VR

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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We’ve come a long way since the days of Atari 2600’s Combat! Competitive remote control robot combat gets amped with augmented reality in the new MekaMon experience. It’s videogaming meets remote control robots. After over three years of development and 27 builds, Reach Robotics has crafted MekaMon. MekaMon uses your smartphone or TV to overlay graphic effects on the spider-like robots. Check out the action video segment below to see how MekaMon robots virtually launch missles and create explosion effects for a blended reality gaming experience that looks like no other.

Combat modes are available for single or multi-player. Single-player campaigns embark your MekaMon on a campaign where experience and upgrades can be earned for battling. Multiplayer mode include gametypes like Last Man Standing, Tug of War and others. Reach Robotics also notes that more than one smartphone can connect to the robots for co-op play. Spectators can also enjoy the augmented battle through TV casting.

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“At the root of everything we build is the premise that gaming is an experience that goes beyond a screen. We imagine a world where things come to life in front of you,” says Silas Adekunle, CEO and cofounder of Reach Robotics. “Our inspiration came from building robots in STEM classes with underprivileged students in the U.K., and while we got our humble start there — we’re ready to introduce a new twist on hardware and video games and unleash our battling robots.”

Another cool factor is that physical pieces of the MekaMon can be swapped out to “add weapons or shields, enabling the creation of aggressive, defensive or technical specialists.” Infrared tracking and a smartphone provide the control scheme. A MekaMon weighs about 2.2 pounds and runs for about one hour per charge.

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MekaMon is available to order now  (website currently says shipping in January 2017) in a single or dual pack from MekaMon.com, in a variety of styles. Make sure to check the website for the latest price, which is currently discounted for the holiday. The first 500 orders are entitled to perks in the MekAcademy, which includes exclusive and early content. Looks like a promising new way to have fun with competitive gaming. Hope to bring you more details on the gameplay experience of MekaMon!

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Happy holidays - holiday 2016 video game gift guide

It’s about that time to wrap up another year of gaming – and tear up the gaming goodness! Whichever platform you get your gaming fix from, 2016 delivers many new options. Now is the time to grab some great video game system bundles, amazing breakout VR experiences, bleeding-eye graphic FPSes, and geek-out on gaming goodies. Keep it bookmarked here as game deals (hello, Black Friday!), last minute new game releases, special video game bundles and gaming goods will be updated in the weeks ahead.

Obviously this isn’t the end-all video game list – just a few biggies that are available now for your gaming appetite (ahem, if you can find the elusive NES 8-bit revival). Have any suggestions for the holiday gaming list? Send an email to alexis@gamingbits.com for possible inclusion in this GamingBits 2016 Holiday Video Game Gift Guide!

Make sure to follow @GamingBits on Twitter for the latest holiday video game and Black Friday deals as they happen during the week of November 21, 2016.

Select from the following video game lists:
Game & Geek Toys | Retro gaming
PlayStation 4 (PS4) | Xbox One | Wii U | 3DS | Virtual Reality (VR)

Game & Geek Toys

Geek Fuel
Geek Fuel
What’s in the box?!?! A gaming and sci-fi bundle of goodies! Geek Fuel is the ultimate inner-geek care package, which you can delight in giving (or receiving) all year long. Geek Fuel packs a meticulous box of themed goodies that include items such as t-shirts, mugs, pins, and even video game download codes – at least a $50 value in a box! See these pictures for an example of the awesome items packed into a month’s delivery box. It’s the surprise gift that gives all year long, one which any fan of sci-fi, fantasy, comics and/or gaming will surely love! Thanks to Geek Fuel for the samples pictured here and the heads up on the awesomeness.
Geek Fuel

 

More gaming toys and goods recommended:


Nintendo Pokemon GO Plus
Bluetooth Bracelet
pacman-fig

Funko POP Games:
Pac-Man Action Figure

PDP Donkey Kong Display

Mega Bloks Destiny
Arcadia Jumpship Construction Set

Portal 2 Sentry Turret –
Motion Activated Desk Defender

Kirby’s Dream Land Nosechara

 

Retro gaming

Nintendo Entertainment System:
NES Classic Edition

Nintendo NES Controller

Pac-Man Connect and Play

Sega Genesis Classic Game
Console 2016

Atari Flashback 7 Classic
Game Console

Art of Atari


PlayStation 4 (PS4)

PS4 hardware:

Sony PlayStation 4 Pro – 1TB

PlayStation VR Launch Bundle

PS4 games:

Battlefield 1

Dishonored 2

Doom

Overwatch

Ratchet & Clank

Rise of the Tomb Raider:
20 Year Celebration

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim –
Special Edition

Titanfall 2

Tom Clancy’s The Division

Uncharted 4

(For PlayStation VR (PSVR) games, check the VR category below).

