The PlayStation VR’s launch window lineup has been fantastic so far, with a lot of variety amid a lot of high-quality releases. Platformers have been in short supply though, even with games like RIGS throwing in a bit of platforming in the mix. Windlands has been a VR release on PC for quite some time, but this is the first console release for it and it winds up being one of the best overall experiences on the PlayStation VR. It blends platforming with parkour and a grappling hook to tell a tale about how you can save the world from titans who have overtaken it. While the concept may seem a bit odd, the end-game is quite simple — with a fair amount of depth as well.
You run through the world to build up momentum, then use that momentum to leap over large gaps. Thanks to VR, you can look down and see how well you’re doing at landing without needing to rely on shadows to judge distance. It’s still a good idea to do that though, since that will keep deaths to a minimum — but death isn’t a huge punishment here. This means that the player feels more free to experiment, and that makes the game far more enjoyable. You know that you can take risks and not face any major consequences, so you’ll be more bold than normal.
In a regular platformer, it’s fine to play conservatively. You’ll test the momentum out for a bit and then learn it, and still not want to overshoot. Here, you can overshoot or just undershoot and try to see what kind of distance you can make up with the grappling hook. The controls are quite intuitive, although surprisingly don’t make use of the Move controllers. Instead, the left stick runs, while you move your head to move the camera, X jumps, and R2 shoots out the grappling hook. It works a bit like the fishing line in Umihara Kawase and has its own physics to it. Learning about how much more you can spring up on a ledge with it, along with your default jump, will mean the difference between success and failure.
Windlands is a thrilling adventure and one that gives players the best sense of speed yet. You really do get a feel for how fast you’re going, which seems a bit scary for a VR experience — but it isn’t, and was pretty seamless. Those used to a Mirror’s Edge-style first-person platformer/parkour experience should have a blast with this game. Its mechanics are far more focused on doing a few things well than doing a billion things and using every possible button — so everything is intuitive and the action never gets too fast to handle.
The game’s CG movie-esque art style works very well, and uses exaggerated features well on the few characters that you encounter while keeping the real-world objects in proportion. The flat-shaded graphics look fantastic and the framerate never drops either. Windlands oozes style and delivers one of the best-looking experiences with PlayStation VR while maintaining a fairly simplistic look. Everything clicks together visually, while the relaxing soundtrack allows you to stay composed during frantic platforming sections.
Windlands is easily the best platforming experience available on the PlayStation VR, and a must for anyone who wants to see what a Mirror’s Edge-style blend of platforming and parkour is like in that format. It blends those things together while also giving you a rush akin to being a superhero as you dart through the sky making perilous jumps constantly in order to reach your goal. It provides some of the most satisfying action available in VR yet and does it with breathtaking visuals to punctuate the action. Its tranquil soundtrack stands in stark contrast to the fast action while allowing you to focus on what matters most — reaching your goal in one piece.