To the Top Review

It has been almost two years since virtual reality through the Oculus Rift and PlayStation has been released to the public. Since then it has become a huge topic of discussion due to its growth potential and identity as an entertainment tool. Already, vast numbers of games have been made to show off its ability to amaze and inspire gamers, some through simple looking simulators and others who wish to involve players in situations similar to non-VR games but with a heightened level of interaction and immersion. To The Top aims to fully engage its audience and to demonstrate the full possibilities of virtual reality by placing them in a world filled with interactivity.

To The Top is a game entirely based around climbing. In each level, players are tasked with scaling tall structures and moving between highlighted to reach the finish line. The trail to the finish is a large variety of highlighted platforms which the player must grab hold of and climb between in order to progress. Using hands only, players would be required to climb walls, jump over fences and between ledges, and to climb while hanging from ceilings. The core gameplay is easily the strongest aspect of the game and it’s immensely enjoyable to climb walls at spectacular speeds and to jump from one area to the next in what sometimes feels like unwinnable encounters. This experience becomes even more satisfying as you progress due to the excellent amount of variety in each level. The game always manages to bring in a new and fascinating technique to travel through the level and cleverly allows them to blend in with the techniques already shown, keeping the pace from slowing down and maintaining the player’s interest. While some levels do suffer from some rough edges, where you may be forced to jump to an awkward location, none of the levels drag and it remains fun and entertaining throughout.

On PlayStation 4 players could choose between using either a gamepad or two move controllers. The gamepad is a serviceable controller to use for the most basic levels in the game and its easy to get used to as the controls are very straight-forward but players may feel much more comfortable using a motion controller for each hand. It feels much more natural as you use both of your hands to climb buildings and they make gameplay much easier in areas where you must cling to ceilings. They also help to speed up the pace of the game as players have much more control for each of their hands in the game.

One of the largest contributors to the game’s difficulty is the amount of land in which players cannot use to move across. Anywhere that isn’t highlighted blue or any other bright colours cannot be used as a platform to move across and if players land in one of these areas they will be forced to try again. There are also extensive sections where you will need to skid down the rail of a staircase and failing to stay balanced could lead to losing a lot of progress. This is a part of the game which starts off as frustrating and this could turn away some players but as you move forward it makes sense and encourages players to try and fully concentrate on their surroundings and path in order to move forward as quickly as possible.

Another contributor to the game’s difficulty and what is one of the game’s most important aspects is the timer. for each level, players must attempt to reach the finish line and try to beat all of the record times set by the game. Once a score has been beaten by the end of the game, the player gets a point, which could be used to unlock further levels. Each level has up to three scores to beat and trying to suppose the best score can be extremely challenging since you will often be required to try and climb complex structures and navigate through complicated obstacle courses. Players could view their own times through a useful gadget on their hands and could easily restart the game if they feel the level isnt going their way.

Points gained from beating time scores also unlock customisation options for players to choose from. Through looking into a convenient mirror and selecting from the menu, players can select between different skins for the head, body, and hands. It’s satisfying to unlock different hands but unlocking these customisation options ultimately feels like busy work since you don’t see your head and body very often. This isn’t a huge issue as you can always see your hands and it motivates you to try harder to beat scores but after some time you may stop perusing some of these skins altogether.

The game’s visuals choose to take the form of a remote obstacle course rather than make the game look like a simulation of the world today. For the most part, this makes the game look and feel all for the better. As you traverse through each level the game always manages to look playful and work well in immersing players despite their isolated locations. The menu screen alone seemingly takes place in the middle of a desert with a tall building emerging out of the ground for an impressive display. Certain levels also take a change in scenery and are based on different themes, such as an ancient, Aztec city. Themes like these do a great job in increasing the variety and diversity of the levels and you may end up ignoring the timer just to take in the scenery. The lack of a realistic floor when you miss a ledge from a high point could take away the sense that you are falling but that is probably a good thing, as this sensation could have made some sensitive players feel nauseous.

Speaking of sickness, for a fast-paced VR game, where players are required to use their heads vigorously, it’s understandable that the game will come under some concerns regarding potential health issues for players. As with virtual reality in general motion sickness is a real concern and has driven away some players from purchasing the headsets. However, from my experience with the game, I didn’t experience any feelings of sickness throughout my time with it. Players who are entirely new to the hardware may begin to feel dizzy from looking up all the time, and the experience could cause players to sweat on various occasions but none of these issues is bad enough to take away from the overall experience. You may need to remove the headset sometimes to wipe your forehead, but players shouldn’t need to take any further precautions other than regular breaks.

There are a few issues that players may come across. one decisive element is the soundtrack. Throughout each level, the game plays a compilation of relatively quiet pop songs. They do help in making the game feel less remote and they are relatively enjoyable to listen to but none of them always match the overall visual style of the game or its overall concept or gameplay. also, as themes change to real-life locations, such as an ancient Aztec village, they become more distracting. They never fully take away from the overall experience but it would have been nice to hear music that properly fits the location in a way that also doesn’t feel out of place as the soundtrack present sometimes does. Lastly, finding your way around and navigating could require some getting used to. There is no option to allow players to turn in a perfect angle so navigation could be quite cumbersome.

Despite some navigational issues and a rather inconsistent soundtrack, To the Top is an exceptional game that perfectly displays the full potential of entertainment through virtual reality. The experience of climbing tall landscapes and moving at high speeds is immaculate and the increasing difficulty and variety in locations and themes help the game greatly in keeping it interesting to play and making players perform snap decisions. To the Top is easily one of the better titles for any player obsessed with virtual reality and is a title that everyone interested in VR should experience.

REVIEW CODE: A PS4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@brashgames.co.uk.

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