Most VR games are in first-person, letting you see through the eyes of a character. Mervils: A VR Adventure has chosen to instead have you following a character around, a 3D platformer that tries to emulate the days of collectathons with some new elements involved. Does this game have the heart to see its adventure through, or should it just go home?
Mervils' story is rather basic. You play as a Mervil, basically a race of tiny Hobbit-like people as far as I can tell, who sets out on an adventure to collect all the pages of the Great Mervil Book which will give you the power to defeat Balazar the Evil. That's about as deep as the game gets, and basically a summary of the entire story. It's basically there to get you from world to world, there's very little put into it, but that not really a huge deal in the long run.
The first thing I noticed when looking at Mervils, and really it's the elephant in the room that needs to be gotten out of the way now, is that Mervils is a flat out ugly game. There's no avoiding it, graphically it looks like it came right out of the original PlayStation. If the poorly made 3D models weren't enough, the game also features some hilariously bad animations to go with it. There were rare moments when it felt a bit charming like I was sitting in the middle of a PS1 3D platformer, yet most of the time I would look upon the world and just snicker at how silly it all looked. To accompany this was some voice acting that was equally unimpressive, and the game unfortunately insists on having a whole lot of it to go through. I can only assume all the effort was put into the surprisingly good soundtrack, which was something that I rather enjoyed hearing.
Mervils is broken into four worlds, each of which is then broken into three levels. Each level has a main goal you need to complete plus a bunch of side activitiesyou can do to find all the hidden pages. You have a simple jump and sword swinging ability at your disposal, and you'll use these a lot as you solve puzzles, fight enemies, and explore areas. Getting used to the floaty jump and hilariously underwhelming attack took some doing, but there was a lot of heart in Mervils and I did like how the game kept trying new ideas.
Mervils does not like sticking to one general gameplay mechanic for long. Each level seemed to introduce some new way to play. Catapults and ballista would put me in a first person view, using my head to aim at targets. A mine cart ride was particularly neat, the way the camera kept showing new areas that I knew I would be getting to while I jumped on the track and leaned left and right to avoid threats. One late level I enjoyed had me on a pirate ship sailing a straight path, turning my head to fire cannons and flamethrowers to ward off enemy ships and sharks. Naturally, when the gameplay is constantly changing, not all ideas are winners. An early game segment had me walk a tightrope, and they required some precise head leaning controls that I don't think the game was quite up for at the time, causing me to fall more than I really felt I should have.
There's also a surprising amount of content here, and it can take a solid ten hours to collect all the pages. Levels were open, allowing me to wander around and talk to other Mervils to get quests that I could complete. There was quite a bit of work in finding items and solving puzzles. I could complete a slider block puzzle to get a key for a chest with pages in it or do some exploring to find a portal that brought me to a dark cave that I needed a glowing item to find my way through. Another area saw me using physics to stack barrels to climb to higher platforms, or shoot myself through cannons trying to place stars on a giant tree, or solve a "reflect a light beam with mirrors" puzzle.
Most worlds ended in boss fights, and these too never felt the same. The first boss saw me against a dragon who couldn't attack me directly but instead went after a castle that I had to defend. Later, a giant monster sucked me into it and forced me to swim around to take out its hearts, a wizard would teleport around as I tried to hit him with a catapult, and a lava giant forced me to use teleporters to move around and pick up frost hammers to throw at it. Unlike the puzzles and constantly shifting gameplay mechanics, I actually found the bosses to be unanimously enjoyable.
I also appreciate that the game offers some options with how its camera works to make sure you're comfortable. I didn't care much for the default camera, which stuck to one location while you moved around and then would warp behind you when you hit a button, but just switching to a camera that would always be following behind me was better. The game also allows you to switch rotating the camera between quick teleports and smooth movement, allowing anyone a comfortable experience.
It's horribly ugly, has terrible voice acting, feels clunky at times, and not all of its ideas are sound. Even with that, Mervils: A VR Adventure throws itself at everything with an unabashed enthusiasm that I haven't seen in a while. It's not going to be for everyone, and I honestly don't blame you if you don't fall for it, but I think it's worth giving a chance. You may be surprised by what you find.
Mervils: A VR Adventure was reviewed on PlayStation VR using a copy provided by the developer. The game is also available on HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.
Ugly as sin, terrible voice acting, non-existent story, clunky... all of this describes a game that I ultimately enjoyed thanks to its charm, desire to constantly change things up, and just a feeling that it had a lot of spunk.(Review Policy)
- Constantly Changing Things Up
- Some Great Puzzles
- Fantastic Soundtrack
- Fun Boss Fights
- Terrible Voice Acting, and Lots of It
- Not All Ideas are Winners
- Generally Kind of Clunky