Valve and HTC's Vive is the most impressive VR experience out there, but the majority of its games feel like glorified tech demos. Mystery adventure The Gallery — Episode 1: Call of the Starseed is a bit meatier. Here's a video of me playing the game:
What it is: The Gallery — Episode 1: Call of the Starseed is a first-person adventure in the vein of Myst, albeit with recordings and notes scattered about a la games like BioShock, Gone Home, recent Fallouts and so on. In the game you're searching for your twin sister, Elise, on an island sitting atop the sleeping form of something much older and stranger. You follow clues she's left behind, solving puzzles by way of hands-on interaction with all sorts of objects in the environment like tapes, notes, flare guns, popcorn tins and even a box of cereal.
It's a game that shows how much tactile interaction can enhance otherwise fairly typical puzzles — of which there are not actually a tremendous number. Rather, Gallery's greatest strength is capturing the breathless feeling of a Goonies-esque adventure. It's exhilarating (and sometimes frightening) to physically tread across abandoned beaches and crawl through strange old sewers. And that's only the beginning of a ride that gets a lot more fantastical as it goes on.
The first episode is only a few hours long, and it does have some issues. I've encountered a fair amount of graphical flickering, and I've gotten stuck in walls, which produces a nauseating underwater effect. (You think those sorts of glitches are bad in regular games? Wait until you're in VR and it feels like you've entered some kind of nightmare reality distortion field.) When the game's working it's excellent, a compelling and cohesive experience underscored by strong voice acting, good writing and functional puzzles. But Kotaku features editor Kirk Hamilton has had trouble even getting it to run, and I've encountered my share of technical issues. Proceed with caution, but do proceed.
Throughout the next couple of weeks we'll be posting more short videos like this one to give an idea of how these VR games work. For more detailed thoughts on the VR headsets themselves, check out Kirk's writeup of the Oculus Rift and my take on the HTC Vive.