As a lover of all things horrifying and disgusting, I thought it was about time I dust off the old VR headset and prepare myself for the fright of my life. I have to hand it to VRWERX, developers of Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul. For a while their game had me hanging off the edge of my seat. But things quickly changed and something felt off with this title. I needed to find out what.
Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul is a game controlled solely through the PlayStation Move wands so the way the character moves when you’re in the hot seat has much to answer for. In this early stage for new VR games, I understand that there are still teething problems for the new technology. In Paranormal Activity’s Early Access stage, the control issues were addressed and people were finally starting to accept the walking simulation for what it was: a fine addition to the franchise. However, the full release made available to PSVR users is far from being perfect. Adjustments need to be made.
After the extremely brief tutorial in what seemed to be an attic, I was shown how to use the PlayStation Move wands and how to dreadfully turn in slice motion. The game’s default setting is set at 30 degrees. You can increase the turn to either 45 or 180 degrees. In this initial tutorial I also learned how to pick up items and how to select the New Game option. After that, I was on my own. The Lost Soul offers no on-screen HUD for hints or button prompts since there is no need for one or a health bar either. So here begins: Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul…
Problems at the Start
Like any good horror game, we begin in darkness, only just being able to see our surroundings. The only thing that’s visible is a torch (flashlight), switched on, its beam indicating where my light source was located. The first major flaw I noticed was just how difficult it was to pick an item up off the floor. Even with the ability to crouch, the PlayStation Eye had problems identifying the wands when bent over. After an agonising two minutes of working out the best way to secure my new loot, I acquired my new torch and made my way to the creepy looking house of horror.
At this point in Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul, there had been no indication of any story which definitely added to a feeling of unease. The player has nothing but questions at this point:
Who are we, where are we and why are we here? As I approached the rather expensive looking American abode, I was faced with a red door that required a key before I was able to continue. This is the point where I discovered the sort of game I was getting myself into.
The best I can say about this game is that it’s definitely an experience. A paranormal one at that. It’s pretty much an interactive movie with at least two possible endings. Those familiar with the Paranormal Activity franchise will know what to expect by the way of a story. Those who are trying this game without prior knowledge will work it out pretty quickly.
With My Finger on the Trigger
Every locked door needs the right key to fit the lock. I was gently prompted to find the key by that of a note hanging off the door. So begins my first task and objective. Once found, I immediately ran into my second problem with the controls, opening doors. The only advice I can give you is: First, put either wand forward to move the corresponding hand, then press down the trigger on the wand to make the hand grasp the door handle and finally with the trigger held down on the wand, wave your hand around like you’re Harry Potter trying to kill Voldemort. It’s basically pot luck to get the door open, even after an entire play-through, I still can’t be completely sure how I did it!
After gaining entry to the house, the journey truly began. I wasn’t sure what to expect after all the issues with the controls, but even though the game ended up being very linear, it was still entertaining enough to keep a player like me occupied for a while albeit a very short while. My whole completion time was about 3 hours and that was because I missed a few minor details which meant I couldn’t progress any further until I had found a certain item or performed a certain action. This can be very frustrating as there is no indication as to where to go or what to do. However, there is still some fun to be had with PA: The Lost Soul, as there are random scares and shaking doors that’ll keep you on your toes. I had a couple of moments where I thought I was actually going to keel over from shock, with things appearing in front of my face so suddenly.
Who Said That?
Similar to the PA film franchise, there is a lack of music to allow for the sounds of silence to heighten the feeling of pressure and realism. The noises of the house tend to be very disturbing at times and help make you feel uncomfortable and unsettled. There are some cassette tapes to find and listen to as well. Holding these up to your headset will actually make them louder creepily more audible. Of course, bangs and crashes are also amplified to emphasise the scare all the way through the game.
The final issue I have with The Lost Soul is the turn circle of the character. It feels clumsy and takes some of the suspense out of the simulation due to the fact that it doesn’t look or feel natural in the slightest. Slice based turning is used in an attempt to prevent motion sickness, so I understand why it has to be there. But, I just don’t see why the developers haven’t implemented smooth turning. It would add a realness to the game instead of embarrassingly reminding me that I’m 31 and still playing video games.
Difficult to See the Details
I hate to say it, but some of the unimportant visuals are a bit… disappointing. Some items are so bad you can’t even tell what they are. A few of these items can actually be interacted with. For example, a squashed tin can (at least that’s what I think it was) can be picked up and put down again. There is no reason to pick it up at all, but because it doesn’t really look like a squashed tin can, more like a blurry mess, but I needed to be sure that it wasn’t an item necessary for story progression. After closer inspection, I realised it definitely wasn’t. Some letters and notes that are littered around the house also suffer from poor visual graphics and at times are blurry and barely readable. Some of these notes take a few moments for the visual graphics to catch up leaving me waving a piece of paper around until it can be read without squinting. The developer VRWERX has promised some patches to improve these graphics, so fingers crossed.
After countless hours (three) I reached my destination and all was revealed. The story comes to a quick close and I appear back in the attic where I began my tutorial. And here I am prompted to go for another round with Casper, the unfriendly ghost. I’m not sure that I will…