Tarsier Studios’ Statik is a great example of how VR can be used effectively without resorting to wild roller coaster rides or chainsaw wielding demons stabbing you in the face. You wake up in a lab with a mysterious scientist, Dr. Ingen, observing you. Your hands are locked inside a puzzle box and the task you face is simply to solve the puzzle, and hopefully find out why you are there and what the scientist wants.
Solving the puzzle boxes is perhaps easier said than done. There are no instructions or set rules, so by trial and error you can discover that pressing certain buttons or twirling joysticks you can move elements on the puzzle box. Each box is different, so Cross or Square will have a completely different function from one box to another, and the puzzles are just as varied. It’s a great concept; first you have discover what all the buttons do, then you have to discover what to do with them. Some require you to route power, to dial a certain sequence on an old fashioned telephone dial, or replay sections of audio back in the correct order. The puzzle boxes start relatively simple but quickly become more complex, so you will needs some serious brain power to solve them.
It’s clear this game would only ever really work in VR. In the real world your hands are holding either side of the DualShock 4 and this is directly mapped into the game world to the puzzle box, tilt the controller and the box tilts. However, solutions to the puzzles often require closer inspection of the box and many times I found myself bring the box up close to my eyes, just so I could twist it around and peer round the back. The gyroscopes are also used on a couple of puzzles so you also have to be rather dexterous, rotating the controller and pressing buttons at the right time to lock in puzzle parts.
The solutions to the puzzles are logical but complex, so I actually found it a great help to have a friend watching the feed on the television and chipping in with suggestions. Sometimes clues are hidden in the background of the room you are in, so this could a be a great game for couples to play together. There’s also three extra levels that are built specifically for this style of play, showing that Tarsier recognised the collaborative potential of the idea.
Alongside the main puzzle rooms, you are also transported to what appears to be a large tank between each puzzle. Here another puzzle awaits, one that requires a keen eye for detail which had me stumped for a quite while. There is also a rather odd psychological test in which you have resister your likes or dislikes as images pop up. It’s another puzzle, but makes a nice change from waving a DualShock round and trying to work out where a wire goes.
Dr. Ingen speaks a few words before each puzzle box, but is no real help during the game, simply viewing you from afar whilst sipping his tea and occasionally passing comment. Also falling in to the ‘less than helpful’ category is the Portal-esque sterility of the environment, and in what must be a first for video games, the clicking of a pen. In one of the earlier levels whilst you are racking your brains for the solution Dr. Ingen sits his desk and constantly clicks his pen up and down. That is annoying enough in real life, but when you are strapped to a chair with a freakish box attached to you it is infuriating! The further you progress the more erratic Dr. Ingen becomes, at one point he talks about a sexy dream involving a dog and a chicken, which is very odd.
Complete a puzzle and a little printer embedded in the box will churn out some results which then have to be shown to a small robot named Edith. This quickly became one of my favourite parts of the game, as the robot quizzically tries to lean over and read the results. She has to get a clear view, but you can snatch them out her sight or try and smack her on the head with the box. I never managed to do that, but it was still a lot of fun to try and added a little humour.
The game clocks in at around five hours, if you’re a bear of very little brainpower like myself, so cleverer clogs may be able to complete the game in a faster time. At £15.99, it’s a perfectly reasonable price, but unlike PSVR’s other main puzzzler, Tumble, there is little replay value.
I really enjoyed Statik. It’s not particularly big, but it is very clever, and has clearly had a lot of thought and love poured in to it. VR is an integral part of the game rather than being a showy gimmick, making this a fine addition to the PlayStation VR library.
Version Tested: PlayStation 4