When I was first offered the code to review a zero-gravity space station exploration game, I kinda gulped and immediately thought no chance, only because of the potential nauseating head-spinning chaos that will ensue. Thankfully I had nothing to fear as the VR sickness is almost non-existent, which means you can float your way around this abandoned station and actually enjoy the experience of floating in zero gravity.
So what we have here is a first person walking sim, only you’re not walking, you’re floating in zero gravity. The game starts with red lights flashing and warning buzzers going off all over so given the lack of any intro or story, one assumes your mission is to get this space station back online.
The game can be played both normally with a DS4 controller or in VR and I heartily suggest, if the option is present to play in VR because the feeling of weightlessness is portrayed really well. Third Eye Studios should be commended on the how they have managed to produce a game the could make even the most hardened of stomachs constantly spew an actual pleasure to play. Controls are straightforward as they come. The Move controllers operate your hands, the triggers are what is used to grip things. If you are carrying an item then the trigger is used to shoot or throw. To move around the space station you can grab a hand rail and sort of launch yourself off and let physics do the rest. As the game is in VR you have to literally do the same arm movements you would if you were actually in space, you can’t just sit down and flick a wrist you really have to push yourself around the station. Thankfully you can pretty much grab onto anything. The feeling of floating up to an airlock, unlocking the door and using the door frame to push through it really makes you feel like a proper astronaut (one would assume). It’s fantastic and is just the kind of thing VR is made for. To put you into a situation you probably won’t ever experience.
The head tracking is spot on so everything is to scale and there is no delay while looking around. Turning is controlled by a button press that rotates you around at set angles. It takes a while to get used to because the floating is so well done that you kind of wish that you could move your body around to align yourself back up again. But unless you have some kind of suspension contraption (saucy). you’ll have to make do with the simple button presses.
To help you traverse the corridors and vast rooms you’ll encounter on your journey, you get a handy grappling hook which you can fire to any surface and have it pull you in. This makes movement much faster and helps you get out of the rare occasion where you’re just floating with no feasible handhold to get you moving again. To be honest, I spent most of the game just floating around as it really is an experience to behold. The actual game can wait.
The game can wait because what you have isn’t particularly exciting, If you want guns guns and more guns with an added sprinkle of explosions, this isn’t the game for you. There are weapons, all of which are nicely designed and remind me of the guns you find in Dead Space, tools re-purposed as weapons rather than all-out laser phaser guns. The shooting is on point, with bullets going where you point your virtual gun. They also feel nice and weighty in the hand. It’a shame then that the only foes you meet are small floating security droids which can be dispatched fairly easily, but I guess that’s not the point of this game. The purpose of the game is to get the station up and running and this is achieved by simply pressing some buttons to unlock other rooms so you can continue your exploration. It’s not the most intricate of games and with no narrative, you can sometimes find yourself getting a bit lost, wondering how and what and why you are in this situation.
Visually the game is pretty impressive too with cool lighting and an 80’s space station kind of vibe, something that wouldn’t look out of place in an early Alien game. There is some background music which oddly detracts from the experience a little. I mean you’re in this abandoned space station, you’re actually the one experiencing it, so the music isn’t really needed the atmosphere is already there. It reminds you that you are playing a game, something that can be easily forgotten at times thanks to the brilliantly atmospheric VR mechanics.
To give the game a little more substance, there are some collectables to be found – 20 in all if you want a trophy because that’s all you get for collecting them all. It’s not much but it does encourage exploration.
Other than flip some switches, shoot some droids and hunt out some collectables, that’s all there really is to the game. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, the zero gravity is just an awesome experience and floating around an abandoned space station is a scary as it sounds without there actually being anything to be scared of. There are no jump scares or monsters or nasties just the utter feeling of isolation which in itself is enough to get the heart rate pounding.
There were a few glitches to be found. Nothing game breaking as such aside from a rather hefty one (well, I assume it was a glitch). I came to a door and opened it expecting another room or corridor instead I was presented with a vast amount of space and a planet. I’m not sure if this was actually meant to happen but I kid you not I shit myself. I just couldn’t resist floating out into space and watch as the space station got further and further away. Sod getting lost in space! I say it was a glitch because when I turned around to look at my space station, all I could see was a bunch of doors floating in space. I could float to any one of them, open them and head on inside. Strange, but was one hell of an experience.
Downward Spiral: Horus Station is certainly not a game for everyone. It’s very slow paced and with very little to do it can become frustrating pretty quick. I’m not the biggest fan of these types of games and if I played it with a standard controller I would have been done after the first five minutes. But in VR it adds a whole new dimension which makes it a far more tantalizing experience.
Downward Spiral: Horus Station is available now on PSVR (reviewed on Base PSVR/PS4 Pro)
Developer: 3rd Eye Studios
Publisher: 3rd Eye Studios
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a review code from the publishers. For our full review policy, please go here.