Shooting Baskets at the Arcade- ‘Just Hoops’ VR Review

Just Hoops is one of the best sports games I’ve played since owning the Quest. Its mastery over the feeling of holding and then throwing the ball is true immersion. Add this to a chill arcade atmosphere, and its immersion at its best. This game is all about shooting baskets at the arcade while upping the difficulty in a series of different challenges and themes.

Advice for new players: Please spend as much time on the easier levels as necessary. Personally, I had a lot of trouble initially just trying to understand how to properly hold the ball with my Oculus Quest controllers. I had even more issues when it came to throwing the dang thing with any accuracy. However, I’m glad I stuck with Just Hoops, because once I grokked the game’s core concept, I really was able to enjoy and appreciate it.

Just Hoops feels like it has a lot of potential to grow – the developer has added several updates since launch. Most recently they added dozens of new challenges and plenty of new cosmetic designs to change things up for players. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next from this team – whether it’s a Just Hoops port natively on Quest, or a new project, I am positive they are going to be a slam dunk.

Hello, I’m IndieSam! I write reviews for this blog and my Steam Curator page. A copy of Just Hoops was provided for review by the Steam Curator program.

Solve the Case in ‘Madrid Noir VR’

Madrid Noir is an interactive VR experience telling the story of a young girl named Lola as she pretends be a detective around the city of Madrid, during the summer she lives with her weird uncle. As the story unfolds and clues reveal themselves, the stakes are raised dramatically and there is a great on-foot chase sequence. The story is super cute, with a lot of very nice animation to match the excellent voice acting.

 For those that haven’t engaged in a VR experience film before, they’re pretty straightforward. They will almost always be less than an hour’s worth of narrative content where players engaging in the story through minor interactions. These often are things like pushing buttons or pointing items at the action. Sometimes these are optional, but I find they help add to the sense of presence of the films. Madrid Noir, for example, had a scene where we had to aim a flashlight in the dark to help Lola find her way before it would proceed to the next scene.

It’s worth noting that this particular experience did require players stand for the duration. This was so that we could turn in the directions the experience wanted, like to see the characters after a dramatic scene change. I find this kind of setup to be demanding and rude towards its audience- Snap rotation is a standard across almost all of the VR industry, so I don’t know why a developer would choose to exclude the feature when it means the difference between a seated or standing game. Accessibility matters, even in VR, people!

I really did adore the experience, however. Lola and her uncle were great, and I love the animation style so very much. This wasn’t the studio’s first VR experience, as they have previously produced Battlescar and Gloomy Eyes. I can tell Madrid Noir was made by a team of professionals, and I am hoping for more along these lines of quality. Recommended.

I’m IndieSam and you can follow me on my Steam Curator page for more VR indie games, experiences and more.

Break everything! ‘Smashing Time’ Review

Playing through Smashing Time’s half dozen levels was a great time as I got to experiment with lots of the tools and weapons that we’ve been provided. My favorite moment was drawing swearwords with chalk on blackboards in the classroom before smashing all the things. This was in the new School Update which apparently released two whole months after launch.

As for the comfort settings of the game, it was actually fairly easy for me – player locomotion worked mostly pretty well, though there is a need for a clearly reachable comfort settings menu. I did have a small issue with being disoriented when I first loaded into the game, mostly because the load screen looked so bizarre to me.

Smashing Time plays great, even on my 1060 graphics card. Flipping tables, smashing glass bottles, shooting wall art, spray-painting all over the place, it felt really fun. This game is truly unique, as a product only the magic of VR and indie VR developers could bring us. I’m hoping to see more from this developer, whether its continued optimization and new levels of Smashing Time, or their next project – I’m sure it’ll be great!

Played using a copy of the game sent by the developer through the Curator Connect platform. Follow me on Steam Curator for more under-appreciated indie game gems!

Relax, Examine, Reflect: Chill, Immersive Fieldtrips in ‘VR Walking Simulator’ (Review)

VR Walking Simulator is something simple: Players will take a nice and quiet walk through the woods in virtual reality with an ingame polaroid camera to capture photos of a variety of levels.

The idea of games with no objectives or enemies is interesting, but it means there’s not much to keep most players engaged after they’ve explored each map. I’m aware some people like to relax in VR headsets and meditate, and I wonder if VR Walking Simulator would work for that. The music and background noises are perfect as they are relaxing and mostly quiet.

I should probably add that the VR version of the game worked perfectly for me, but when I tried changing the settings the game went a little crazy, and because of the camera interface, I ended up with a LOT of Steam screenshots of myself stuck under the floor. Once my pure panic stopped, I was able to figure out how to adjust the settings to work for me. There is also a non-VR version that runs very smoothly, complete with the camera for screenshots.

The developer of VR Walking Simulator has made something special here – I feel like I would love to see more of this sort of thing in the future, though maybe with a little bit of busywork? I’d love to spend more time exploring these lovingly crafted levels, especially if there was just a bit more to them than what is presented.

I do recommend VR Walking Simulator, though buyers need to be aware there are only so many maps with little content in them other than exploring and photographing the eye-pleasing scenarios.

Played using a copy sent by the developer through Steam’s Curator Connect platform – Follow me on Steam at  IndieSamAdonisReviews for under-appreciated indie games, neat VR experiences, and all sorts of other funstuffs! I’m also on Twitter!

‘Time Hacker’ VR Game Review

Time Hacker by Joy Way is an enjoyable VR puzzle game that seems designed for those of us with short attention spans. Time Hacker is about a secret agent who can freeze time, and hijack the minds of his enemies – so he can force them to kill their co-conspirators. It’s a silly concept, but it works really well, especially in VR.

