How We Soar – review

by Alex Morgen on December 7, 2016

in Game Review Bits, Sony PlayStation News Bits, VR

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Flight, thoughts and human experiences of the heart are presented in the colorful VR abstraction of How We Soar. This PlayStation VR exclusive from Penny Black Studios puts players on the back of a phoenix, sent off to travel through worlds from air, land, sea, and even space–traversing the memories of our protagonist.

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How We Soar’s artistic direction looks amazing, in the vein of papercraft and popup book touches. Players harness the controller to guide a wonderfully crafted phoenix through floating landscapes. The player must direct the phoenix through a series of colored rings and then seek out and find colored orbs. Successfully flying through the rings and collecting orbs will release a phoenix, which will need to be chased down to ultimately unlock a memory – a narrative from the game’s storyline. A series of up to four different colored phoenix may need to be captured to complete a level.

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Flicking the PS4 controller will crack the harness of the phoenix to pick up some momentum. The in-game controller’s skin has feathers that serve as a recharge gauge to let you know when you can boost again. The screen is really clear from any HUD elements, so that really helps keep you in the VR moment.

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The music and voice acting are a wonderful compliment to the visuals. The soft and airy soundtrack takes you away on your flight. How We Soar is really a non-stress game and the music backs that up. There are no limitations on lives or no time limitations either. Just get absorbed in the magical surroundings and focus on steering the phoenix through the landscapes. It’s quite an experience to see the scale of a dragon atop a castle or popups colorfully unfolding into whale with your swoop of the phoenix. And you can really get a sense of the scale of your phoenix as you look side to side and practically feel the air rustling under its colorful ribboned wings.

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Only a few minor things were detractors in the VR and story experience. There are some VR games which, depending on the player experience, may cause nausea. How We Soar does a good job to avoid things like spinning or a disjointed head/body movement experience. The only minor moment that I experienced a bit of VR-motion sickness was during the phoenix chase sequences. Because of the phoenix’s abrupt turns and circling in attempts to dodge you, this is really the only point where some may experience a bit of queasiness. Other than that, the only other moment that felt abrupt was when I accidentally collided against an object during a narrative sequence. Whenever you collide against a large object in the game, you are sent to a respawn tube. I hit something during one of the game’s narrative reveals, which sent me to a respawn point, causing me to miss out a story dialogue sequence. After that, I learned it is best to but the brakes on the phoenix and just hover to enjoy the build-in of the story.

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How We Soar is really a unique VR experience where Penny Black Studios explores an immersive way for players to take in a narrative. The visuals look gorgeous (I love the in-game controller and would totally skin my PS4 controller like it!). Swooping near an object, like a stingray or a planet, and seeing it come to life with color is one of those rewarding experiences only to be had in VR. How We Soar also frames a feeling of what the experience of flight may be like for us land-dwellers–definitely a VR trip worth taking. PSVR players looking for something rightfully unique to the medium, look no further than How We Soar. Penny Black Studios has artfully crafted a memorable PSVR exclusive experience, with a heartfelt story. Two bits up for How We Soar, a VR game sensibly crafted that will transport you to the otherworldly VR landscape.

For more details on How We Soar, visit pennyblackstudios.com. Thanks to Penny Black Studios for making this review possible!

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