With a focus on claustrophobia and careful observation, escape rooms are a genre ideally suited to virtual reality. The sense of immersion that VR involves can make any environment feel more real and atmospheric. Previous escape room titles have taken in horror and historical settings, such as The Room: A Dark Matter and Ryte: The Eye of Atlantis, but Flow Weaver is set in a fantasy world filled with magic and mystery. With magic traversal offering up an easy explanation for movement between areas and spells enabling an extra range of possible puzzles and solutions, the scene is set for a truly out of this world experience.
Flow Weaver throws you into its world with minimal explanation. You find yourself trapped in a room with no idea of how you got there. So far so escape room. The difference here is that you discover that you are a Flow Weaver and as such can travel between dimensions. This mechanic means that you can shift between various alternative dimensional versions of the room whilst remaining trapped within the magical chains that bind you to your chair. The direct result of this is a static gaming experience that still manages to involve multiple worlds and complex multi-dimensional riddles.
Playing on an original Oculus Quest, the graphics in Flow Weaver are pretty impressive. While not as detailed or as high resolution as the game would be when playing on the Quest 2 or through a powerful PC, there is a great sense of depth and place here. Everything is clear and distinctive and it is generally easy to pick out objects that can be interacted with. This is made even easier by a useful ability to meditate and highlight the latent magical energy in the room – effectively an in-game version of the ‘show all’ button in traditional point and click games. The voice acting is also generally well performed and the ambient sound effects are atmospheric and effective.
Once you learn to move between dimensions and discover that the various versions are linked, you begin to unlock spells and powers that enable you to interact and affect objects outside of your limited range. These range from a Shadowhand that works much like Half-Life: Alyx’s gravity gloves, to an ability to speak to creatures in the environment. Puzzles also range in complexity from simple object manipulation to more elaborate riddles that require a series of interactions across various dimensions. One of the first puzzles introduces you to the idea that environmental effects can cross between alternative versions, whilst a later highlight requires you to power a mysterious machine by first finding missing gears and then physically interacting with its various levers and switches.
Playing through Flow Weaver is a microcosm of VR adventure games more generally. Controls are mostly responsive and well mapped with grab and catch mechanics working reliably. Switching between dimensions and spells is also well designed, each requiring you to enter a dreamscape menu system. Having to always travel via the standard physical realm can be a little frustrating as it sometimes feels like an unnecessary extra step when you want to quickly move between two alternative worlds, although this is explained away as a by-product of your newly found magic and its limitations.
Where things sometimes fall down is in the annoying parts where the game doesn’t make it clear enough whether you are doing the right thing, but aren’t quite following the required action or the correct order. This was especially apparent in the aforementioned machine puzzle which would definitely have benefited from a clearer outline of what needed to be done. This isn’t a request for a simpler or more linear progression but instead an awareness that virtual reality games in particular often suffer from this lack of clarity.