Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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A new VR game about trying to wake up from a dream

A new VR game about trying to wake up from a dream

Waking up is the worst part of any day. Your brain is tired—it doesn’t want to function yet. Sometimes you just don’t feel like dealing with whatever challenges the day might bring, so sleeping in for an extra hour or four seems like the more appealing option. Working from home, there are many days where I merely arch forward, grab my laptop, and work lazily from bed for a couple of hours. A terrible habit, for sure.

Waking up is the absolute worst, plain and simple. Except for when you’re in a bad dream, then (and only then), is waking up a blessing. In Austria-based developer Black Cell’s VR game Wake Up, the journey to wake up looks a bit more endearing.

Wake Up is Black Cell’s first VR title. It’s a short game, only taking about 20 to 40 minutes to complete, depending on your adequacy at solving puzzles. It’s free, too. As for the content, the game traps you within a surreal dream. Something that looks neither hellish nor heavenly, but somewhere odd and in between. The visuals are delightfully low-poly, the most unrealistic of environments for VR. As the person in the dream, your goal is to follow an ever-elusive butterfly as it guides you through troublesome riddles. 

The game traps you within a surreal dream, neither hellish nor heavenly

For most VR titles, creators focus on bringing you into the virtual world through the sights. In most cases, sound is an afterthought, often not perfected or done particularly well. There are some VR experiences that use sound as a cue to guide the player where to look, but aside from that, sound design in VR is largely unexplored. Black Cell is seeking to amend this glaring oversight.

On the studio’s mission statement, it’s noted that in order to attain the “full immersion,” Black Cell’s apparent desire in VR, sound must be a primary focus. “By using good sound design and haptic feedback we are tricking the brain to do the rest of the work for us,” the description reads.

Every time I see the phrase “wake up” I think of that one Arcade Fire song.

The atmosphere in Wake Up is hopeful. Hopeful for the eventual escape from its shiny, surreal world. Hopeful for the eventual revelation of more developers awakening to the many different kinds of games and experiences that can be explored in VR—those outside the realm of shooters and plain exploration games. Though it may be short, Wake Up is an endearing bite-sized VR game. One that shows promise to whatever experiments Black Cell toys around with next.

Have a HTC Vive? You can download Wake Up here for free on Steam.

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