VirtuaVerse is exhausting to play, with many frustrating puzzles and a cyberpunk story that comes off a bit too preachy. But the visuals and audio keep you going, as VirtuaVerse looks terrific and sounds even better.
VirtuaVerse makes a solid first impression, with its old-school vibe and cyberpunk aesthetics. Its stylish pixel art and perfect techno soundtrack are even better reasons to play it. But behind this shiny, neon-lit facade is a taxing point-and-click title, with puzzles so obscure they leave anyone but the most hardcore adventure game fans frustrated as heck.
Let’s start with the good bits – VirtuaVerse is amazing to look at and listen to, especially if you’re into old-school video games. The game does a fantastic job of bringing its Cyberpunk theme to life, with one of the best Synthwave soundtracks I’ve heard in a while.
Seriously, the music is the best part of this game. Wandering its world while the electronic beats pound into your brain, makes everything seem faster and more exciting than it is. VirtuaVerse is just an excellent game to listen to.
The pixel art is also incredible and detailed. The rain-drenched streets reflecting the blue and purple neon lights look fantastic, and there are some truly inspiring interior environments like a nightclub full of little details and colorful characters.
As with most of these games, the characters themselves are the least detailed aspect of the graphics, although each has a unique look. I’m especially fond of the protagonist’s design, as his dark hood and animations remind me of Bobbin Threadbare from Loom.
Hack the Planet
Our hooded hero is Nathan, a hacker and hardware engineer living his best life in a cyberpunk dystopia. While most of humanity lives in a permanent Augmented Reality, Nathan is one of the few that can still turn off their AR headsets and see the world for what it really is.
One night, Nathan’s girlfriend Jay disappears, leaving nothing but a cryptic message on the bathroom mirror. As he goes out searching for her, he stumbles on a conspiracy to enslave all of humankind by completely disconnecting everyone from “permanent reality.”
The story is pretty much what you’d expect from a dystopian cyberpunk game, but it’s also a love letter to everything retro. Floppy disks, the demoscene, listening to full albums instead of playlists on Spotify – VirtuaVerse praises the “good old days” of 16-bit and dial-up. Any technology newer than the CD-ROM is bad, and you should feel bad for using it.
VirtuaVerse also leans a bit too hard on the “we’re sacrificing our freedom and privacy for comfort and cheap entertainment” angle most dark sci-fi stories go for. It usually works well with the game’s themes, but there are more than a few times the delivery feels heavy-handed and preachy.
Still, I mostly enjoyed the story, even if it failed to connect with me. It’s well-written and even funny on occasion. I would’ve preferred the game to include voice acting since there’s a lot of dialogue to go through. But given the old-school approach here, the complete lack of voice-over isn’t a dealbreaker. Just slightly disappointing.
VirtuaVerse is a classic point-and-click game, in every sense of the word. From the interface to the puzzles, it’s all very old-school in the best way possible. Fans of the genre will immediately feel at home, and newcomers will get the hang of the pointing, clicking, and using the inventory in a jiffy.
The thing that takes way more time is figuring out are the puzzles themselves. VirtuaVerse is one of the more difficult point-and-click games I played recently. Sometimes it’s because the puzzles are complex and require some deep thinking, and other times because they make no sense whatsoever.
You’ll get stuck a lot, and even when you think you’ve made some progress, there’s usually one extra step that stops you right in your tracks. Other times you might manage to get something to work without understanding why or how it helps you reach your goal. It can get very frustrating, and I lost my patience with the game several times while playing.
It doesn’t help that everything in the game takes so long to do, especially getting from one place to another. Nathan doesn’t run, and double-clicking on an exit doesn’t immediately warp you to the next screen (like in most modern adventure games). Going back and forth between locations, trying to figure out what you missed is exhausting. Everything is just so slow, and it feels like the game doesn’t respect your time.
For example, at one point, you are forced to watch one of those trippy digital graffiti videos, with weird shapes and colors that blasts acid techno music. These are called demos, by the way. It takes a few minutes to go through it, while a story-crucial message slowly scrolls at the bottom of the screen. Later in the game, you have to rewatch the whole thing and look for hidden symbols to solve a puzzle, and it’s one of the most boring things I’ve done in a video game.
Luckily, the second half of VirtuaVerse is much more contained, so things speed up a little, and the game gets way better. The puzzles don’t get any more coherent, but by then, you’re used to the game’s pacing and slightly moon-ish logic.
Patience Is a Virtue
VirtuaVerse is for hardcore adventure fans. If you stick with it and make it past the rough parts, you’ll find a challenging point-and-click game that looks and sounds incredible.
A few quality-of-life patches can make this game much more approachable and less tiresome to play. As things stand, though, be prepared to sink a lot of time into this one, for better or worse.
Developer: Theta Division
Publisher: Blood Music
Release Date: May 12, 2020
Available On: PC
Reviewed On: PC
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