The Mission: ISS: Quest VR game is a tale of two halves, and review can be subjective to how one feels about the other. One half of Quest offers a pleasurable visual ride through space, both in terms of its polished look and a plausible replica of the International Space Station. The other half is an exploration-based puzzle game that never quite lives up to expectations due to its linear structure and repetitive music-listen mechanic
Nevertheless, those who love space visuals should not be disappointed as this title excels in both areas. It also manages to push some technical boundaries that may well set a precedent for space-themed titles on Quest as more developers experiment with it as their go-to device.
Gameplay takes place over 4different areas, each with a distinct visual theme and puzzle mechanic. The opening level is a gentle flight through the solar system, allowing the player to gawp at spectacular vistas from a unique first-person perspective. In all four locations, you will have the ability to rotate the camera in order to view an object from any angle. Due to this, drifting off into space becomes effortless, just as it should be when playing a VR title
There are no weapons or enemies here…in fact, there isn’t even much in the way of interaction except for hitting switches or moving boxes. Creations such as these tend to spoil immersion but here it does not matter due to either novelty factor or simply because they make sense within the levels themselves.
The first puzzle comes on the second level, which has you floating within the ISS itself. Here gravity is turned off so it becomes a case of finding ways to switch it back on in order to progress forward. This mechanic is at times frustrating due to its unreliable nature but it can be fun allowing players to try their hand at building momentum by tumbling through space before letting go of the analogue stick just before hitting a wall
The third level consists of more predictable puzzles that see you manipulating valves, turning cranks and engaging levers – simple enough concepts with limited use throughout. The final stage ties everything together nicely by providing an opportunity for experimentation with your new abilities as time pressure makes sure things don’t get too dull despite the lack of new ideas.
The ISS areas themselves are visually impressive with both Earth and Moon views looking particularly sharp when compared to other titles on Quest. Each room is viewed from a set point that must be reached by manipulating objects in your immediate environment or finding hidden pathways that have you floating throughout the station like an ant on a balloon.
The game looks aesthetically pleasing but its mostly monotone color scheme (with only dark blue, white and red used) make it difficult to distinguish between certain textures, especially on some of the more cluttered sections where you find yourself close to objects without realising. This is due to the lack of 3D audio effects which would really help sell immersion by allowing players to hear the distance of nearby objects. The use of music-listen mechanics provides a nice break from the action but it can also feel repetitive after several minutes. The tracks themselves are pleasant enough, if not overly memorable.
Getting around is handled by teleporting via designated spots that act as waypoints throughout each level. Some may find this method artificial – many do – but anyone who’s played an explorer type game on PSVR should know what to expect here (hint: bland, dull and uninspired). One could even say that it’s somewhat similar to Robo Recall in regards to how movement is handled, except that Mission: ISS doesn’t allow you to shoot enemies mid teleport like Epic’s VR hit (even though there aren’t any enemies). Those who have played Robo Recall should also know that teleportation on its own doesn’t add much to a VR title. It’s the way in which it is implemented and by adding mechanics such as EVE from Onward, Quest may become a device of great potential.
Despite these complaints, I found myself enjoying most aspects of Mission: ISS: Quest. Perhaps some may find issues with the lack of enemy types or interesting new mechanics but for me, this was an enjoyable space romp that brought back memories of my childhood spent dreaming about exploration beyond Earth’s orbit.
In Summary: A simple puzzle game that fails to build upon existing ideas seen elsewhere on Oculus devices but still manages to be entertaining thanks to its reliance on high production values and a sense of exploration and wonderment.