“Floating Cloud God patrols the land. With the power of six sacred scrolls he protects the people. But a mischievous Demon King has stolen the scrolls! And his minions have broken lands apart! A group of pilgrims must set out to reclaim the scrolls. But the off paths are lost and there are many dangers. It’s tempting for pilgrims to simply turn back! Floating Cloud God will have to guide them on their way…”. Say hello to PSVR’s wacky version of Lemmings.
When you think of VR you generally think of fantasy-based worlds to get lost in. Pop-Up Pilgrims keeps it simple and as result it’s all the better for it. Remember those pop-up books you enjoyed as a kid? Pop-Up Pilgrims is displayed in a similar manner, except that in this particular case it’s a virtual wrap-around the space you’re sitting in. Each layer is beautifully detailed in its unique Japanese style and requires that you only move your head from left to right to see the entire stage. The Pilgrims serve as the “Lemmings” in the game in that they are required to make it to a gate to exit any particular stage.
Become a God
Along the way they’ll pick up orbs, bombs, health packs (for their Cloud God) and all forms of items to work their way through each stage. As with Lemmings, these Pilgrims are constantly moving and it’s up to you to control their direction and actions. Have them bump into an enemy or blown off a cliff and that Pilgrim’s spirit floats up into the clouds. You are in complete control of their actions. That’s right, you are the Cloud God. Controlling the Cloud God requires you to merely turn your head as his actions are controlled by the cursor tied to your VR headset.
To select any one Pilgrim requires you to aim your head at that pilgrim (so it highlights him or her) and then press the L2 button to have him or her jump left or right. It’s the only way to change direction, other than them reaching the end of the platform and turning back, and plays a huge part in completing any level. Once a Pilgrim is highlighted you can perform smaller or further jumps as the cursor indicates a distance that will be achieved. Should they reach the edge of any layer, a leaf indicates whether they’ll jump up or down to the next level above or below them, and should there be no leaf they simply walk back and forth on the same level. This is where it gets a bit more involved.
There are times where you’ll find yourself with a bunch of Pilgrims all on their own little mission, all on various layers. It becomes a game of strategic planning as you, the Cloud God, must jump between layers to perform various actions while ensuring they don’t meet their maker. The further you progress the more complicated it becomes as a marker is introduced that has you placing points on any layer for a Pilgrim to jump up or down to the next level by pressing the R2 trigger along with a direction you intend them to continue their journey. Once the marker is placed and activated it vanishes, so it’s one marker use per Pilgrim and there are limited markers. Remember the health pack I mentioned earlier? It fills the marker gauge that plays a highly important role in finishing levels later on in the game. Before you know it you’re jumping between levels, changing the direction on the various Pilgrims to avoid certain death, placing markers to have custom areas for them to jump between layers, activating switches, avoiding enemies and dealing with everything the stage can throw at you.
The boss battles were actually quite entertaining and, as with most decent games, let you test out all the new skills you have just learned in one of the 50 levels you’ve completed. Do a good job at beating a boss and you’ll receive one of your six lost scrolls, for ‘reasons’ later on. As with most puzzle games, there is also a really catchy soundtrack that gets you bopping to the music, though it can become repetitive once you’ve failed for the umpteenth time. There is also the ability to have a second player join you to collect items in a stage, though I unfortunately never tried that out. Collecting items is highly important as it adds to your score to obtain a bronze, silver or gold rating. End the stage without receiving enough points to get a bronze tablet and you’ll have to restart the level. It’s quite brutal and you best collect everything you can. What perhaps left me a little baffled, at first, was the fact that VR is required to play this game.
A quick look at Pop-Up Pilgrims tells you that this would work just fine on a standard television, but there are two aspects a standard television and traditional setup just can’t match. Firstly is the depth you see in layers. The images attached does it absolutely no justice as you get a sense of depth and space in VR you can’t get on your television, and in this game, it’s essential to work. Secondly is one that most would not consider. Controlling the Cloud God using your headset is just about on par with a mouse. I really can’t imagine using my analogue stick to slide the cursor to a Pilgrim and it turning into a broken game of finger twister. It would never have the speed and accuracy of the headset being tracked and in Pop-Up Pilgrims you need to make split-second decisions.
Pop-Up Pilgrims isn’t going to set the world of VR alight. It’s also not going to take the Lemmings-like puzzle genre to the next level, but what is there is fun and right now there is no other puzzle game quite like it in VR. If you’re after a puzzle-based challenge in a VR environment then being the Cloud God could set you on a new journey.