After three years and countless games played, PSVR still has the ability to delight me. In the right hands, VR can be a powerful tool for entertainment. Talented developers can still wow players, showing off new tricks and bending reality in ways that are unexpected and astounding.
Cortopia Studios pulls off one of these magic tricks with their new adventure title Down the Rabbit Hole. As you probably surmise from the title, Down the Rabbit Hole is a light-hearted trip into Wonderland (albeit without Alice). Except you haven’t been to Wonderland like this before.
Down The Rabbit Hole PSVR Review
Literally…Down The Rabbit Hole
While Wonderland has been depicted in a number of media over the years, I’ve always found Lewis Carroll’s creation a bit creepy. I like my up to be up, and my down to be down, thank you very much. This is the first time I’ve actually been unabashedly enthusiastic over a piece of Wonderland ephemera, as the game’s astoundingly original presentation takes something familiar and turns it into something fresh and amazing.
Down the Rabbit Hole literally takes players down a deep, dark hole in the ground, accompanying a nameless (at first) main character – a young lady who has lost her pet. Looking about a strange (but adorable) diorama cabin for clues, she finds a key to a mysterious hatch. Opening the hatch, she tumbles into a pit, and down she goes into Wonderland.
Wonderland, in this case, is a remarkable series of interconnecting diorama scenes, inlaid into the walls of the hole. As our heroine explores, she opens new environments, expanding ever further down into the darkness. The scenes glow with an inner warmth, slowly unfolding ever further and pushing back the darkness.
The effect is simply stunning and delightful. Each little scene is wonderfully detailed, and I often shoved my face right into the diorama to examine objects in detail. If you look down into the hole, all you see is darkness, but glance upwards and you can see all of the places you have been, spiraling back up to the surface.
At times, the game zooms the player into first-person mode to solve puzzles or have conversations. These moments are a revelation, as you can see through the eyes of your character and peer about the diorama from a completely different perspective.
And here I must note, screenshots do not do this game justice. Rabbit Hole’s visuals look so much better in VR, where things like scale and depth come into play. If you think that Down the Rabbit Hole looks simplistic (or even a bit ugly) in screens, I am here to testify that in play, the game is beautiful.
Wonderland Is Wonderful
A smartly designed fast travel system (implemented via looking glasses, of course) exists to take you back to past environments. I hesitate to say “levels”, as every area organically flows into the next. And the wonders that this game packs into its scant two hour playtime are utterly engaging.
I don’t want to spoil any of the levels, as part of the fun is rounding the corner and seeing something completely unexpected. Much like Alice, our protagonist seems a bit out of her element in Wonderland, but she is definitely more able to adapt to the weirdness of this new-found world than her predecessor. So as things go wonky around her, this hero is able to keep her wits about her. There is never any real sense of danger like that encountered by Alice; Down the Rabbit Hole keeps things breezy and fun.
All of the big Wonderland celebrities are present and accounted for – White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, and that awful smoking worm. The dialogue these familiar characters are given is light and fun, with a sometimes wicked sense of humor. Call it Monty Python-lite, though at times it spins from homage into “direct quote” territory. No worries, the dialogue is still witty and entertaining.
Be Prepared For Light Puzzle-Solving
The young lady at the center of Rabbit Hole must solve a variety of puzzles to progress, and the majority of these are not terribly difficult. If you find that you are stuck, you are likely overthinking things. At one point I became disoriented, wondering how I could possibly progress. After mulling it over for a few minutes and poking around a bit, I found that I had simply missed seeing a doorway, opening a whole new path. Some puzzles very late in the game are a bit more challenging, but a bit of pondering will see you through.
Not to say that everything in Down the Rabbit Hole is a cakewalk. At the beginning of the game, the White Rabbit is organizing invitations to a party being thrown by the Queen of Hearts. In typical White Rabbit fashion, the invitations are sent flying all over Wonderland. Our heroine is tasked with gathering the invitations as she makes her way through the game’s levels.
Many of the early invitations are laying about in plain sight, but as the game progresses, they become more and more difficult to find. Towards the end of the game, you will be searching high and low for these mysterious envelopes and finding them can be a real triumph.
Some of these invitations are locked in chests with puzzle-laden locks. Unlike the puzzles in the game needed to progress, these chests can be flatly inscrutable. The solution to the first chest I encountered was insidiously clever, but as the game wore on, I found the later chests downright impossible. As a certain number of invitations is required for the “good” ending, you might find yourself dipping back into the rabbit hole after beating the game on another round of invitation-hunting.
Interactions Keep Things Fun
Down the Rabbit Hole allows the player to interact with the environment independently of the characters, poking and prodding objects to see what they do. This never goes quite as far as a game like Moss, with the player inhabiting a separate character, but it does come close at times.
Players spin the hands of clocks, turn cranks, and poke at tiny bunnies to listen to them squee with delight. This added level of interaction makes the game world feel more alive, and goes a long way towards giving the player a sense of immersion.
Down the Rabbit Hole is a short game, but one well worth experiencing. I made it through the game in about two hours, but had a blast doing so. I do wish the game was longer, but not because it was unsatisfying. I just want to spend more time in this world.
PSVR games can sometimes bring unexpected and surprising pleasures, and Down the Rabbit Hole falls squarely in that category. With surprises around every corner, Down the Rabbit Hole encapsulates its source material perfectly, with weird delights and goofball non-sequiturs. This game made me gasp with surprise and smile with welcome recognition. I can’t imagine a better recommendation.
Down the Rabbit Hole is now available on the PlayStation Store.
Review code kindly supplied by the publisher.