When the Google Daydream View mobile virtual reality headset hit shelves at the end of last year, it seemed capable, but lacked content. Has the selection of games, apps and experiences improved since then? We reviewed the best new Daydream releases to find out.
King Arthur VR
In this free game (which is part of the promotion for the upcoming Warner Bros. film) you're training as King Arthur, engaging in hand-to-hand combat.
The in-game fighting utilizes the accelerometer and Wii remote-like functions of the Daydream controller. This in itself isn't anything groundbreaking, but this is one of the times when it makes a much better companion to VR gameplay than a typical gamepad-style controller.
Swipe the controller in different directions when prompted, and you'll be beating up the bad guys in no time. Still, the controller's tracking didn't seem responsive enough, and the game had an uncomfortable jerky pace.
Overall, King Arthur VR showcases a concept that we think could do well in mobile VR, but sluggish play and an unresponsive remote preclude any real enjoyment.
Eclipse: Edge of Light
In Eclipse: Edge of Light, you play a jetpack-sporting space explorer that crash landed on a post-apocalyptic alien planet. With help from your Artifact (an orb that you throw by pressing and releasing the app button while flicking your controller) you can conjure up platforms, break and gather dust from objects, remove obstacles and more.
This is a more well-developed game than most of the mobile VR titles we've tried (its developers say there are more than three hours of play) and it includes some novel navigation and imaginative uses of the controller.
Unlike most first-person VR games, this game doesn't include any teleporting mechanisms. To move around, you move your thumb around the trackpad. You can also press into the trackpad to blast upwards with your jetpack. This takes some getting used to, as it's generally easiest to hold the Daydream controller like a remote, and it's sometimes hard to reach the top of the trackpad to advance forward.
But worse than getting used to the controls, the navigation made my head spin. It seems like there's a gut-churner in every batch of mobile VR games we review, and this time around, Eclipse was the one. While the alien world did seem compelling enough to get lost in, I couldn't play for very long without game-ending nausea (though admittedly, I am particularly prone to getting the VR spins). Luckily, the game autosaves your progress if you need to take a break, though it could set you back several minutes of play.
Unfortunately, it lacks any fighting or conflicts – it's strictly a puzzle-solving and exploration game. If you need more action, it might not be worth the nausea. If you'd like to give it a try, we recommend standing or using a swivel chair, to make sure your field of vision matches your orientation in the game.
At US$8.99, this is one of the most expensive games in the Daydream library – we're guessing that's justified by the long gameplay.
Archer E. Bowman
A familiar game from the Gear VR, in this title you are the aptly-named archer Archer, shooting goblin enemies as you protect your wall. The foes arrive in waves, and you must put them down with your arrows before they can climb up and attack you. Use the trackpad to move along the bridge; press, hold and release to aim and fire.
More points are awarded for accuracy. The longer you play, the more plentiful and aggressive the intruders become, though you improve your arsenal as you progress with special weaponry like exploding arrows.
There's not anything too innovative or complex happening here, but it's easy to get the hang of and if you like hurry-up-and-shoot style gameplay, you could enjoy Archer E. Bowman. $3.99.
Virtual Rabbids: The Big Plan
This game (the latest in the Rabbids lineup of console, PC and mobile games) is imaginative, quirky and makes good use of the controller while still letting you sit comfortably in real life. The characters are funny and the in-game tools are fun to use.
Unfortunately, Virtual Rabbids feels more like a tutorial than an actual game, because it's short enough to be completed in 20-30 minutes (though there are small ways to explore the game after you've completed your three missions). $5.99 seems steep for such a short experience, even with the refreshing dose of weirdness included.
Moatboat is a primitive, benign version of playing God, if God used a megaphone. Watch virtual worlds spring out of the ground just at the sound of your voice.
Hold the Daydream controller like a microphone and say simple commands like "Snakes eat rabbits," "Rabbits dance", and "Clouds rain ice cream," and watch your instructions come to life right in front of you. Commands are limited, but there are more possibilities than you might expect. Graphics are very simple.
Beyond a few silly command options, play isn't very game-ified, so it's more of a tool or an experiment than a game. Moatboat is not the most gripping thing to come across our headsets, but it does hint at an interesting potential for VR experiences in the future. Plus, it's free.
Lego BrickHeadz Builder VR
This game recreates the experience of sitting in a child's bedroom and playing with Lego bricks. Follow visual instructions to create interactions between Lego characters or build your own creations brick-by-brick.
This game might please those who enjoy Legos or building games in general, but the Daydream controller was not a good stand-in for the pleasant tactility of snapping together actual bricks. Since you have to hold down and rotate your thumb on the controller's trackpad to move and rotate bricks, manipulating the parts is a clumsy and at times frustrating endeavor. On the plus side, it's free, and you can't accidentally step on a virtual Lego.
This is one of the many titles that has us questioning the Daydream's age 13 and older safety guidelines. While some Lego aficionados might enjoy playing with them in VR, BrickHeadz Builder VR seems to be aimed at younger kids.
The scenario in TacoFace: Cannons positioned around the city are blasting tacos directly into your mouth. Your goal is to eat them. The problem? Occasionally, the cannons shoot bombs instead of tacos. You need to shoot those before they hit you.
Simple and silly, it's easy to get bored playing Tacoface, but since it's free, it could be worth a try.
Horizons (free) contains different interactive musical journey in which the sounds and visuals surrounding you respond to your actions and motions on the controller.
At present, there are only two possible journeys in the Horizons library (the app advertises more soon) and they take different approaches. In the first, you're gradually lighting up an intergalactic landscape with light and sound. In the second, you're hurtling through a hyperspace tunnel where dragging your finger around the controller's trackpad induces techno music effects.
This is simple and surprisingly relaxing mobile entertainment, but it makes us curious about the trippy audio/visual experiences that would be possible on a higher-end VR rig. Use headphones for best results.
This Google Daydream content roundup has been limited to titles from within the last few months. For more, you can also check out our favorite Daydream apps, games and experiences that were released closer to launch.