In my quest to find asymmetrical cooperative games for VR, which landed me on the rough around the edges, but charming and entertaining The Diner Duo which you can read the review of right here, I also came across another interesting game meant to be played by one person using the HMD and the other at the monitor that the VR set is hooked to titled Black Hat Cooperative. Is it a worthy title to add to your VR selection?
Like that obnoxious Owl used to say “Let’s…find out.” If you hated that quote or don’t get the reference because you’re too young it’s OK. he’s long dead now.
So, what’s the story behind the game? Well… I’mma cheat and just slap the description taken straight from Steam:
“Listen carefully to my directions. Look to your right. There are two agents behind that door and they will reach you in 5 seconds. They just heard you. RUN!”
Black Hat Cooperative is an award-winning stealth game that pits you and an ally against robot agents that seek to remove you from the system. Explore complex levels filled with hidden dangers and work together to survive.
Explained?.. Not really, but it does setup the very minimal story which…well, that’s all of it right there and it doesn’t matter because story isn’t the driving force behind the game.
It’s simple, but clean. Non-offensive much in the same way that The Diner Duo was, though this has a harder and much more monotone look to it. It’s actually a little bare for the time being and some more detail would be nice but the game isn’t about graphics, clearly. What they do have are simple, easily readable and serviceable models and effects that look well done. They don’t appear to be assets which is always a nice touch. If they were super detailed assets it would honestly just look cheap and disconnected from the surrounding level, which nearly all asset packs do. This all fits together and just works.
I feel this is going to be a trend in many VR titles. A return to basic graphics as the hardware catches up with the requirements of Hi-def virtual reality and I’m fine with that as long as the gameplay is engaging.
Again, nothing super immersive or remarkable. It’s just serviceable. This is once again just a check box.
I will say that more audio feedback for the VR player maybe wouldn’t hurt. I get that they are supposed to be relying on their partner to let them know when something is around the corner or coming up behind them, but just a little bit more ambience would be nice. This is more a personal preference, I suppose.
The gameplay consists of someone in the VR headset who actually navigates the corridors and rooms (Right side of the GIF) This person can interact with things in the system such as doors, keys and switches. While the other person who is simply observing everything from a top-down view (Left side of the GIF) but they are verbally telling you what you need to do, where to go and when in order to avoid laser grids, invisible trap floors and patrol-bots. If they say stop just do it, obviously some more details might help but the basic is “Just do what I say, why do I have to explain why I’m telling you something, just do it!” Yes, that was something that was said to me while my girlfriend and I played because I’m not good at listening, obviously.
Continuing with those basics the observer player is also able to disable the patrol-bots. The VR player needs to “scan” the bot without getting spotted and reveal it’s name. The observer than uses that bots name with a .command. I.E: Benjaman47.freeze will freeze the bot for a few seconds. There are different commands they can do with different effects. Nice little interaction the observer can engage in.
But that is the basics of the game…so, how does it execute those things?
With a resounding “OKAY.”
I’m not going to bash the game because it is ultimately enjoyable, but there are many caveats to that and the biggest is the movement, or as it’s frequently being called in VR gaming the “Locomotion.” This is how you move around in VR games. Many games are opting just for teleporting which honestly, in terms of motion sickness reduction, is the beginner option, but shouldn’t be the ONLY option available. This game uses the glide/pivot locomotion in which you slide your thumb on the trackpad to get forward movement, but you can’t turn using the controllers. You do a 90 degree swing when you “grip” the controller you want to turn the direction in: Left grip swings camera left and right grip swings it right. Or you can press the trackpad to do the 90 degree turn. You are able to look around with the headset and turn that way as well which is fine. My issue is the lack of options. The teleport option is nixed completely, probably due to being able to teleport through traps…cheaters gunna cheat. but have the glide/pivot and also the “Swing” movement where swinging your arms back and forth causes forward movement. Some games are using that and it works well. Options are never a bad thing, especially when nobody really knows which movement system is right for them.
In terms of level design it’s another mixed bag. While some levels are great and don’t feel too long or frustrating, other are really ONLY that; FRUSTRATING!. Take for example the Pac-man level. Cute, sure…but there is no checkpoint and you have to eat all the pellets. If you get hit it’s square one, back to the beginning. That’s not fun…put in checkpoints! That is just one example of me going “…Really?” which I did a couple times when some maps loaded up.
Well, those are two asymmetrical coop games for the HTC Vive down. How do they stack up against each other? Well, Black Hat Cooperative (click the name to go directly to the Steam page) is $9.99 on Steam and I feel that is a good price for what it offers so far. The game was last updated Sept.21.2016 with new levels and a change in motion controls (3rd person mode I didn’t try, but will and will report back on that experience.) So it has been getting updates since it’s release in July. The game has a slightly more intense feel, but less hectic than The Diner Duo. Honestly, they are both cheap games and if you are craving Asym-coop try them both. They are both fun, well made indie titles that deserve your support.
I do hope for more updates from both, but Black Hat Cooperative more so as the potential is great, I feel. They just need to keep updating the game with more content in order to overcome some of it’s short-comings.