As a videogame fan, there are moments where all-out action just feels a bit too much. Maybe you’re having a lazy Sunday afternoon or simply want to unwind after a long day? It’s in these moments where a slower, more peaceful type of experience comes into play. Where beautiful sunsets and methodical gameplay come into their own, you can’t get much more chill than Trebuchet’s latest offering Winds & Leaves, exclusively for PlayStation VR. However, can a VR experience that mainly involves planting trees be entertaining?
The Canadian studios’ previous title was Prison Boss VR making Winds & Leaves a polar opposite, offering beautiful wide-open vistas which go on for miles and a rich tapestry of colours. Freedom is most certainly on offer here, allowing you to adventure out into a desolate, mysterious land and bring it back to life.
Because you are The Gardener, a being deeply linked to nature who can see the bonds between plants and cultivate them using some powerful magical forces. Much in the same way that Paper Beastleft you to ponder and imagine your own story, Winds & Leaves does something very similar. There’s no direct narrative to speak of or real explanation of who you are, you’re on a once verdant planet that is now barren the only clues being rock paintings and unusual tree-like structures which have to be reanimated.
This natural link also means you can’t simply wander around as you wish, you generally need to stay near to greenery, setting up the core mechanic of Winds & Leaves, planting trees, planting a lot of trees in fact. Each tree you plant will create a lush green area which can then be expanded upon however you choose, going in one straight direction towards a point of interest or growing a lush forest. That’s one of the best parts about Winds & Leaves, looking back and seeing a once dry, harsh landscape transformed by all these trees you’ve planted.
You’re well kitted out with an extendable digging tool, a mysterious weather vane, seed pouch, an energy-containing tree stump and stilts. Yes, that’s right, locomotion in Winds & Leaves is entirely on stilts and works surprisingly well. The videogame is only compatible with PlayStation Move, having to hold the Move button down then waggling the controllers up and down to walk. It sounds a little unusual but isn’t too much different to the locomotion systems employed in titles like Sprint Vector, you’re just on stilts. They also give you the option to lower or raise yourself, great for picking seeds off the ground or moving faster respectively.
It’s not all plain sailing though. The same system for walking is used for climbing trees. So if you’re too close to one then it’s easy to find yourself going up rather than forward. And it soon became clear that picking the seeds off the trees – a vital part of the whole growing process – was far easier than trying to pick them up off the ground, which was finicky and erratic at times.
As for the whole gardening process, that all depends on how much you like continually digging holes. While that energy containing tree stump allows you to walk a short distance away from the life-giving forests, go too far and the roots will pull you back, so you need to get planting. The challenge in Winds & Leaves is careful management of your seed pouch which only holds a measly six varieties of plants, each one having three attributes making them ideal for certain soil conditions. Because of this, there’s a fair bit of seed experimentation and manipulation, planting two or three together to make a new plant, helping you venture further forward.
And this is where that mysterious weather vane tool comes in handy. Time does move in Winds & Leaves just very slowly so the vane greatly speeds this up, making the trees grow nice and rapidly. It’s one of the best effects during the whole experience, watching days flick by in seconds, cloud formations come and go, sunset and rises…you get the idea. While it was always easier to play during daylight, at night there’s an eerie magical quality as you can see the glowing, pulsating connections between the trees.
The end goal is to completely bring life back to this barren place by venturing into four areas and spinning up the giant windmills you find there, all of which point to a central garden that acts as a sort of hub. Once you’ve unlocked certain tree species these can then be found in the garden should you require a particular seed your pouch doesn’t contain. There’s no fast travel so heading back requires leg work until you unlock the glide ability. Essentially a quick dash, it does allow you to traverse the tops of the trees which is always fun.
So you’d imagine Winds & Leaves offers an idyllic world that’s all about being one with nature? Not initially, as VRFocus’ pre-launch review copy continually crashed, occurring six times in the space of an hour at one point. Thankfully, a day one patch does look to have solved that issue. But there are others, like the sheer amount of pop up, especially in the trees. Played on a standard PlayStation 4, once you’ve got a full-on forest going – the whole point of the game – it did start to struggle with all the foliage.
Winds & Leaves has some nice ideas and for those looking for a nice tranquil VR experience with some light puzzles, it perfectly suits. The problem is Winds & Leaves can be a bit too quiet. Lush green grass and colour forests are all well and good but they’re still devoid of life, no animals suddenly return. So you end up walking through your lovely forest world alone, it all feels a bit soulless. Winds & Leaves was enjoyable for the 7-8 hours it lasts yet there was no desire to return.
Social app Rec Room is holding its annual Rec Con event this weekend, three days of panels, concerts, special events and announcements. As part of today’s roster, Rec Room has just unveiled a brand new game that is playable on supported devices later this week, Rec Rally.
Part of a new feature where Rec Room adds driveable cars to the social world, Rec Rally has been built in-house by the Rec Room team. Introducing a brand new off-road environment, up to six players can race around the track and compete for first place, utilising boosts, jumps and powerslides to their advantage.
