A review of a game we’ve played a lot, called The Gallery: Call of the Starseed.
Imagine a post-apocalyptic world where art is forbidden and even destroying a poster will get you killed if it is not sanctioned by the current government. This is the world of the Gallery, set in the year 4539, where a group of characters struggle to survive and find freedom from the oppressive regime. The Gallery: Call of the Starseed is a fairly linear puzzle adventure game with fairly simplistic graphics and gameplay.
It’s hard to believe that the year is already 2018. In a mere seven months, we’ll be celebrating the holiday season with family and friends and making our way back to school. In the past few years, I’ve noticed a trend in videogames. Every year, there’s a new trend in videogames. These trends are based on the old ones and derived from the nostalgia of the past.
The Gallery: Call of the Starseed is a first-person puzzle adventure game set in a beautiful environment that you explore using your motion controller. It is one of the first games for the Oculus Rift platform, and it is a first-person puzzle adventure game set in a beautiful environment that you explore using your motion controller. The gameplay is extremely similar to Valve’s Portal, with the exception that you are exploring the exhibits in the gallery. It’s a strange game with some intriguing puzzles. The game is compatible with Touch controllers, however gamepad compatibility is limited to gamepads only, so if you possess an Xbox One controller, you may be out of luck.
The Gallery is a large-scale virtual reality game that puts you in the role of a space crew member. You mainly travel across a stellar system, meeting unusual animals and traveling between various places of interest.
The Gallery is a short, interactive VR game created by the same people that brought you The Deep, a highly popular VR experience. The Gallery is a brief, interactive virtual reality experience that includes nine maps. The first eight maps are from the original game, but the last map is a completely new setting designed to extend the game into a much bigger experience. The Gallery isn’t a beginner-friendly game, but it’s still a fun opportunity to try out virtual reality.
The Gallery: Call of the Starseed (2016) by Cloudhead Games is a first-person adventure that is unashamedly “first” in many respects. As a Vive launch release, it was one of the most cutting-edge adventure games of its day, and although it’s showing its age at this late review date, it’s still an engaging, well-realized cinematic experience that’ll have you waiting for the next episode. We didn’t have a chance to evaluate it last year, so we revisited it in preparation for The Gallery: Heart of the Emberstone, which will be released later this month.
Call of the Starseed begins in the most obviously ’80s way possible: you’re left a cassette tape from your twin sister, Elsie, asking you to meet her down by a lonely, windswept cove, where she’s gone on her own crazy adventure, to what end you’re not sure. You meet an addle-brained professor who knows where Elsie has gone and sets you on a mind-bending trip into the unknown, as he pulls you deeper with additional recordings found along the way. What is a Starseed, exactly? You’ll have to play to find out.
Call of the Starseed’s puzzles, like those in many adventure games, aren’t very difficult, instead acting as an interactive way to progress the story. The first issue you encounter, however, makes little sense outside of the explanation of “Duh, it’s a game.” “Games aren’t supposed to be realistic,” which doesn’t sound like a good start for a project aimed at creating a feeling of presence. If you can get beyond it, the rest of the hour-long game will be much more consistent in terms of theme.
The reader may easily pass over this grievance since it has been marked. If you don’t want to read this complaint, go down to just before the part on “Immersion.”
I’m walking along the beach when I come upon what seems to be a large basket. Before I can inspect the basket, it is winched out of reach, almost as if the designers themselves are saying, “good attempt.” That is, in fact, what is written on the bottom.
Continuing on, I enter the professor’s subterranean hideaway, where I decode a Morse code message instructing me to “shoot the bells.” When I was given the task of using a flare pistol to blast a large number of bells to distract an apparently sentient lighthouse, despite having no idea why, I did my best to aim and fire. After you’ve shot the proper bells and adequately distracted the lighthouse, the dramatic music swells, indicating that you’ve done something great and important. Is it possible that I made a mistake? I wasn’t persuaded. And I still get the impression that something is lacking.
You return to the basket, which has been lowered to reveal a door handle to the sewer, where you can hear the old professor ranting about the CIA or something like. What was the point of lowering the basket in the first place? What was the use of the old gentleman’s extra handle? Since any able-bodied person could crush it with a bat, why did he write “nice attempt” on it? Perhaps I should relax a bit. Isn’t it only a game, after all?
The squabble has been de-escalated: It goes without saying that The Gallery’s debut episode must be seen in context. Its goal was far more ambitious than just presenting a logically coherent story with equally consistent puzzles as the first class of motion controller games, room-scale games with full item interaction. It had to teach us how to traverse the world and pick up items; it had to create a unique inventory system and pioneer blink teleportation, all without boring us to death with tutorials.
Despite my exaggerated dissatisfaction, Call of the Starseed could have had a much worse fate as one of the first built-for-VR adventure games for motion controllers, and while it’s difficult for me to judge it with the same zeal as a modern game that’s had the benefit of learning from Call of the Starseed’s flaws—i.e. short gameplay length and less-than-ideal locomotion—
Call of the Starseed gets a lot of leeway when it comes to some of the less attractive visual aspects since it was one of the first games of its kind. Meanwhile, Oculus and Valve have been working hard to reduce the graphical load on GPUs in VR, while NVIDIA and AMD have launched new, more powerful GPUs. Textures, even on high settings, feel a little too basic for such a well-realized world, detracting from the game’s smart lighting and, to be honest, awe-inspiring cinematics.
Object interaction isn’t as sophisticated as it is in later games, with Lone Echo (2017) acting as an example with its dynamic hand postures that allow you to grab and hold things at any angle. Because each object in Call of the Starseed only has a few precise handholds, touching it never feels quite right, creating a hole in immersion.
Starseed, on the other hand, succeeds in capturing the plucky ’80s fantasy vibe it was going for. Despite their cartoonish look, the ensemble of characters are obviously real people. This is due to a well-written script and outstanding voice acting that brings the world’s characters to life.
Cloudhead Games was one of the first to develop teleportation and snap-turn comfort mode, both of which are now industry standards. You’ll have to experiment with several kinds of teleportation to discover which one works best for you. Despite this, the mobility system is beginning to show its age, as I often had trouble latching on to a suitable teleport site.
Smooth-turn enthusiasts will be dismayed to see that the settings menu lacks the world-twisting yaw motion they are used to. Guys, I wish you luck the next time.
You can also force-grab things from a close enough distance to avoid bending down to pick them up. However, this was not uniform, with the most difficult problem requiring you to grab floating battery cells in zero G. Because capturing a battery always resulted in it flying away in the other direction, this issue tested my patience as I tried force-grabbing batteries rather than manually plucking them from the air as I usually would.
Despite its flaws, Call of the Starseed is a very enjoyable game to play, whether seated or standing. We anticipate to see some seamless second-generation-level improvements in all of these areas when the sequel is released.
Keep an eye out for our full review of The Gallery: Heart of the Emberstone on launch day (TBA).
The Gallery: Call of the Starseed is a long-awaited virtual reality experience that brings a classic gaming experience to life. The game stands out as one of the greatest VR games of 2018 because to its unique narrative, stunning visuals, and fantastic music.