“Population: One Review” is a virtual reality experience designed for the Oculus Quest. It was released in December of 2019, and I’ve recently had the chance to play through it. The game takes place aboard a spaceship that has crash-landed on an alien planet; there’s only one survivor, and you’re tasked with piloting her escape pod to safety.
The visuals in “Population: One” are nothing special either way; they remind me of games like “Job Simulator“, or even “Face Your Fears 2” – VR titles from earlier generations (PS3/PS4). The textures are flat and boring, though many levels make good use of lighting effects to add some dynamism. It also uses 3D spatial audio which does add a bit to the immersion.
The mechanics in this game are fairly intuitive, and there is a short tutorial to teach you the controls before you start. In case you were wondering, they’re very similar to most VR games that use handheld controllers: grab on, pull down on the controller/touchpad, push on it to activate. You can also jump by swiping up with your hand while grabbing a ledge, allowing for some platforming elements. There’s nothing special about the gameplay here – it functions how it needs to function, but little more than that.
Like many other VR titles of its age, “Population: One” works best when it focuses on what makes virtual reality unique; namely offering a new perspective for visual immersion and user engagement through the use of sound and spatial awareness. In this vein, “Population: One” excels as a thought-provoking experience. Nowhere is this more true than the final level, which I will not spoil for those who have yet to play it.
I wanted to take a moment and discuss the game’s $9.99 price tag, as I feel that it is perhaps too high for what you’re getting. For comparison, here are some other titles in similar genres/genres with similar prices:
“Lies Beneath” – One of the best VR games ever made; full-length AAA single-player campaigns from major studios cost at least this much. You get about 1/3rd of this content from “Population: One”.
“Face Your Fears 2” – A horror title designed for kids by Turtle Rock Studios, a division of Valve Corporation (owners of leading PC gaming platform Steam). This has a lot less content than “Population: One”, but it also costs the same.
“Beat Saber” – A rhythm game with a lot going for it: a well-established title, a fun experience, and a low price tag ($19.99) considering the amount of content you get from this compared to “Population: One”.
In my opinion, at least one of these games is worth your money if you want more VR. Each offers comparable or superior value for its price point as far as the quality/quantity ratio goes. In addition, they’re all vastly richer experiences than “Population: One”, which mostly feels like it’s just checking off boxes to say that it has gameplay/levels/mechanics in order to call itself a ‘game’. It works, but there’s nothing special about it.
In summary, “Population: One” is a fun way to pass the time if you’re able to get it at a discount, but don’t feel bad if you miss out on this one. There are better games in similar genres with similar price points that offer a lot more for your money. That being said, I’d love to see a sequel done right because I think this spin-off has a lot of potential!
In conclusion, nothing about “Population: One Review” is particularly good nor bad – it’s a casual VR game that functions as expected, but does little else to stand out from the crowd. If you’re into VR games then by all means go ahead and check it out! It can be finished in around 30 minutes or so, depending on how quick you are.
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Rating: 3/5 stars