Swinging my arms wide to freeze time, then waving a hand to hack a badguy and aim his arm to shoot his buddy; this was all done in one smooth motion, and felt entirely badass. Of course, as the game progresses more quirks are thrown onto enemies and players are given additional options for takedowns.

The game’s developer, Joy Way, has created this quickly paced game with puzzles that can be finished in seconds. That is, assuming the player is familiar with the level, its enemies, and its hidden traps. With the benefit of time hacking (And the game’s excellently optimized performance) we can quickly reload and retry levels, or even edit them with the game’s Sandbox mode.

 I did find that many of the game’s puzzles could be easily solved with little effort – though there were a few exciting exceptions. I’m still stuck thinking back to this one level I didn’t solve that involved a crashing jet, a pile of explosive barrels, and several distressed civilians.

One thing Time Hacker does right, is its presentation. While yes, the game looks lower budget in its interface and cartoony style, I think that was an excellent decision. It gives the game an overall B-movie feel, which I think is perfect – we need more B movie games in VR, especially puzzle games. So, thank you for that Joy Way!

I do recommend Time Hacker, especially to lighter puzzle game fans. If you’re looking for something super hard and complicated to solve, this probably won’t do it for ya. Interested readers can download Time Hacker from Viveport Infinity or through Steam.

Note: Time Hacker is still in Early Access, and this review could change down the line. If my opinion on the game changes massively I’ll be sure to update this post.

Follow the IndieSamAdonis Reviews Steam Curator page for all sorts of interesting VR experiences and adventures.

‘Curious Alice – ViveARTS VR’ Review

Curious Alice is a very nice little VR adventure, created by ViveArts for its showing in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s “Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser” exhibition. While I might not be able to make it to London to see the incredible looking museum, I can certainly afford a Viveport Infinity subscription for my Oculus Quest 2 to play the Curious Alice experience.

The art of each level of Curious Alice is hand-painted with a whimsical and psychedelic look that just smells perfectly on-key of the trademark Alice in Wonderland absurdity we’ve grown accustomed to over its portrayal over the years. The game’s music was perfect as well, though, I can’t give full credit to its sound design – there was an issue where in one scene a voice line kept playing on loop if I didn’t press a button right away. I do suspect this issue was to blame on the consideration of running an actual-world showcase alongside it, but it doesn’t remove the frustration.

I really enjoyed Curious Alice, and will definitely recommend it. Interested readers can download it from Viveport or Steam for Vive or Oculus headsets.

‘Rayman Mini’ Review

Rayman is a long-time running series that has earned its street cred over the years. I only started playing them as recently as Rayman Legends on Xbox One, but something about the games really caught my attention. Rayman Mini on Apple Arcade made me hopeful that it would be another whimsical adventure full of fun moments. Unfortunately, I was not prepared for Rayman Mini to disappoint and frustrate me as much as it did through its artificial feeling barriers and cheap feeling controls.

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‘Butter Royale’ Review

Butter Royale, freshly posted to Apple Arcade as of January 24th, is a heck of a surprising game. Perceptive purveyors of the Apple Arcade platform may have noticed a significant battle-royale sized hole in the platform before Butter Royale’s release. Developer Mighty Bear Games has done an excellent job with the game, creating a completely safe environment for younger audiences to enjoy the genre inspiring so many Fortnite-alikes. Butter Royale is certainly a promising new entry to the Apple Arcade platform!

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‘Kings of the Castle’ Review

Released on Apple Arcade on January 17th, Kings of the Castle is a solid and enjoyable first-person parkour game. The pitch for Kings of the Castle is straightforward – it’s a multiplayer parkour racing game, like if Mirrors Edge met Mario Kart. Or more accurately, since this is Apple Arcade territory, imagine the ramping speed of Hot Lava with the competitive racing of Sonic Racer. Continue reading

‘Pilgrims’ Review

Amanita Design, the game development team behind Machinarium and the Samorost series, have always been producers of non-traditional adventure games. To quickly summarize them, one might say they are known for following their own rules when making the weird point and click adventures we all keep falling in love with. The latest game released by the team, Pilgrims, seems to be another great entry in their library.

One of the self-imposed rules all the games released by the team so far is that there can be no comprehensible dialog, spoken or written. This means Pilgrims must establish player objectives and tools without telling us what they are. Unlike most non-verbal games, which would use camera angles and other visual cues to give players an idea of what to do, Pilgrims keeps things pretty open to interpretation. The most direct the game gets is when speech bubbles containing an item appear, to indicate something a character currently has or wants. How to get the item, or even if it’s worth getting, is up to the player.

In practice, Pilgrims can be completed in less than fifteen minutes. But with all the different ways players can reach the ending, this calculates to a game of a decent length. It was pretty fun thinking of different ways to be creative to reach the goals that I was setting for myself by assuming what the game wanted me to do. Unfortunately, with this wide openness there comes a lot of potential for wasted time. I think the most perfect example of what I loved and disliked about Pilgrims comes from a helluva story about my first playthrough.

To make a long story short, I ended up helping a Devil kidnap a Priest and sent them both to the underworld. But this didn’t affect my main objective at all, from what I could tell. A completely unnecessary condemnation, an arbitrary arbitration of a man’s soul. The funny thing is it was all done by me just combining random characters and inventory items, all up to the point where the priest is tied up and being carried away by the demon. I had very little idea what would happen at first, and as I was more successful and it all dawned on me, my opinion on the game cemented.

Pilgrims was a pretty fun game. It doesn’t do as much with its animation as the team’s previous game, Chuchel, but everything came together much stronger. Games like these that are so dang close to perfect make me feel very positive for the future of adventure games.

Played on Apple Arcade.

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