Wayward Sky is a charming little game that shows off a complete, if somewhat flawed, VR experience. It mixes some solid puzzles with a beautiful audio and visual aesthetic to create an experience that feels less like a demo and more like a full fledged game that happens to also be in VR. It’s not necessarily the greatest show of force for the PS VR, but it’s one that feels like a complete package worth checking out.
Wayward Sky begins with a girl, Bess, and her father piloting their propellor plane through a peaceful sky only to be shot down by a mysterious weapon. They crash-land onto a flying fortress, and Bess’ father is abducted by a giant robot. After it flies away with her father in hand, she sets off to find him.
The game is a point-and-click adventure best played with a pair of Move controllers, though a standard Dualshock 4 controller can be used. The player simply points to places and objects where Bess can walk to and interact with, respectively. The third-person camera allows the player to explore the environment from a wide angle, but when it becomes necessary to interact with objects, a swap to first-person takes place. By using elements of the world to her advantage, Bess can traverse the fortress to find her father.
The story plays out in pieces, some of which are explained via flashbacks while others are told through the game’s characters. The roughly four-hour game culminates in a touching ending to a touching story. Wayward Sky tugs at the heartstrings a bit, and though it might be a bit cliche at times, it’s still an emotional journey made all the more salient by the sense of presence VR offers. When the player is seeing certain gameplay segments or cut-scenes from Bess’ perspective, it feels like he or she is the character, not simply some person controlling the character. What happens to Bess feels like it happens to the player, thus making the story more personal than it would have without VR.
The gameplay involves puzzles that ramp nicely in difficulty. Initial puzzles can be as simple as flipping switches in the right order or twisting pipes to reach from Point A to Point B. Later puzzles require some trial-and-error or deep thought to navigate, such as moving a series of platforms or overhead ropes to create a path from place to place. The game never reaches a point where it feels overly difficult or inaccessible. Instead, it feels just stimulating enough to be engaging while also being a rather relaxing journey through a beautiful world, for the most part.
And beautiful it is. Wayward Sky carries a whimsical, minimalist visual aesthetic similar to Firewatch or Team Fortress 2. It’s not breathtaking for any technically impressive reasons, but it’s certainly a treat to look at because it’s pretty and peaceful. The soundtrack, mellow and soothing at times but hectic at others, perfectly fits the pacing and style of the rest of the game. The team at Uber Entertainment certainly did a great job of making almost all parts of Wayward Sky fit together cohesively.But the game isn’t without its issues. The first (and initially the most alarming) is some sort of visual bug sometimes occurs when booting up the game. On about half of my gameplay sessions, opening Wayward Sky caused the screen on the headset to go black. I would need to restart the headset, and all would be solved. But seeing as this hadn’t happened with any other game or application previously, I was certainly terrified I had somehow broken my fancy new toy by playing Wayward Sky.
Second, I have noticed that the motion controls don’t always respond as well as one might hope. Grabbing objects seems easy in theory, but the player’s virtual hands don’t always do as they’re told in Wayward Sky. This isn’t a problem I had with games like Batman Arkham VR, so I’m inclined to believe it’s a software issue rather than a hardware issue.
Even though the story itself is decent, the voice acting kills the legitimacy a bit. Some of the characters sound professionally voiced, but others sound like they’re not quite authentic. And it’s impossible to overlook the fact that the game is pretty short. It clocks in at about four hours, but it does manage to feel like a complete game rather than a tech demo in those quick hours. I still can’t help but wish there would have been more substance to the game, maybe to introduce tougher puzzles or to flesh out the story a bit more. It felt complete in four hours, yes, but it certainly could have been a better final product with more time to build on itself.
This leaves Wayward Sky at an awkward intersection between being fun and emotionally charged at one level while also feeling like it could have done more with the foundation it built for itself at another. A bit more character development, better voice acting and more puzzles would have gone a long way to making Wayward Sky a must-have VR puzzler. Make no mistake, Wayward Sky is not a bad game; in fact, it’s pretty fun, and I recommend it as a solid VR experience. But it just barely missed its chance to be great by not expanding on its own basic elements a little more.