The virtual reality game “Torn” is a new release from the creators of “The Brookhaven Experiment.” It has been praised for its story and style, but some players have found that it’s too much like a traditional point-and-click adventure.
Torn is a story that’s told in the style of a science fiction thriller, but it’s not quite as satisfying as it could be. The game-like puzzles are repetitive and get old quickly.
Torn is a single-player adventure game inspired by The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror, two of the best sci-fi television shows of all time. Torn had a lot of positive aspects, yet it ultimately left me feeling torn.
Putting yourself in the shoes of modern-day video blogger Katherine Patterson, you stumble onto an abandoned estate where you must solve bizarre puzzles with a trusty gravity gun provided to you by Dr. Lawrence Talbot, a once-famous physicist. Talbot, on the other hand, has been transformed into a dancing point of light, who leads you along the path to fulfill his enigmatic will.
With its unique and various objects strewn about, the game is a visual joy, with the great majority of which can be picked up and tossed around with the help of your gravity gun—even enormous stuff like pianos or entire cupboards don’t get in the way. Performance was only an issue in the larger rooms with more objects, which can be reduced in the settings to accommodate lower-spec PCs. Overall, given the high quality of visuals, lighting effects, and physics-based items like drifting curtains, the game performed admirably.
The mansion’s splendor is hard to overstate, especially when compared with the steampunk-ish technologies that include more than a hint of glowing cathode ray tubes and huge cabling snaking everywhere. While this is normally reserved for the Immersion section below, it is worth noting that Torn is one of the most visually stunning VR games to date.
Torn is one of those adventure games that de-emphasizes puzzle complexity in favor of telling a story—if you’re searching for intriguing, varied riddles that will leave you scratching your head, then this isn’t the game for you. Don’t get me wrong: low-complexity puzzles aren’t horrible in and of itself, but they may get tedious when there’s just one type of challenge throughout the game, which is unfortunately the situation with Torn.
The game is essentially a test of your ability to match fundamental forms, and it is done with such a monotonous level of repetition that it damaged some of what turned out to be a great story line, which I believe is worth paying attention to, thinking about, and following through to the finish.
You use your gravity cannon to disclose and pick up everyday objects marked with circuit-shaped glyphs in Torn. To continue, insert the hat box or dinner plate into the slot revealed by your light and complete the circuit. Each area contains three different versions of the same problem, some with smaller pieces and others with pressure pads to mix things up; you simply fill in the missing parts and go on, rinse, and repeat until the credits roll.
Talbot, who alternates between being a magical point of light and a globular liquid mass (thanks to PhysX), never gives you a moment of quiet. He’s always leading you to the next puzzle piece, the next slot, and his “helpful” hints continue throughout the game, even as the number of slots and pieces increases. The persistent breadcrumb trope of the helpful robot (or alternatively, the helpful radio voice) irritates me, but what irritates me even more is that I’m never really presented with a challenge, only a series of tasks to complete until I’m magically transported to an ethereal zone where Talbot explains more about his lost wife Rina, who apparently met the same fate as Talbot in his experiment to change matter.
While there are numerous objects to play with in the house’s twisting halls, their only true significance is as square blocks that fit into square holes. There is no inventory system because the only thing you’ll have on your person except your gravity cannon is one of the eight keys you earn along the journey.
Apart from these flaws, almost everything else about the game is excellent. You can’t hack your way through the puzzles, and the level design is self-explanatory enough that you’ll never get lost on your quest to discovering the truth about the mansion and Talbot’s plans. In the end, I spent four hours playing the game.
Because you mostly use your gravity pistol to interact with objects, you only need your hands to pull the occasional lever or unlock a door. Low hand presence isn’t a huge concern in this game because of the structure of the game.
In any game, bad voice acting may ruin immersion, but in virtual reality, we want genuine people with real emotions, so it’s doubly detrimental. Thankfully, Torn has excellent voice performers who do an excellent job. Despite the fact that there are only two vocal characters, you and Talbot, the dialogue between the two is convincing.
Bad storytelling may also make even the most sophisticated puzzle scheme feel disconnected, but Torn has created something compelling enough to keep me playing (despite the assault of dull riddles) and guessing until the very end. I’m not going to say much more here to avoid giving anything away about the mystery. The game’s story was written by Neill Glancy of Stranglehold (2007) and Susan O’Connor of Tomb Raider and BioShock, so none of this is surprising.
Garry Schyman of BioShock and Middle Earth: Shadow of War wrote a beautiful orchestral score that added to the suspense and provided for an amazing listening experience. As Talbot flew around your head, off on his diatribes about his lost wife and his life as an inventor, the positional audio was also extremely good.
Blink teleportation, dash teleportation, and head-relative smooth forward walking are the three modes of mobility available to Torn (but no smooth turning). Walking isn’t customizable, and it’s so sluggish that it’s virtually worthless for me, but it’s at least a comfortable alternative that won’t make your head spin.
Snap-turning, often known as “VR comfort mode,” is available to varying degrees, but with the right sensor/basestation combination, you can also play in room-scale.
Torn is a pretty comfortable game, with the exception of a fairly twisty-turny opening cinematic that weaves you through the heart of Talbot’s mansion.
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