After some initial problems with the order processing my HTC Vive luckily got delivered about two months ago. It is more than a fashion accessory to help you look good. There already exists a quite wide range of VR-enabled games and various demos on Steam, and the list is growing larger every day. I did not buy the Vive because of its room scale tracking. Rather, it was the acquisition of Oculus through Facebook which rendered the Rift uninteresting for me. However, it turned out that the room scale tracking of the Vive is absolutely awesome and works really well. I can no longer imagine playing a game sitting on a chair with a controller in my hand, or by using the mouse and keyboard. With the Vive one can use natural movements and get fully immersed in the particular game. So far, nothing got destroyed in our apartment yet. But I already bumped the controllers into the ceiling and the floor a few times by accident. Although the so-called chaperone system shows the boundaries of the playing field in VR, it does not check the ceiling height of the room one's playing in.
I won't write anything about the setup and the hardware because that has already been covered by a lot of other sites. So if you're interested you can quickly find anything about it on Google. Instead I'll just continue with the current list of my favorite VR games.
Space Pirate Trainer
In this game you're standing on a platform above a futuristic city (presumably on a skyscaper), shooting at flying robot balls while at the same time they're trying to shoot you, too. The game is divided into waves, and with each wave even more robots appear – and they are getting nastier and sneakier every time. Before you get hit by an enemy shot the time slows down like in the movie Matrix. However, in later waves, so many robots are targeting you that it becomes more and more complicated to dodge their shots. After three hits, the game is then over.
You either hold two weapons or you can pull out a protective shield from behind your back with one or both hands. Shooting several robots during a short timespan gains you combo bonuses. Therefore it is advisable to rather play without a shield, as you can hit multiple robots more easily with two weapons. Graphically the game might not win any awards, but it is fun and motivates to continue playing in the long term. My accumulated playing time has already passed 24 hours, according to Steam. Scores are published online, and on the starting screen one can see daily, weekly and alltime highscores (which might be a little bit frustrating though). It's also possible to see the scores of friends you have in your Steam buddy list. Unfortunately there is no multiplayer mode yet. But we'll see what the future will bring as the game is still in development. Also I hope they'll add more different types of robots, because currently there are only three of them. According to the Steam shop page, boss fights are in the planning, which sounds great. If you can afford to drop € 15 then you should definitively get this game.
This game is currently only available as a very early pre-alpha demo. A release date for the final version does not yet exist, but the Steam shop page states that it should be available in 2016. In the current demo version your mission is to break into a company to find your own job application form and to approve it. You can move freely within the play area of your room. For longer distances however you have to use some sort of portal gun. It releases a blue ball which transforms into a portal as soon as it hits the floor. You can then teleport to the place where the portal popped up. This might sound a bit strange and initially takes some time to get used to – but then it works quite well without thinking about it. The same transportation mode is also used in a lot of other Vive-compatible games, like The Lab from Valve itself.
At the beginning of the game you don't have anything but the portal gun. But as you explore the premises you find all sorts of items that you can either throw around or put into your inventory. There are also some surveillance robots whose attention you better shouldn't attract or they'll shoot you – and then the game is over. So you should either try to avoid those robots, or to destroy them using knives you'll or other stuff you can find on your way. However, taking down a robot using a knife requires a well aimed throw.
The game makes great use of the room scale tracking. There are places where you can only progress being ducked down, because otherwise your head would hit the ceiling. Or you have to hide behind low walls and look around the corner to check out where the surveillance robot went. The game really captivates and immerses the player quickly. I hope that Neat Corporation will really finish the development of this great game someday. After all, it is just a small software company consisting of two people. In any event, I'll get it as soon as it hits the store. The pre-alpha demo version is free, of course.
The Brookhaven Experiment
Another shooter like Space Pirate Trainer, but you have to fight zombies instead of robot balls. There is not much to say about the story. Some experiment went wrong and now you're standing there – alone, in the middle of the night, on a meadow. While zombies are approaching you from all directions. One hand holds a flashlight, the other is equipped with a weapon. The battery of the flashlight is finite and so is the ammunition. After each level you get the chance to upgrade something. For example you can add a laser pointer to the weapon, or use explosive ammunition. Like many VR games on Steam, The Brookhaven Experiment is still in development. The final version will be released at the end of June 2016. You can buy it already for € 14,99 instead of € 19,99 – or just check out the free demo.
I think this game should better be named "Breakout VR", because one has to destroy large and small blocks with one or more balls. In your hands you're holding two rackets. Alternatively you can also activate various extras like a rocket launcher, which blasts all blocks at once when fired. The game is played in a corridor-like futuristic looking space made up of colored lines which reminds me of Tron a little bit. At the end of the corridor the various blocks appear and the ball flies back and forth. Additionally, the blocks are slowly moving towards the player – and if they reach a certain marker, the game is over. The longer one plays the faster the blocks move, which at some point becomes really stressful. If the ball hits a green block another ball gets released. The more balls you need to control the more strenuous and hectic it gets. But at the same time, a lot of balls also help you to clear the blocks out faster. There is no score in this game, just time. So the goal is to survive as long as you can. Unfortunately, the colorful environment often makes it difficult to see the Chaperone – so you really need to take care that you don't destroy any real-life objects around you.
There is also a multiplayer mode available which better fits the game's title. Here you don't have to destroy blocks but instead you have to hit the ball in a way so that it leaves the playing field on the side of your human opponent. Unfortunately, at the moment it can take some time until the game finds an opponent on the net.
Overall, the game is fun and it does not hurt to check out the free demo. If you want to buy the full version, it currently costs € 14,99.
Admittedly, the list above is relatively clear. But I have deliberately omitted some really good games since I played them only once and they have no replayability. These include "The Gallery - Episode 1: Call of the Starseed", "A Chair in a Room: Green Water" and "Portal Stories: VR".
I found Chair in a Room graphically and atmospherically quite impressive, but the puzzles one has to solve in it are mostly stupid and illogical. Many of them consist of triggers where one has to touch an object so that another one appears. Something I don't like that much. But as I said, I found the game graphically very cool, albeit overall too short. A notable feature is that the game seems to adapt to the spatial conditions of the player. Since you are rarely located in outer areas this works really well. In the virtual rooms one has only as much space as in real life, and thus everything is reachable by actual movements – teleportation is not needed here. A Chair in a Room is currently available for € 22.99 on Steam.
The Gallery offers some good graphics and riddles and is – in my opinion – one of the best (full) VR games yet besides of all the various shooters. Like in Budget Cuts you move around via teleportation. There are no enemies and it is not possible to die. Similar to a point-and-click adventure you have to explore the world and collect various objects to progress. The game is fun but unfortunately very short. It won't take more than like an hour. And for that, the price tag of € 27.99 is somewhat high. I hope that the following episodes will be cheaper.
Portal Stories is a free VR mini story. Regarding the graphics and the humor, it could as well be a game made by Valve itself. But it is a community-mod. There are no portals like in the real game (because I guess this would instantly cause sickness in virtual reality), instead you move around using teleportation. In one hand you hold the teleportation device, in the other a device which produces some kind of tractor beam. With it one can pick up objects and move them around. Unfortunately, the puzzles are really easy and it takes just about 20 minutes to beat the game. There is a nice goodie at the end, which I don't want to spoiler here. Since it is free it is definitely worth a download.