As mentioned, this feature allows all player to participate, whether they’re on iOS or Android devices, in full virtual reality (VR) on an Oculus Quest 2, PC VR headset or PlayStation VR, or on a TV screen playing on the latest PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X|S.
Really though, Rec Rally is more of a showcase for the vehicle feature. This is the first time players can have a fully realized vehicle experience in Rec Room, with all the creator options users know and love. With the Rally buggies, they’ll be able to create their own driving experiences for their rooms inviting friends to come and test a new track.
The buggies support multiple passengers and dual-wielding objects while driving, so whether you’re in the buggy by yourself or with a passenger, combat racing is all part of the fun. The buggies can be found in the ‘Beta Features’ section of the maker pen.
Rec Room’s Rec Rally update will be released this Wednesday, 29th September at 10 am PT (6 pm BST) for free. See the new feature in action below and for further updates on the latest Rec Room news, keep reading VRFocus.
Rec Room, arguably the most successful social VR platform, today announced at its annual Rec Con conference that it’s getting a new go-kart racing mini-game that will let you duke it out against your friends and strangers in six-player online matches.
Called ‘Rec Rally’, the new mini-game is set to launch on September 29th, arriving for free on all supported platforms.
Like many of its bespoke mini-games and user-generated creations, Rec Rally will be available with cross-play support so you can race your friends on any platform.
We’re going hands-on before it launches, so make sure to check back soon for our impressions.
Rec Room’s outside financing, of which it now boasts a lifetime total of $149 million, has allowed the team to offer support to a wide range of devices over the past few years, now offering versions on Android, iOS, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC via Steam, Oculus Quest, and all SteamVR-compatible headsets.
Rec Room is free to play, however it’s been bolstered by its nascent digital economy where users can buy items using in-game tokens. One of the biggest additions of late is the ability for the platform’s premiums (paid) users to not only make and sell user-generated items for tokens, but also convert those tokens to real cash.
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Earlier this month indie team TomatoVR released its fifth virtual reality (VR), Wolf Attack, a wave shooter inspired by the Three Little Pigs nursery rhyme. Supporting PC VR headsets, this weekend VRFocus has got a bunch of Wolf Attack codes for our readers to win.
In Wolf Attack you play one of those three little pigs, trying to protect your home from those damn beasts. Featuring solo and multiplayer modes, in single-player it’s just you trying to protect the village using either shotguns or a bow and arrow. There are four waves to complete and you can heal yourself if needed, pretty simple stuff.
The multiplayer component is going to provide greater longevity by offering online PvP. You’re not directly fighting each other, instead, after choosing from one of six characters you’re both placed in fixed positions on the battlefield. Kill the most enemies to come out victorious.
So onto the competition. VRFocus has Steam codes for Wolf Attack to giveaway. There are multiple ways to enter the giveaway with the standard prize draw entry rules applying: Follow us (or already be following us) on Twitter (@VRFocus) or alternatively, visit our Facebook page or YouTube channel to get an entry for each. The competition will be open until 11.59 pm BST on Thursday, 27th September 2021. The draw will be made shortly thereafter. Best of luck.
Editor at VRFocus who has reported on the VR industry since 2015. A keen gamer since the days of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Peter enjoys covering all aspects of the technology; from the latest consumer hardware to enterprise use cases.
The end of September is looking a little light when it comes to virtual reality (VR) releases. Thankfully, Salmi Games has just come along to save the day, confirming that its shooter Sweet Surrender will be getting a multi headset release across Oculus and Steam platforms next week.
Sweet Surrender is a single-player roguelite set in a dystopian sci-fi world, with the goal being to make it past teams of robotic enemies and up to the very top of a megatower. Roguelite videogames have become really popular with VR developers with recent editions like YUKI, Cosmodread and Until You Fall all perfect examples of variations of the genre. Sweet Surrender keeps to what makes the format so addictive, you have one life to complete your objective, supplied with an arsenal of weapons and the knowledge that if you fail you have to start again.
However, you don’t restart back at zero. Along the way you can find and collect upgrades to alter your abilities, making you stronger for the next run whilst tailoring your character to your own playstyle. Guns, explosives and melee weapons will all be available, some you’ll have to buy by collecting currency. But you also need to be on the lookout for hidden secrets, equipment chests and upgrade chips stashed behind suspiciously weak wall sections.
A new run means new environments that are procedurally generated every time. From the look of Sweet Surrender, it’s going to offer very intense action with Salmi Games employing a range of mechanics including jump pads, ziplines and grappling hooks to help you ascend the tower.
“Sweet Surrender began development shortly after the 1.0 release of GrowRilla and is our first fully-budgeted game. Investment support from the German federal government enabled us to both kickstart our project, expand our team and go full throttle into developing Sweet Surrender!” the team notes in a statement.
Sweet Surrender is scheduled to launch for Oculus Quest, Rift and SteamVR headsets on 30th September 2021, retailing for $25 USD. Check out the awesome announcement trailer below, and for further updates on the project, keep reading VRFocus.