Warning: This story contains massive spoilers for Wilson’s Heart. If you want to go into this game fresh, turn back now.
Last week I saw a teddy bear claw a woman to death and then punched it in the face. I’ll explain.
Wilson’s Heart is an upcoming virtual reality video game for the Oculus Rift and its Touch controllers. In this game you play as Robert Wilson — an elderly man who wakes up in a mysterious hospital with no memories, no help, and…no heart. The entire game is beautifully rendered entirely in black and white. This unique atmosphere perfectly captures what it would be like to step inside one of the old, Universal monster movies from the early days of cinema.
I had the chance to spend close to an hour as Robert Wilson at an Oculus press event last week and I found the game to be a delightful mix of terrifying, beautiful, intriguing, and just plain fun. Also, to be clear, I wasn’t even scared for a minute. The screams you’ll hear in the videos below must have been added in later by some editing prankster.
The first thing that strikes you when you open your eyes as Robert Wilson is how good this game looks. The black and white aesthetic works perfectly in VR and creates an instant sense of cinematic presence. I was being guided through my demo by a representative from the game’s creator Twisted Pixel and she had to keep reminding me to move ahead. I just wanted to look at everything I could.
There’s so much loving detail in Wilson’s Hearts that you’ll be hard pressed to move past any of the game’s semi-linear teleport nodes in a hurry. As you gaze around an area you’ll see ghostly silhouettes of Robert that indicate places you can warp to. This form of on-rails locomotion may be frowned on by some in the VR scene but in this title it not only works, it excels.
Wilson’s Heart is a game technically but at its true core its more of an interactive movie. By keeping the game on a fixed progression, Twisted Pixel is able to deliver the story in the most impactful way possible. No asset is random or out of place in Wilson’s Heart and you’ll be doing much more exploring and inspecting than you might think.
This type of interactive narrative also allows the studio to deliver its scares and they are plentiful. Wilson’s Heart definitely chooses camp over carnage, but that doesn’t mean it can’t terrify you. During my play through I was continually on edge, not because I thought some zombie might burst from around the corner, but because the world of this game is so creatively designed that every fright you find feels fresh and well though out. Even simple things like opening drawers gave me pause. What could be in there? Why did they put this here? Oh no what was that noise?
You’ll have the chance to literally fight your fears in Wilson’s Heart. That’s right, Twisted Pixel designed a game where you punch demons in the face as a 60+ year-old man. That alone should get them game-of-the-year consideration, let’s be real.
Combat in my game demo consisted of either bashing enemies with my fists or throwing the strange glowing orb that has replaced my heart at waves of creeping necromorphs. Inside my chest was a clockwork-looking sphere inscribed with indecipherable runes. This orb could be used for combat or to activate certain elements in my environment.
In Wilson’s Heart, monsters can be beaten with your brains as well as your weapons (and I’m including Robert’s fists of fury as weapons here. This man can throw a punch). You have to be constantly aware of your environment and whether or not that radio could be thrown into a bathtub to electrocute a Cthulu-like squid-beast. Those are not words I thought I would ever type. Thank goodness for this game.
The voice work on Wilson’s Heart also deserves a specific shoutout. Veteran actors like Peter Weller and Alfred Molina are joined by the likes of Rosario Dawson (who you might recognize from Marvel’s Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist Netflix series’) to create the best performed VR title I have ever tried. Twisted Pixel is also teasing that even more big name stars will be announced as cast members in the coming weeks.
As my demo ended, and I removed my headset I realized two things. The first was that I had never been quite so immersed in the story and world of a VR experience. And second, I am never going near a teddy bear again.
Wilson’s Heart will release on April 25 exclusively for Oculus Rift with Touch. It will cost $39.99.