Ever watched Jurassic Park and wished you were the one hiding from velociraptors? Well, Robinson might just be for you, if you don’t mind the hefty price tag.
You play as robin, a boy left to fend for himself after a generational starship crash lands on the distant planet of Tyson III. With only a hovering robot named HIGS and a pet dinosaur named Laika for company, you must search the surrounding wilds in search of other survivors.
As you step out of your home, an old and messy escape pod, the first thing you’ll notice is how lush and beautiful the world is – even on the standard PS4. In the distance you see a winding river, rolling through the jungle hundreds of feet below. The skyline is filled with the Esmerelda, the gigantic ship that brought you here, and pterosaurs fly over head, massive, overbearing and cool.
It’s when you start to move around the world that things go slightly awry. The controls aren’t bad by any means but movement is slow; there’s no option to run and moving at a snails pace gets incredibly frustrating later on when you need to backtrack. Turning is set to snap by default (when you turn your view rotates instantly) but you can change this in the comfort settings. If you’re not used to moving around in VR, you may start to feel nauseated quite quickly. If that happens stop at once. Don’t try and persevere, you’ll only feel worse in the long run – come back when you’re feeling better.
You will also notice that Robin is holding a device that can, later on and under the right conditions, levitate and move metal objects. It can also scan wildlife for information and there is an option of a laser pointer, which can be used to direct your pet dinosaur. It’s very odd that the developers chose to have the main character hold a device that looks uncannily like a Move controller, yet the player holds a DS4. I can understand why the player needs a DS4, it’d be near-impossible to move Robin with just a Move controller, but it looks and feels slightly bizarre for the first little while.
I won’t go into too many story details, to save you from spoilers, but I will say it that whilst it’s not groundbreaking it does set a nice foundation for future stories and sequels, whilst at the same time wrapping up the narrative enough to feel satisfied. Only one thing confused me and that was why they never explained that an alien planet was filled with dinosaurs, and dinosaurs from Earth no less. If they did explain it, I missed it.
The sense of scale is truly amazing, as you would hope and expect from a game filled with giant dinosaurs. The first time you come across a Brachiosaurus is yet another one of those VR ‘wow’ moments. Looking up in awe, the child in me was screaming with delight, whilst the outer adult sat there grinning and saying, “This is very cool.”
As you progress through the game you realise that some parts of it look better than other. In fact, the latter areas of the game are especially good looking. There are several different locales you will visit in your time with Robinson. Again, I won’t say too much, as they’re best discovered for yourself but whilst there is enough variety, you just want more of it all.
There are a nice number of puzzles in the game, some more infuriating than others but being in VR actually helps you fight the urge to cheat. It can be a lot of effort taking off the headset, and I never want to break the immersion, not when I could just try to solve the puzzle again myself. One recurring puzzle involves you taking a birds eye, diorama-like view of your current location and asks you to restore power to the area. You have to channel power through giant cables and make sure each piece of machinery is getting the right amount of electricity. It’s not an overly complicated puzzle but the change to birds-eye view is a nice addition.
The gameplay gets more interesting the further you progress. It’s almost like they were thinking up game mechanics as they went, or perhaps as this is a PSVR launch window game, they didn’t want anything overly complex? It’s hard to tell but it’s further proof that a more fleshed-out sequel is both wanted and needed.
There are moments of frustration that could have been avoided. For example, there are times you need to manoeuvre pieces of metal around the environment in order to create bridges to cross precarious parts of the landscape. It sounds easy enough but the game only allows you to rotate the objects in one direction. If you try and rotate them on the other axis, you’ll just end up turning yourself. This makes it difficult to make sure the objects are at the right angle, and more often than not, they’ll fall down between two cracks instead of sitting where you want them to.
For a game that pretty much sells itself on the inclusion of dinosaurs there’s a severe lack in variety and quantity. This, like most other issues with the game, could and should be solved with a bigger sequel. The moments with dinosaurs are incredible and they’re not sparse by any means, I just wanted more. They look and sound how you’d expect them to, which helps no end with immersion. And when you finally come across the raptors (we all knew they’d be in there) you will be terrified. It’s like you’re living the Jurassic Park kitchen scene.
The game won’t last you forever. One reason is because, if you’re into dinosaurs you won’t want to stop, and the other is it’s just not that long. I finished the game in around five hours. Sure I have more wildlife to scan, but without being able to run I’m not sure I’ll enjoy trying to find them all. There are other collectibles to find, to elongate gameplay but I won’t be rushing back to the game anytime soon.
Although Robinson: The Journey was great for a dinosaur enthusiast like myself; if you’re not into dinosaurs you may find the game lacking somewhat. It also could be longer, but it does set the scene for many sequels, which I would happily purchase. It is very expensive right now, especially considering there isn’t much replayability. Once it hits around the £30-£40 mark, grab it.
Verdict: 7/10 – ‘Great for dinosaur fans, but expensive for what you get.’
UPDATE: Since writing the review I’ve been informed that you can rotate objects in any direction by holding down the triggers. And after completing the game you can fast-travel to continue finding collectibles. The game does not explain this, if it does it does not explain it well. (Thanks to Garfield 1399 for the heads up.)