My love for PSVR and its near-limitless possibilities is no secret. When it is implemented well, there is nothing quite like being immersed in a fantastic game world and being surrounded by its mystery and wonder. The social screen part of PlayStation VR and its multiplayer possibilities really separates it from other headsets on the market, even though so far, it has been used quite sparingly by developers. Carly and the Reaperman sits nicely in this sparse game space and it is a co-op VR adventure with a lot of charm and some very clever ideas.
One player plays as the Reaperman using the VR headset and one plays as Carly on the TV with the Dualshock 4 controller. You must work together to help people remember why they are in the underworld, help them resolve their issues and aid them to pass over properly.
Carly and the Reaperman: Escape From the Underworld PSVR Review
Each person’s memories are set out in a series of interconnected levels. Carly must traverse the levels to learn why each person is trapped in the underworld, this sounds quite simple and in theory, it is. However, the levels are designed and made in such a way that it is impossible without the help of the Reaperman. Many co-op games can feel like both players are playing independently and are not really co-operative. Carly and the Reaperman is the complete opposite, the co-op implementation is fantastic and it absolutely makes you work together.
One of the greatest things in this game is the fact that each player sees a different screen. This opens up some fabulous and very smart opportunities to get both players to communicate and progress as a team. For example, some platforms can only be seen by the Reaperman and in order to get Carly across you have to use your VR hands and voice to relay where edges are and possible downfalls. The Reaperman can move platforms, builds bridges and can help Carly avoid lasers, fireballs and enemies.
The heavy co-operative interaction led to some hilarious moments when I was playing with my son. We laughed a lot, died a lot but a lot of fun too. He is only 10 but is quite good at games and has a fair amount of experience. I do think at times though he was dying just for the laughs. At times it became a bit of a comedy show and it is definitely one of the funniest, most rewarding co-op experiences I have had and my son really enjoyed it too. I think we really bonded a lot playing and laughing together during this great adventure and I have included some of the quotes for our hilarious playthrough below.
Son, have I ever told you that you have the grace and poise of a pregnant hippo? Why can’t you land on that platform it’s massive? Stop laughing, your just dying on purpose now. Did I tell you to jump? Why are you still laughing? Stop dying. Take your time. Hurry up! Go, go, go! No not now, you missed the platform again. Your still laughing aren’t you? I may have a VR headset on but I am not deaf, I can still hear you laughing.
Another thing I really liked was the vast amount of ways some of the levels could be completed. We were never shoe-horned into one solution and were free to be creative, try new things and have fun doing so. We worked together to come up with solutions, talk things through and it was so refreshing. It brought out the creativity in our little team and some of our solutions were bonkers and sometimes completely accidental.
Not Just a Platformer
Along with getting to the end of each stage, there are a few other things to keep you interested. You have a number of collectibles on each stage to find, which open up bonus stages and increase longevity in the game if you want to find them all. There are also interlinked levels that are often smaller but more challenging, they often had collectibles which provide a bit more of a challenge if you want to acquire them. It was certainly entertaining working out how to grab all the collectibles in each area.
Also littering each stage were story tidbits from each person’s life, helping you piece together what happened to them and explain why they were here. These quotes were not required by any means but they did add a bit of depth to the story of each character and provided a bit of drive and reasoning as to what you were doing in each zone. If nothing else they certainly broke up the platforming, collecting and provided a bit of light narrative.
Graphically Carly and the Reaperman is very pleasing on the eyes. The VR side of it is very clear and crisp, even on the low resolution of the PSVR headset. The colours are bright and the whole presentation, while being situated in the underworld, is interesting and never dull or drab. The character models are well designed and as I stated earlier the levels are very well designed and a joy to work your way through.
Sound-wise this clever little title is everything you would expect from a game of this ilk, spooky, eerie music plays in each level and the sound all works adequately. My only issue was none of it was memorable or unique in any way. Don’t get me wrong, it served its purpose and there was nothing wrong with it but the sound design leaves something to be desired. One thing I will say is that the PSVR mic does pick up your voice and the Reaperman’s mouth moves accordingly, it caused a few laughs here and there and is an amusing little feature.
A Largely Well Accomplished Implementation Of VR
One of my bugbears with PSVR is that some games require constant re-calibration of your VR setup, have some tracking issues and generally do not work very well. When VR works well it’s amazing but it only takes a few niggly issues to take the shine off a great experience. Luckily Carly and the Reaperman was almost flawless in this regard. I only had a small issue where my VR position as the Reaperman got reset, it was annoying but it happened rarely and hopefully can be fixed with a patch. I also had to start the game twice every time we played, a weird quirk but not too irksome. Hopefully, this is patchable too.
The tracking was great, the controls were great and the experience was a great one most of the time. Now and again the player controlling Carly came across a chest that contained cosmetic items for the Reaperman. She could then select various funny wigs, shades and moustaches for the bony giant and as the VR player, you just had a mirror in front of you and were at the mercy of the other player as to what you looked like. It did cause a few laughs between me and my lad. A skull wearing a plastic joke disguise is funnier than you think, especially to a ten-year-old.
An Unforgettable Experience
I am surprised more developers have not fully utilised the social screen aspect of PlayStation VR platform. It creates the scope for some great local co-op systems and experiences. I would say that Carly and the Reaperman is one of the best co-operative experiences I have had and apart from Playroom VR, not many other experiences have implemented it so well.
This game is very clever, extremely fun and if you have PSVR and someone who is willing to play, you should try it. A few minor issues aside, the VR implementation is great and works very well. It’s visually attractive, well designed and its story is not too dark, even with considering the themes it is based on. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will be mopping up the rest of the trophies in due time and probably laughing a lot more with my boy. Carly and the Reaperman brings people together, to work together and laugh together. It’s gaming at its purest and is a great deal of fun for all involved.
Carly and the Reaperman: Escape from the Underworld is available on PSVR and PC VR Headsets right now.
Review code kindly provided by the publisher.