Aoga Tech and Winking Entertainment bring the head scratching essence of the escape room experience to virtual reality – a medium that feels as though it was conjured up specifically for this type of game. 18 Floors presents a cerebral challenge and an amount of implied peril to hurry things along, but falls short of being brilliant because it’s… well… too short. Just as VR games are shrugging off the image of high cost/low content this isn’t going to help the argument much, but it has the potential to redeem itself.
If you’ve ever taken part in an escape room game in real life you’ll instantly be at home in 18 Floors. After a brief control tutorial and stepping into a lift that moves you to the first floor, you’re sealed into an room with no instructions, very few visual cues, and only the imperative to get out before something weird, tragic or deadly happens. This may sound familiar if you’ve played I Expect You To Die, but there’s a significant difference here – you’re not fixed in place and can freely move around the area. This opens up the gameplay somewhat and allows the developers to get creative with the space as well as the puzzles.
The idea is simple, the solutions aren’t. Prod, poke and pull at every item that looks like it might do something until you find a thread that might lead you to a puzzle, or better yet, a clue. Get a starting point and then it’s a matter of solving things in sequence until the exit is unlocked. Take the first room for example: there are 5 boxes that must be opened to activate the lift doors, and each box has a different locking mechanism that must be figured out. There are environmental clues scattered around and audio cues that provide feedback, and whilst some of the elements might make you think your brain is about to explode, there’s nothing that can’t be solved by looking at what’s in front of you.
Control wise it’s standard PS Move manipulation with a wand in each hand, and both can be used to teleport or pick things up. The physics system ensures objects have weight and physical presence when you’re using them, and makes you wonder if that’s the type of puzzle that 18 Floors will eventually lead to. I can’t answer that right now though because there are only 2 available to work through. Whilst the PS store description is clear there it’s limited, it doesn’t give any clues on when additional floors are coming, or if they will be free (though the Steam store mentions the end of this year and at least one free update). It’s a real shame because just as you get the hang of the logic and how it’s hanging together, it all ends with a “to be continued…” message.
It’s tough to review because it’s quite clearly nowhere near finished, not if we assume that there are sixteen more floors to come and the mysteries of the Queen of Naoh Star are to be revealed… not that you’d know. The backstory for the game is in the product description only, there’s nothing at all during play itself to let you know. It’s jarring given how well executed the content that’s in there is. There’s atmosphere and style, it respects your intelligence from the beginning, and it has potential to be one of the more interesting VR games on the market. Oh, and the trophies do not work either.
Despite how well it’s put together, it’s with a heavy heart that I suggest not investing in 18 Floors at the moment, or at least until they reveal the release schedule and final pricing so that you know what you’re getting into. The two rooms there are currently are very good, but the pricing is too high for the content unless the next few are free (at £6 a floor, it’s a very expensive VR game). Maybe it’s to test the waters as an appetite for a full game, kind of a prologue idea, it just doesn’t pass itself off as that and leaves you disappointed and unfulfilled. See it in a sale at any point though and you should snap it up to experience what it’s like to get stuck in a room because you’ve managed to make yourself believe it’s all more complicated than it is.
A PS4 review copy of 18 Floors was provided by Aoga Tech’s PR team and the game is available now on PS4 and PC for around £12. More levels should be coming later this year, but it remains to be seen if they will be free or paid DLC.