The Gallery: Call of the Starseed is one of the first games for the Oculus Rift platform, and it is a first person puzzle adventure game set in a beautiful environment that you explore using your motion controller. The gameplay is very similar to Valve’s Portal, except in this case, you are exploring the gallery’s exhibits. It’s a quirky title with some interesting puzzles. The good thing is that the game is compatible with the Touch controllers, however, gamepad support is gamepad only, so if you own an Xbox One controller, you may be out of luck.
The Gallery is an ambitious virtual reality game that puts you in the shoes of a member of a space crew. You primarily explore a star system, encountering strange creatures, and moving between different points of interest.
The Gallery is a short, interactive VR game developed by the creators of The Deep, which is a hugely popular VR experience. The Gallery is a short, interactive VR experience that features a collection of nine maps. The first eight are taken from the original game, and the final map is a brand new environment that is meant to expand the game into a much larger experience. The Gallery isn’t a newbie-friendly game, but it can still be an interesting way to experience VR.
Cloudhead Games’ The Gallery: Call of the Starseed (2016) is a first-person adventure that is unapologetically a “first” in many ways. It was one of the most cutting-edge adventure games of its day as a Vive launch title, and although it’s showing its age at this late review date, it’s still an interesting, well-realized cinematic experience that’ll have you eagerly anticipating the next episode. We didn’t have a chance to review it the first time around last year, so we went over it again in anticipation for The Gallery: Heart of the Emberstone, which comes out this month.
Call of the Starseed starts in the most blatantly ’80s manner possible—you’re left a cassette tape from your twin sister, Elsie, inviting you to meet her down by a lonely, windswept cove as she’s taken the liberty of going out on her own wild journey; to what end, you’re not sure. You encounter a sewer-dwelling, addle-brained professor who knows where Elsie has gone and sends you after her on what turns to be a mind-bending journey into the unknown, as he draws you deeper with more recordings discovered along the way. And what exactly is a Starseed? To discover out, you’ll have to play.
Puzzles in Call of the Starseed, like many adventure games, aren’t very challenging, serving instead as an interactive method to advance the narrative. However, outside of the explanation of “Duh, it’s a game,” the first problem you face makes no sense. “Games aren’t meant to be realistic,” which doesn’t seem like a promising start for a project that should aim to generate a sense of presence. However, if you can overlook that, the remainder of the hour-long game will be far more thematically consistent.
This complaint has been tagged for easy gripe-skipping by the reader. If you don’t want to read this complaint, go down to just before the ‘Immersion’ section for a less gripe-filled read.
I’m strolling down the beach when I come upon an ostensibly significant basket. The basket is immediately winched out of reach before I can examine it, almost as though the creators themselves are saying, “good attempt.” That is, in fact, what is stated on the bottom.
Continuing on, I enter the professor’s subterranean hideaway, where I decode a Morse code message instructing me to “shoot the bells.” When I was given the job of utilizing a flare pistol to blast a lot of bells to distract an apparently sentient lighthouse, I did my best to aim and fire, despite having no clue why. The dramatic soundtrack swells after you’ve fired the appropriate bells and sufficiently distracted the lighthouse, signaling that you’ve accomplished something wonderful and significant. Did I make a mistake? I wasn’t convinced. And I still feel as though something is missing.
You return to the basket, which has been lowered to expose a door handle to the sewer, where the old professor can be heard raving about the CIA or something like. What was the purpose of lowering the basket? What was the purpose of the elderly man’s additional handle? Why did he scribble “good try” on it since any able-bodied person could smash it with a bat? Maybe I should loosen up a little. After all, isn’t it only a game?
Gripe is de-escalated: It goes without saying that the first episode of The Gallery must be seen in context. Its mission was far broader than simply telling a logically coherent narrative with similarly consistent puzzles as the first class of motion controller, room-scale games that enabled full object interaction. It had to educate us how to navigate about the environment and pick things up; it invented a unique inventory system and pioneered blink teleportation, and it had to do all of this without boring us to death with tutorials.
Despite my exaggerated dissatisfaction, Call of the Starseed could have had a much worse fate as one of the first built-for-VR adventure games for motion controllers, and while it’s difficult for me to judge it with the same zeal as a modern game that’s had the benefit of learning from Call of the Starseed’s flaws—i.e. short gameplay length and less-than-ideal locomotion—
Again, being one of the first games of its type, Call of the Starseed gets a lot of slack when it comes to some of the less appealing graphic elements. In the meanwhile, both Oculus and Valve have worked hard to improve VR’s graphics burden on GPUs, and NVIDIA and AMD have released new, more powerful GPUs. Even on high settings, though, textures seem a bit too basic for such a well-realized environment, detracting from the game’s clever lighting and, frankly, awe-inspiring cinematics.
Object interaction isn’t as refined as it is in subsequent games, with Lone Echo (2017) serving as an example with its dynamic hand postures that enable you to grasp objects at any angle and hold them convincingly. Because you’re only provided a few precise handholds for each item in Call of the Starseed, holding things never feels exactly right, putting a dent in immersion.
Starseed, on the other hand, captures the plucky ’80s fantasy feel it was aiming for. Its cast of characters are clearly genuine individuals, despite their cartoonish appearance. This may be attributed to a well-crafted screenplay and excellent voice acting that brings the world’s characters to life.
Cloudhead Games was one of the first to create teleportation and snap-turn comfort mode, which have now become industry standards. There are a few various types of teleportation, so you’ll have to try them out to see which one works best for you. Despite this, the mobility system is showing its age, since I often had difficulty locking on to an acceptable teleport location.
Smooth-turn addicts will be disappointed to discover that the settings menu lacks its world-twisting yaw motion. Guys, better luck next time.
You may also force-grab objects from a close enough distance, eliminating the need to bend down to pick them up. However, this was uneven, with the greatest example being a finicky puzzle that required you to grasp floating battery cells in zero G. This problem tested my patience as I practiced force-grabbing batteries rather than physically plucking them from the air as I normally would, simply because catching a battery always resulted in it flying away in the other direction.
Despite the frustrations, Call of the Starseed is a really pleasant game to play, whether sitting or standing. When the sequel comes out, we’re expecting to see some real smooth second-generation-level improvements in all of these areas.
The Gallery: Heart of the Emberstone is nearly here, so stay tuned for our complete review on launch day (TBA).
The Gallery: Call of the Starseed is a long-awaited VR experience that finally delivers a classic gaming experience in virtual reality. With a unique story, beautiful graphics and incredible soundtrack, the game stands out as one of the best VR games of 2018.
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