Recommended upcoming PS4 games:

Final Fantasy XV

The Last Guardian

 

Xbox One

Xbox One hardware:

Xbox One S 2TB Console –
Gears of War 4 Limited Edition Bundle

Xbox One S 1TB Console –
Battlefield 1 Special Edition Bundle

Xbox One games:

Battlefield 1

Dishonored 2

Doom

Forza Horizon 3

Gears of War 4

Ori and the Blind Forest:
Definitive Edition

Overwatch

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim –
Special Edition

Titanfall 2

Tom Clancy’s The Division

Recommended upcoming Xbox One games:

Dead Rising 4

Final Fantasy XV

 

Wii U

Wii U hardware:

Nintendo Wii U 32GB
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Set

Wii U games:

Paper Mario: Color Splash

Pokken Tournament

The Legend of Zelda:
Twilight Princess HD

 

Nintendo 3DS

3DS hardware:

Nintendo New 3DS XL
Solgaleo Lunala Black Edition

Nintendo 3DS Black Friday deal

3DS games:

Azure Striker Gunvolt:
Striker Pack

Kirby: Planet Robobot

Pokémon Sun

 

Pokémon Moon

Recommended upcoming 3DS games:

Super Mario Maker

 

Virtual Reality (VR)

HTC VIVE – Virtual Reality System

Some of today’s best VR gaming experiences are to be found on the HTC Vive. Room-scale motion tracking, included motion controllers and a headset with an external camera create an out-of-the-box virtual reality experience like no other today. Backed by a growing Steam game library and Viveport VR software, there is no shortage of what to virtually experience.

Steam Store VR recomendations:
– The Lab
– Job Simulator
– FATED: The SIlent Oath
– SoundStage
– Tilt Brush(and checkout ReVive for using Oculus Rift games with the HTC Vive.)

PlayStation VR Launch Bundle

Batman: Arkham VR – PlayStation 4

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HoloGrid Monster Battle AR game

Once a dream of Star Wars fans, gamers and Wookies, playing with tabletop holographic animated monsters is finally getting real. Monster-chess augmented reality gaming is just about here with HoloGrid: Monster Battle. Thanks to veteran visionaries Phil Tippett, movie monster crafter, and HappyGiant, an indie game developer composed of former LucasArts, ILM, Hasbro and Pileated Pictures vets. Today Phil Tippett and HappyGiant announced the launch of a Kickstarter campaign for HoloGrid: Monster Battle. This new augmented reality collectible card game comes from the original source of the holochess gaming concept in Star Wars. How exciting is it that we have finally have made it to the point of possibly playing it and on virtual/augmented reality platforms such as PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Magic Leap? Read on below for more details on HoloGrid: Monster Battle and how you can have a hand in making it real.

About HoloGrid:Monster Battle, from today’s announcement:
HoloGrid: Monster Battle’s gameplay is similar to Collectible Card Games (CCG’s) such as Magic: The Gathering or Hearthstone, but uses physical playing cards to trigger Augmented Reality creatures and a gameboard. Players will be able to play head-to-head, either locally or remotely, and offline, non digital play is possible as well through a physical board that will come with the product. A “Hybrid” Board Game, Collectible Card Game (CCG), and Digital Game in one, it delivers to players a new type of gaming experience.”

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Creatures are designed from the hands and imagination of Phil Tippett, who has created many of the memorable fantasy characters seen in Star Wars films, Jurassic Park, Robocop, The Force Awakens, and more. Using a very cool sounding technique called Photogrammetry, Phil Tippett and HappyGiant digitally capture the hand crafted monsters. 

“We’d been doing experiments with Photogrammetry, but more on museum level artifacts,” said Mike Levine, President of HappyGiant. “At the same time we began exploring doing projects with Tippett, we had the idea, ‘What if we tried this on some creatures?’ The results blew us away. That’s really where this idea was born.” “And it’s the exact same technique we used on The Force Awakens,” added Tippett.

HoloGrid Monster Battle AR game

HoloGrid: Monster Battle pits players against each other with the goal of defeating Champion monsters. Unique spells and attacks enable monsters to unleash battle techniques. If you have played games collectible card strategy games such as Magic: The Gathering, Hearthstone, or Eye of Judgment, you may be familiar with some of the mechanics. Summoning monsters through the use of collectible AR cards, players will be able to take-on battles in local matches (and possibly online matches with Kickstarter goals reached). A boxed product containing cards, tabletop mat and phone/tablet stand help bridge the virtual reality space with the aid of your Android or iOS device.

HoloGrid Monsters

“We’re excited to be launching this Kickstarter with Phil Tippett and his studio, and bringing to life a game so many of us have always wanted to play,” said Levine, “This is our first step into a new world of AR gaming, and while we are launching it on mobile initially so everyone can play it, our long term vision is to bring it to emerging AR and VR platforms.”

HoloGrid: Monster Battle is being crafted for iOS and Android platforms, but with the Kickstarter campaign the developers hope to reach stretch goals to propel it to platforms such as PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Magic Leap, PC and Mac.

Support HoloGrid: Monster Battle and visit the Kickstarter page here. Watch a trailer from HoloGrid: Monster Battle below. May the 4th be with HoloGrid: Monster Battle and make it happen!

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Young Conker Microsoft HoloLens

Welcome to living room platform gaming! With the select release of Microsoft’s HoloLens Developer Edition, Asobo Studio has opened a new world of virtual reality experiences – Young Conker and Fragments. Asobo Studio, an experienced indie game developer out of France, has released these to explore the space of what the HoloLens possibilities are in VR gaming.

Sebastian Wloch, Asobo Studio’s C.E.O said, “Our partnership with Microsoft gave us the opportunity to develop an unparalleled expertise towards holographic entertainment. With the development of our two first games for the Microsoft HoloLens Development Edition, we are breaking through a new era in video gaming. From now on, the players’ world will be at the center of the action and interactions. It’s been an awesome adventure to work hand-in-hand with Microsoft teams, and to take on the challenge of developing new creative processes for a never before seen device.”

Watch the two videos below to see how the Microsoft HoloLens interprets the environment and how gameplay can change based on it. Check out more on Asobo Studio at www.asobostudio.com.

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