Tarsier Studios is certainly not a household name in the video game world, and for good reason. A lot of the work they’ve done has been on other companies IPs, namely working on things like the PS4 remake of Tearaway or the Vita version of Littlebigplanet. So when not one, but two of their games, Little Nightmares and Statik are announced as coming out within a week of each other, that’s kind of a crazy time, especially since both games are so well made. While Little Nightmares has definitely captured the attention of the press, it might be that Statik is the better game. While both are very unique experiences, Statik is maybe the best puzzle game for the PlayStation VR.
When you first jump into Statik, the game seems daunting. The game is meant to be played in a seated position with your Dualshock controller in front of you. Your character is sitting in a chair with a box encapsulating both of your hands. The game basically, from that point on, just tells you to figure it out. The movements of the Dualshock actually correspond to how your character moves the puzzle box and each of the buttons will correspond to something.
But the game will almost never tell you what exactly they correspond to. Instead, you have to determine exactly what buttons do what and how they interact with each other. Each level has a different box to it, so determining what each box requires of you is a major part of the puzzle. On top of that, each level has a different setting and may actually have clues hidden in the environment.
The first puzzle is simple enough. All that you have to do is turn the puzzle box to each side and complete a puzzle. One side is a simple pipe puzzle and the other requires you to hit a series of buttons in the correct order to complete a circuit. Then, once you’ve done those, you realize that there’s still more of the box to complete. The final puzzle requires you to actually examine the corners of each box and rotate them in a way to complete a final circuit.
But as the game progresses, more and more abstract ideas are added. One puzzle has you controlling what amounts to a Roomba with a webcam to visit different rooms to find specific words to enter. Another timed puzzle forces you to think on your feet and enter a series of specific commands, while corresponding your answers to specific colored lights. These puzzles are tense and you can really rack your brain trying to figure out what you need to do.
Each puzzle features a character who is testing you and measuring your answers. They are also there to add just a little bit of stress, as they may be sipping coffee or whistling while you are really concentrating on a puzzle. There are also a series of tests between these puzzles, where the tester will ask you about your specific emotions regarding certain questions. These questions can be nonsensical and can actually add a layer of malice to what is happening. By the end, you’re not sure of exactly why you’re being tested and you almost get the feeling that the tester doesn’t either.
The thing that makes Statik work as well as it does, however, is how custom built for VR the game feels. Much like SuperHyperCube, a lot of the game requires you to shift your perspective to figure out what to do. Sure, you could play this game without VR and have the character move the box using specific buttons or even gyro controls, but actually using your head to look into each puzzle adds a layer of complexity without sacrificing anything. Add to that, the performance is really solid, leading to so few “jitters” common in many PSVR games. It never asks you to walk around, or crouch or do anything that the PSVR isn’t easily capable of, and as such the entire experience feels really fantastic.
If there were one major complaint to level at the game, it would be that at times the propensity to not tell you what does what can be frustrating. There’s a series of small puzzles that occur between levels where you are trying to form a cube. However, if you put pieces in the wrong space, they will still click into position and the game doesn’t do a good job of telling you that you can disconnect those pieces. It took me holding a bunch of buttons to actually disassemble this and I’m still not sure how I did it.
That said, though, Statik is the perfect puzzler for the PlayStation VR. Each puzzle is so complex that it will leave your brain hurting but never due to frustration. The story is told in this interesting way that makes you feel uncomfortable but also can be genuinely funny. It feels like the PlayStation VR equivalent of the mobile video game series, The Room. If you enjoy puzzle games and have PlayStation VR, it will be perfect for you.
SCORE: 9.5 out of 10
A code for Statik was provided to Pixel Related for review.