I have to admit that when Sir Lucius handed me this game to review, I thought that it looked a bit silly. “A simple looking 2D platformer game in VR? Nonsense”! Sir Lucius said he would let me out of the basement for one hour if I played it though, so what could I do? However, I was surprised to find that it’s actually quite well made, and contained some pretty interesting use of the PS4’s VR and motion controls.
The story of The Lost Bear is simple. You are a child that has lost your beloved stuffed bear, due to some strange little creature making off with it, and so you must journey through the creepy woods nearby to find it. Naturally, you can’t simply walk in there and pick up the bear. Treacherous terrain and strange, angry creatures will do their best to halt your progress. You’ll have to get past them using some pretty basic adventure-platformer (that’s what I’m going to call these Out of This World type games from now on) mechanics that ordinarily wouldn’t be much to write home about, but some creative inclusion of various motion controls makes things interesting. You’ll have to use your controller to do things like aiming your slingshot, manually turning cranks, and more.
Then there’s the VR features. You may ask the same question I asked myself, “What good is VR in a 2D side-scrolling game?”, and I’m still not entirely convinced of its necessity myself. VR here serves only to have you sitting in a virtual room, playing a game on a screen. It is a nice big screen, and the room is nicely detailed, even including interesting, but infrequent, 3D visual and audio effects to coincide with something happening on the screen, but it doesn’t really serve any purpose in terms of the game itself. Nothing in the actual gameplay, including all the motion control actions, require VR. The game however, cannot be played at all without VR. This is baffling to me, as this game could easily stand on its own without the VR theater gimmick, and I would imagine that the majority of non-VR PlayStation users would have been a much bigger audience than what they’ll get with the VR-only crowd, but that’s the developer’s design choice, and I can’t fault them for that too much. They’re trying something different here, and I appreciate that.
The only thing I don’t appreciate here is the length. Adventure-platformers are typically notoriously short, with an average length of around three hours, but The Lost Bear is over in a brief 45 minutes. This is one of the shortest games I’ve ever played, and while I did enjoy my time with it, I can’t help but feel that they could have done so much more here. They’ve built a nice-looking little world here and it’s already got the mechanics in it to sustain a larger variety of puzzles, so why not take it further?
I’m still not quite sure how to feel about this game in the end. It is a well-made and enjoyable experience for what it is, but I can’t imagine myself ever recommending it to anyone who was looking for a great PSVR-exclusive experience, knowing how little content and actual use of VR technology there is. For all its charm, it ultimately just falls short of feeling fulfilling.
The Lost Bear is available now digitally on PS4.
Disclosure statement: Review code for The Lost Bear was provided by Fabrik Games. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.