|Platform||Oculus Rift (Platform)|
|Device||Oculus Rift CV1, HTC Vive|
|Operating System||Windows 7|
|Input Device||Gamepad, Keyboard, Mouse|
|Game Mode||Single Player, Multiplayer|
|Release Date||April 20, 2016|
Mindfield Games’ POLLEN is the latest in a growing trend of titles certain people like to call “Walking Simulators” – unlike its predecessors however, it natively supports VR, but is that enough to make it interesting?
Mindfield Games’ POLLEN [official site] has made the wise decision to not be exclusive to VR. While VR is new and exciting technology, there are still few early adopters, many people are still holding off on purchasing a headset and with good reason – this is still nascent technology. Since POLLEN is a relatively niche title, making it available for those who are not early adopters was the right choice.
Perhaps one of the closest analogues to POLLEN, at least as far as gameplay goes, is Gone Home. While POLLEN features an interesting alternate history Sci-Fi setting instead of a nostalgia-laden 90s household, the way you interact with the world is quite similar.
Much like in Gone Home, you can interact with a huge variety of objects in the world, unfortunately, most of these interactions only go as far as picking them up and looking at them, but it is definitely a boon to world building, This could, however, also lead to frustration for some, as the game decides what objects you actually get to put in your inventory, you might find yourself picking up and shaking every single item you come across for plot advancement purposes rather than because you want to.
POLLEN supports both HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, and is certainly a more immersive experience with them. The game looks beautiful, and seeing it through the headset is even better. A lot of the technology in the game is the kind of thing you’d expect to see in an Aliens movie – boxy, scrolling green text terminals, punch cards, cassette players, it really does give the game a fairly unique identity when it could have easily been mired in mundane “future tech”.
While certainly interesting, POLLEN does have some issues. While the early parts of the game appear to be very carefully crafted, the further you go on, the more rushed the experience appears to be. It is also not a very long experience, clocking in at approximately 2-3 hours. Is this an issue? Not necessarily. Many gamers have complained about such short experience before, but truly, the real question should be: “Is this a satisfying, complete experience?” rather than “Did I spend X number of hours playing this?”
With an increasingly older gamer population that has more responsibility and less free time, many people welcome shorter but more meaningful experiences. At the end of the day, if a game is “all killer no filler”, the fact that its only 3 hours long shouldn’t be an issue.
Is POLLEN such an experience? That depends on the individual. Gone Home and the more recent Firewatch were both excellent experiences, if you could draw anything emotionally or intellectually from them, if you are coming at these games from a traditional perspective, then you might not feel they are worthwhile.
We all love traditional games where you just murder demons from hell or collect loot, those will never go away, and don’t let anyone tell you that those are “low brow” or less clever. However, POLLEN and other recent games like it show us just how diverse our medium can be, that in itself, is something worthwhile.
POLLEN is out now on Steam, GoG and the Humble Store. It will set you back $25.