Down the Rabbit, a narrative-driven first-person puzzle platformer that puts you in an Alice in Wonderland-esque adventure has been given a second release on Oculus Quest. The first time it was released was as an exclusive for Samsung Gear VR, so to have it ported to this new system is significant.
I played Down the Rabbit Hole with the Oculus Quest, which is now my go-to headset for playing new games. It was developed by Carbon Studios and published by Oculus Studios.
Down the Rabbit Hole has you playing as Alice, or at least you assume it’s Alice since there’s no written name anywhere; she only refers to herself as ‘Wonderland’, so this makes me think it’s just Alice. The way Wonderland talks and acts sometimes feels very un-Alice like, but this is a game I’d rather let slide because it’s otherwise lovely to play.
There is no story other than the basics: you’re trying to escape Wonderland and reach home, and there’s a closing note at the end of the game that has you realizing it’s just a story being told to you by your mother, so there are no plot twists or exciting things really.
The controls are pretty simple: the right controller is used as your left hand and vice versa. There are 3 buttons on each controller that can be pressed to do certain tasks, like the trigger button will let you jump and grab onto objects.
There is no motion controller support, so you can’t use your hands as they are in real life. Movement is as simple as holding down a thumbstick on the left controller to move forward and using the right controller to look around with your head. The only thing that felt a little weird was that there were times where I’d be required to run forward and then stop, turn around, and go back the other way. This was done by changing your orientation with the right controller. While this wasn’t difficult to do because you can look around while running forward, it felt kind of off for some reason; like I should be looking in the direction of my movement instead of just looking around.
With all that said, there were a few things I didn’t like about the game. The first thing was that the main mechanic is set up very early on, which would feel great if it wasn’t repeated over and over again. For example, the first time you need to do this is near the beginning, and then you come to a full stop for a little while (which is nice), only to find that the same mechanic needs to be done over and over again. Since most puzzle platformers are about getting from point A to B, Down the Rabbit Hole has some puzzles where it feels like you’re not even playing the game anymore and more like you’re just trying to get to the end of it.
The other thing that bothered me was there wasn’t much variety in terms of design for the levels. Given that each level represents a different area of Wonderland (i.e., White Rabbit’s House, etc.), I was expecting more storybook-like designs; instead, everything felt very repetitious. It made it hard to really appreciate the visuals of Down the Rabbit Hole since they were never that impressive in the first place; most areas looked like lightly textured playgrounds instead of detailed levels.
There is one area where this game shines through: sound design. The music was spot on for every level and only added to the atmosphere of the game. The sound effects were also a pleasure to hear, especially when it came to controls. One time I ran forward while looking up and down, and it made my right controller vibrate because I was constantly changing the orientation by turning my head around at all different angles. In fact, there’s a moment in the very beginning where you need to jump across a gap, and there’s this cool sound effect that plays whenever you turn your head around to look at the gap. It made me want to play with my controls even more just to hear all of these neat little effects; it was very immersive.
I’d definitely recommend playing Down the Rabbit Hole if you love puzzle platformers, or like any of the genres, I mentioned above. Although it lacks in story and variety, Down the Rabbit Hole is a very good little game that looks and sounds amazing.
I’m going to give this game a 7/10 because while it was fun to play for the most part, there just wasn’t enough varying designs and puzzles.