthy of AAA games, and the scale of the many machines you’ll encounter is to be admired. In fact, many of the experience’s best moments are in simply watching some of the more iconic sequences unfold in VR.
That said, a lot of polish can be felt in the gameplay, too. Though the piece is light on interactivity, the puzzles you do encounter are surprisingly fun to solve. For the most part, they’re easy to tackle, but this gives them a nice pace and half of the fun is in the simple experience of interacting with the controls of a giant robot. On-rails shooting doesn’t fare quite as well as it’s seemingly impossible to die, though an ending boss still serves as a fun encounter all the same.
If there’s one major disappointment — and it’s a big one — it’s that you don’t actually get to control Voltron yourself. You’ll see the mechanical marvel for roughly 30 seconds at the end, which is a strange decision considering its name takes front and center in the title. It’s especially underwhelming when you realize just how fun it would have been to wield a giant laser sword in VR, too. As much enjoyment I’d gotten with the app until that point, I ultimately felt robbed that I hadn’t got to experience the heart and soul of the series in VR.
For all the enjoyment you’ll get out of the app, it’s also hard to ignore the basic truths that we see time and again in VR. That is to say that charging $14.99 for what is essentially a promotional experience with very little content doesn’t feel justified.
Dreamworks Voltron VR Chronicles is surprisingly not terrible. In fact, it’s actually a fun, faithful, and polished love letter for fans of the franchise with some awesome moments that anyone would enjoy. What a shame, then, that the experience is completely let down at the end by robbing you of the chance to actually play as the titular machine. But, if you can accept that this is a Voltron experience without actual Voltron gameplay, there’s some Saturday morning thrills to be had here.
Dreamworks Voltron VR Chronicles will be available later today on the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR for $14.99. Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.