Do you ever reminisce about the first time you tried VR? How even the simplest things will shock you - just because they actually work? Do you ever think back and wonder how you can capture the magic you first felt putting on that headset? Tentacular is a game that feels like those experiences, both to its benefit and detriment.
As the name suggests, this game is all about tentacles. You play a huge octopus creature after their 16th birthday. In doing so, you have to get out there, get a job and become an asset to your town - one filled with tiny little humans. Think somewhere between Ghost Giant and Job Simulator and you have a pretty good description of what you will be doing. There's a little bit more story and atmosphere than the latter and far too much goofiness for the former.
You are initially greeted by your small human sister and she is your anchor in the story. After every hard day, you come back and talk to her about your life. It's a surprisingly pleasant experience to go from throwing containers and fixing problems to sitting at sea, listening to your sister talk about her life. This is desperately needed to stop Tentacular feeling too one-note.
Tentacular is split up into defined levels where you are tasked with completing objectives. You are flung from job to job - tasked with helping the town and figuring out your own story. Levels are essentially small dioramas, all with tiny moving parts. You can swim around in the ocean, moving around houses and monuments to piece together your task. When you are not figuring out a puzzle, you are told directly what to do - fighting against your own gigantic tentacles. You feel clumsy and uncoordinated, often reminding me of the likes of QWOP. Despite this, Tentacular doesn't feel overly frustrating.
If you grab with the end of your tentacles, you can guarantee some extra precision at the detriment of your grabbing strength. This means you are tasked with using the wider parts of your arm to move the heaviest things. This takes a while to get used to but feels fairly natural when you're in the heat of it all. Tentacular does a good job at slowly cranking up the difficulty of your tasks. Where it initially tasks you with simply moving containers or catching objects, it eventually evolves into you building complex structures with sticky balls or creating a makeshift slingshot with pylons and some creativity.
There's a subtle intelligence to the design of Tentacular that really comes through in the optional playground. Here, you can build your own designs and fill the small area with pedestrians, cars, and much more. As you develop throughout the game, more objects are unlocked, until you have the capability of building your own village or sculpture. New jobs give you more materials and these materials can be used in the playground, making Tentacular's development feel very natural.
Tentacular is far more cinematic than I would have expected going in, balancing story elements with real gameplay. It's more tender scenes have you operate a crank whilst getting your lights back on or just watch as someone talks but these give you a rewarding respite from everything else.
Tentacular does a great job at making you feel like a huge awkward octopus but it has some real charm under that all. All the humans speak a language I can't understand but speech bubbles appear above them, translating everything. In a sense, this is a great way of seeing the world through the eyes of our main character. Although they live in a different world to you, we can still understand each other. There's something quite nice about these moments.
A Little Rough Around the Edges
Not all is smooth sailing in Tentacular though. Some missions objectives are a little inconsistent - requiring a restart to get going again. This isn't a huge deal but certainly cuts into the flow of the game. As well as this, while the jobs are fun - Tentacular could do a little more to shake it up.
The way mechanics come together is great but it sometimes feels a little slow and could get even stranger with everything. Finally, whilst grabbing things was fine - the game sometimes broke its own physics, having things fly wildly into the air or move into structures. None of these are game-breaking but they cut into the charm that Tentacular is just full of.
Ultimately, Tentacular is a game I'm looking forward to seeing grow. It has tonnes of charm and enough varied gameplay to keep it feeling interesting but small pacing issues and glitches leave it feeling incomplete. The potential it holds to really capture those great feelings of early VR and definitely there but I don't know if it has the staying power just yet.
TechRaptor previewed Tentacular on Meta Quest 2 with a code provided by the publisher. The game does not currently have a release date.