Review: Arca’s Path VR (PSVR)

If you can imagine Super Monkey Ball but in VR, you’re not far off the experience of playing Arca’s Path. The aim is to guide a little polygonal ball along a winding track, but the big difference is that rather than a controller, you use your head to guide your spherical companion. A triangle icon shows where you’re looking, then you simply turn your head to look at the point where you want the ball to go, and off it obediently tumbles. If you want it to go slower, you look at a point just in front of the ball, and if you want to stop it completely, you look directly at it.

It might sound weird, but the control system becomes intuitive very quickly, and after not too long I was guiding my rotund friend around twisting tracks with ease. It’s really impressive just how responsive the system is, too: which is just as well, as it meant that any time I plunged into the abyss, I had only myself to blame rather than the controls.

There’s a story to Arca’s Path, although to be honest it doesn’t really need one. The game opens with a young girl – presumably Arca – scrabbling through a junk pile on the edge of a futuristic city, when she comes across some sort of VR headset. After putting it on, she’s transported into the game world, and much rolling of balls ensues. And that’s about it, every few levels you get another cut scene showing Arca’s latest escapade via still, cartoony images that are quite at odds with the chunky polygons of the main levels… but there’s no real reason for them to be there. I mean, does a game about trundling a ball around even need a plot?

In terms of the levels themselves, they start off incredibly easy, with walled tracks that give you no chance of plunging into the infinite pit below. But gradually, more and more elements are introduced, like moving platforms, switches and jumps. There are also crystals to collect, which are often hidden down side paths or in hard-to-reach places, and finding all of them on a level unlocks a time trial… which is a bit disappointing, really. You’d think you’d be able to replay a level against the clock as a matter of course. I didn’t really feel any incentive to go out of my way to collect crystals because I knew the reward was so dull – why can’t the collectibles unlock, I don’t know, extra levels, or artwork, or lore, or basically anything except a version of exactly the same level you’ve just done but with a clock in it?

And frankly, I wasn’t in any hurry to replay the levels. I’m sad to say it, but Arca’s Path is just plain boring. After finishing chapter 1, which constitutes the first six levels, I had no urge to continue. And after taking a look at the Trophies for this game, it seems I’m not the only one: at the time of writing, 88% of players had finished chapter 1, but only 22% had bothered to finish chapter 2. That’s a massive drop off.

But, dear reader, I persevered. Because I’m a games reviewer, and that’s what I do. And did it get any better? Well, a tiny bit. A few very simple puzzles were introduced, which involved shifting blocks around, but the levels remained incredibly easy. Even late into the game, most of the tracks still have rails, and I could finish most levels on my first attempt. By the end of level 15, my patience eventually wore thin and I just couldn’t take any more. Getting that far took around two hours – and a quick glance at the level select screen reveals that there are only 25 levels in total. Yet even though I knew there were just ten levels to go, I couldn’t bring myself to go back and finish them off. That’s a very bad sign indeed.

I had a quick blast on one of the time trials just to see what it was like, and I have to say it was marginally more entertaining than the main game, simply because racing against the clock raises the adrenaline levels somewhat. But even then we’re talking about going from ‘incredibly dull’ to just ‘slightly dull’. Even the look of the game is boring: the pastel shades and copious plants reminded me of a waiting room in a mid-range spa. But a spa playing utterly awful music – seriously, the music is so bad I had to turn it off halfway through. I can’t even remember the last time I did that in a game. The sound effects aren’t much better: the rolling of the ball makes a horrible noise like the whine of a child’s toy motorbike. I found it incredibly irritating.

Do you know what this game reminds me of? Those little plastic mazes you used to get that contain a tiny silver ball. They were entertaining for about five minutes, then quickly got thrown in a drawer and forgotten about until mum did one of her big clear outs. That’s Arca’s Path. I hate writing bad reviews like this, because I know that a group of people have worked hard to make this game. But the simple truth is this – it’s not very much fun.

Perhaps it needs more monkeys?

Arca’s Path VR is available for PSVR, Oculus Rift and Vive. We reviewed the PSVR version.

Disclosure statement: Review code for Arca’s Path VR was provided by Rebellion. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.

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