There’s a hall at gamescom, a hall that seems to host more flags than there is on the outside of the United Nations building in New York. It’s a building full of diverse people and even more diverse games; the international hall. Here, you’ll find a pavilion representing almost every nation on the planet; from Canada and the UK, Spain and Poland, or even as far as Korea and Iran, and these pavilions play host to dozens of developers from that nation all showing off their latest game.
At this year’s gamescom I got a chance to explore the Italian Pavilion, seeing what those guys and girls up and down the famous boot have created for our enjoyment; and after seeing Runes: The Forgotten Path, it was time for something a little different - Lantern.
Like Runes, Lantern is another VR based game, but one that can also be played without the face consuming and social inhibiting peripheral. You play the role of a Lantern, obviously, and have to return the colour back to the land after a princess’s sadness wipes away all the joy; perhaps best summed up by developer Storm In A Teacup’s children’s book description.
“Once upon a time, there was a very sad princess. She felt so unloved and unhappy, that everything around her became grey and lifeless and the entire land was deprived of its colour and joy. Our fable begins when a single, lonely lantern was lit in a faraway village…”
It’s an extremely simple premise, leading to unchallenging and calming gameplay; simply floating through the environment, diving between buildings and under bridges in order to fill in the bleak, grey rural Asian landscape. As you glide the lantern through the air, the vibrant reds, oranges and greens return, filling the isometrically built villages, towns and harbours back with life and joy. It’s all accompanied with a beautifully quaint score of relaxing synths and drums with a Far East twist, perfectly blending with the gentle VR headset movement and rise and fall of the lantern.
While it won’t last longer than a handful of hours, as you return the colour through all four seasons of varying environments, it was brilliant to see the how different a game can become once you’re thrust into VR. While using the controller, it feels very similar to the That Company game Flower, more of a display of beauty than a full experience, but once thrust into the world with no distractions, it becomes much more. There’s a more impressive scale, and you get a sense of omniscience and sheer awe, something playing on a conventional screen doesn’t give you.
It might not be the ultimate AAA experience, or the first thought that comes into your head when pondering what you’d like to see in VR, and although it’s a glorified colouring in simulator, it’s a welcome break to the intense reality that VR can be.
Lantern will be available on PC later this year, and will be compatible with the HTC Vive.