(CAUTION MINOR SPOILERS)
Overview: Arca’s Path
Arca’s Path is a VR puzzle platformer developed by Rebellion. The VR experience allows for control over a icosahedron which utilizes acceleration to traverse a multitude of landscapes filled with obstacles, pitfalls, puzzles, and speed traps. Your biggest enemy will undoubtedly be yourself as you attempt to navigate the inclines of Arca’s landscapes while balancing your speed and direction.
The gameplay in Arca’s path is simple, fun, and intuitive. You’ll take control of the avatar of a young girl who is trapped inside the simulated world of Arca by a synthetic witch. It is your task to navigate various obstacles and environments while avoiding any combination of movements which cause you to fall from the landscape itself. This is accomplished by “looking” with the VR headset. Depending on the distance and direction that you cast your gaze, you can either utilize low or high speed as your avatar accelerates.
Since each landscape is different, you’ll encounter curves, half-pipes, ascending and descending planes, rotating bridges, and various other tricks that the game will employ to try and thrust you off of any given platform. The game environment itself is very relaxed so there are no lives or limited attempts. The best actual way to complete each stage is at a moderate speed and methodically. But if your any kind of gamer, you’ll find yourself trying to reconcile each stage at a high speed until you ramp off of a narrow border a few times.
In each stage you will come across numerous crystals to collect. Acquiring all of them in any given stage will unlock a time trial for that particular level for all the speed run lovers out there. Additionally, there are some light puzzles to solve which mostly comprise of adjusting movable platforms to navigate across to another area. The story mode and the time trial mode are what comprises Arca’s Path. If you are a causal gamer however, you can enjoy the story mode at any pace without feeling rushed.
Arca’s Path contains a very vague story in terms of gameplay and is pretty much only inferred through a storyboard type scene at the beginning/end of each chapter. The outline is that a young girl is trapped within a virtual world called Arca by an android witch and her avian familiar. The girl is forced to traverse the virtual world and at some point is able to combat the witch and her pet by breaking through Arca itself.
Arca uses the VR headset pretty much exclusively for all gameplay functions so the need for a controller or keyboard is pretty limited. The only other function you’ll really need another device for is to pause the game or to utilize free look mode, the latter of which I ended up using a lot of. Arca’s Path uses a lot of minute and maintained motions using the neck which may cause pain for some with medical conditions or over prolonged periods of play.
You control the avatar by looking at a direction that is off center of the avatar itself. This causes acceleration based on how far away your marker is. Place the marker under the avatar and you stop, place it far away and you speed up quickly. Since the game clings to physics fairly well, uneven planes will cause an increase or decrease in speed and will limit your directional control if you are going too fast. Ultimately the game is easy to pick up for all skill levels but mastery of movement may take some time.
The environments of Arca’s Path are lush and enjoyable to look at. The colors, shapes, and backgrounds caused me to enter free look mode to admire them on many occasions. Story board animations were visually enjoyable as well but were sparse. Many of the items within each level would pop up in a sort of stop motion paper craft manner which was different and fun to watch. My only issue with some of the 3d objects is that the vast majority of them are clipped through by the avatar. While this doesn’t seem like a big deal a lot of them are sizeable in comparison to the avatar and there are many other objects which cause impact. They aren’t hard to tell apart but it did give a misrepresented feeling of a virtual world.
The sounds at every turn were crisp and had a wide range. Across the various chapter themes many ambient noises that set an appropriate atmospheric tone which helped to blend the reality of art and visuals. There were only a few active sounds to help cue in the movement of objects and level adjustments but all of them were on time and helped with physical navigation without obstruction.
The soundtrack was composed by electronic musician Raffertie and was one of my favorite aspects of Arca’s Path. He uses a wide range of synth and effects to create a unique track for each chapter which range from ambient and calm to downright Silent Hill. And though the story is not too intermixed with the narrative, the soundtrack really helps sell the digital world of Arca.
Ultimately Arca’s Path is a fun VR experience that is not too difficult for anyone new to VR and provides enough fine control to be an enjoyable platformer to veterans. The lush visuals and synth audio setting makes you feel like you are traveling through a virtual world yourself. And even though the story was light for my tastes, the setting it fosters was still entertaining. Arca’s Path is a short game, and will only provide about 5-8 hours of entertainment for most gamers, but it was definitely a fun time and I hope to see more in this same vein.