I’ve seen quite a few genres manage to port over to VR quite well, such as puzzle games, first-person shooters, horror, and more. One thing all these games have in common: being 3D. Of course, that makes sense, as you need 3D to look around the environment, right? The Lost Bear is a 2D VR puzzle platformer, which is a combination that makes me scratch my head right off the bat. Does The Lost Bear do something unique with VR, or is it not the right fit for this emerging tech?
You’ll be playing as Walnut, a little girl who lives with her father in what can best be described as a trailer park/camp hybrid. Her favorite toy is a stuffed bear that she carries around with her when she goes exploring. One day, a bug creature steals her bear, and she begins an adventure into the abandoned world outside to get it back. While the destroyed environments, weird mutants, and robotic dogs probably hint at a dramatic story at large, there’s not much to The Lost Bear. You’ll simply be retrieving Walnut’s lost bear while taking in all the sites of a desolated world.
The way The Lost Bear works is that you’re sitting alone in a theater watching a play. The play itself is the 2D platformer that you’ll be controlling, but actions in the game may require a bit more physical interaction out of you. Walnut gets a slingshot that you aim using your controller, pulling on levers causes them to pop out of the floor near you so you can physically place your controller in it and actually turn, and a late-game level requires you to use your controller as a flashlight to light the way for Walnut. Little interactions like this feel great, helping make a 2D platformer feel like it should really work in VR.
I really loved how the game came to change the environment you were sitting in. When Walnut’s world is plunged into darkness yours will be as well. You’ll always get the feeling that something is moving around you but just outside of your field of view, with glowing eyes just moving out of the way when you turn your head. Another section has Walnut wandering into an abandoned factory filled with pipes moving through the power of her imagination. Look around, and you’re suddenly surrounded by pipes as well. Don’t keep your eyes off of them for too long as they slowly lean towards you when you’re not looking and suddenly jump back to their default position when you glance at them. It’s effectively creepy, especially when I let one get too close that it began to drift into my field of view as I played the game itself.
The actual platforming is cut from the same cloth as LIMBO. Walnut is just heavy enough to feel like there’s weight behind her jumping without feeling sluggish or impractical. The platforming isn’t overly difficult and you probably won’t have much of a problem outside a few chase scenes. Chaining together slides and rope swings to get through an area felt good, and I never had a problem with missing jumps I thought I should make.
Where The Lost Bear really stumbles comes in the more puzzle-based segments of the puzzle platformer. Many of these require you to use the PlayStation’s DualShock controller to physically turn valves and move platforms back and forth. This system just simply doesn’t work as well as it should. One segment needed me to move an elevator up and down to avoid a monster as it attacks, but I had difficulty doing so because no matter how still I held my controller it would drift ever so slightly downward. More than once the drift got me killed when the elevator moved into the monster’s grip despite me not asking it to. Another segment required me to use a magnet to move a bus so I could jump a gap, but you need to get the bus into a pixel-perfect placement to actually jump the gap, and that required more precision than the controls actually gave me.
Not that all the puzzles are bad. One required me to ring bells in a specific order, one that I would know by looking around the audience and finding those bells to watch them ring before I looked back to use Walnut’s slingshot to hit them in order. Another interesting segment had me figuring out a way to distract and sneak by the robotic dogs that are looking to take a bit out of Walnut. What these puzzles have in common is not requiring me to use the iffy lever controls to have to work them out, or require things to be in an absolutely perfect location.
I will say The Lost Bear was quite the visual treat when I played it. The platforming sections of the game look like papercraft creations, which make them stand out from the 3D world around you. There’s some smart artistic design as well, with the robot dogs and strange monster looking appropriately creepy. The way things blend from the stage and into the audience is well done as well, and there are all sorts of little details if you’re willing to look around for them. On top of everything, the soundtrack kept me in the moment throughout the proceedings.
If nothing else, The Lost Bear provided a clever way to do a 2D game with VR. There’s still some work to be done, as the motion controls need refinement and some of the puzzles are just not very fun. That said, I still found the overall game enjoyable to play. Walnut’s story is worth playing through, and the game’s smart use of VR does benefit it. You should put effort into finding this lost bear, especially when you get an enjoyable puzzle platformer along the way.
The Lost Bear was reviewed on PlayStation VR using a copy provided by the developers.
The Lost Bear is an enjoyable puzzle platformer that makes smart use of VR, but has a few bad puzzles that hold it back.
- Great Use of VR
- Some Smart Puzzles
- Good Art Style
- Forgettable Story
- Bad Motion Contol Puzzles