VirtuaVerse (PC) Review

By Chris Leebody 06.01.2021 2

Review for VirtuaVerse on PC

Cyberpunk as a genre has arguably never been more popular and relevant in gaming. With heavy hitter Cyberpunk 2077 being released, this more modest vision of a future dominated by augmented virtual reality headsets, and rampant commercialism seems like an ideal way to spend a few hours for those who love the atmosphere from things like Blade Runner and Altered Carbon. Developed by newcomer Theta Division Games, this point-and-click adventure harks back to the style of some of the industry greats, with a visually striking pixel-art aesthetic, and some challenging puzzles. Unlike the more cartoonish and comedic focused point-and-clicks, many will think of, VirtuaVerse is billed as a more gritty and bleak experience, with plenty of sexual innuendo and violence on show. The title is available now on both Steam and GOG.

A rain-soaked city crumbling under rampant commercialism that is beamed directly into a citizen's eyes. Flying cars, roaming gangs, and an authoritarian AI system plotting to control humanity. If this sounds like one of many tropes of cyberpunk science fiction, that's because it most certainly is. VirtuaVerse - from the first second - never shies away from sticking as closely as possible to the themes of this genre, and is very firmly a homage to some of those greats people think of. Single named protagonist Nathan is a man cut off from this world; a hacker in his hooded coat, who lives off the grid with his girlfriend Jay in their two-floor apartment in the skies.

When he suddenly wakes up one day and she is missing, the adventure kicks off, and he suddenly is embroiled in an underground war against rival gangs and the technocratic whims of the powers in the world - an adventure that travels the world and beyond. One of the initial most interesting aspects of VirtuaVerse is that from a visual and atmosphere aspect, everything is perfect. The gorgeous pixel-art graphics help immensely with that of course, but the neon signs and massive dance clubs exude science fiction.

Screenshot for VirtuaVerse on PC

More interesting though is that this is a world that is described as 'near future,' and the use of floppy disks, CRT TVs and a whole host of other more traditional technology really ground this with a retro feel. On top of that, rather than sticking rigidly to the urban jungle environment, there is plenty of other scenes on show - jungles, beaches, hills - it's not all trawling back alleys. So, while on the face of it this nails everything, those initial impressions are unfortunately dampened as the hours tick by. Starting with Nathan himself, first of all. The unfortunate thing is that his personality doesn't match the world. Lacking a surname sort of sums up the problem. There is nothing in his character that grabs the attention of the player.

He is never funny enough, charismatic enough, or smart enough to hold the story together. He is very much a faceless body used to advance the plot forward. Indeed, the rare moments of personality that does come out in him seems to involve being a jerk to everyone around him (and revelling in it); regularly screwing over the inhabitants of the city, with everything from poisoning a bystander's food to causing the death of someone. His dialogue also lacks the wit and interest that other genre favourites have, and which is needed to carry a point-and-click adventure. Of course, nobody is voiced in VirtuaVerse which also doesn't help.

Screenshot for VirtuaVerse on PC

In a similar vein, the plot never manages to really kick into high gear. It is serviceable, absolutely, and it scratches the itch of science fiction enthusiasts. The problem is that it just plays things a bit too safe. The antagonist AI is a bit too "samey" from the many AI that have been seen in many other adventures, both gaming and film. The motivations for the various people encountered are a bit too clichéd, and the violence and sexual imagery feels a bit too tacked on. It is a plot that also isn't helped by the high levels of difficulty in the puzzle solving, and the vast amounts of running back and forward.

As any veteran of this genre of gaming will know, sometimes the games are notoriously difficult to get to grips with. Clicking on every object in a scene, talking with every NPC, testing item combinations to see the results; it takes patience and often trial and error. However, the best of the genre always ensure that this process is both rewarding and fair, focusing on tailoring the puzzle solving to compliment the story, not distract from it. VirtuaVerse falls too far on the complicated side. There are so many of the puzzles that just don't have any sort of logical solution beyond spending minutes trying absolutely everything. It isn't even eased in, with the very first scene in Nathan's apartment involving all sorts of stretches of imagination just to be able to leave the building.

Screenshot for VirtuaVerse on PC

Worse still, the solutions to puzzles are very often held back until Nathan has actually spoken to someone. Therefore, even if you have logically came to the solution, you can often be bamboozled for minutes in tracking back and forward to have a meaningless conversation with someone. The one unique and interesting mechanic in the puzzle-solving - the use of the ARV headset, which reveals an augmented layer over the reality of the world - often isn't used enough to justify its existence, which is a shame as it is a novel idea, and one that could have been exploited to greater effect.

On the more positive side, the music on offer in VirtuaVerse is a sumptuous blend of retro '90s video games and heavy metal, composed by the Italian based band Master Boot Record. Blending together nicely with the visuals, the soundtrack does an excellent job at supplying an immersive atmospheric feel to the world. It's just a pity that there is very little else to talk about in the audio component of the title.

Screenshot for VirtuaVerse on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

VirtuaVerse isn't all bad. It is a solid 10-plus hour plot that is a clear homage to some of the best portrayals of this dystopian vision of a futuristic world. There are a few nice set pieces here and there, and from a graphical standpoint, the visuals pop on the screen and are incredibly memorable. Likewise, the musical score compliments them ideally. However, this is an adventure that never gets off the ground thanks to lacklustre main characters, forgettable dialogue, and a clichéd plot. Worse still, the puzzling point-and-click adventure aspects of gameplay detract from the above more often than they enhance.

Developer

Theta Division

Publisher

Blood Music

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

im tired of dystopian sci fi cities

Yeah - I think we are all a little worn out on the cyberpunk/sci-fi setting I feel. Feels like a moment that is coming to its end with the release of Cyberpunk 2077 and hopefully devs feel less enclined to get on board that setting for hype reasons.

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