Two years ago, The Playroom VR was released to coincide with the launch of Sony's PSVR headset. A free download containing six games specially designed to showcase the capabilities of virtual reality hardware, the highlight for many was Robot Rescue in which players guide an adorable robot through a 3D platforming adventure in search of his lost friends. Immediately endearing with its colourful design and fantastically lovable protagonist, this single level has now been expanded into a fully-fledged game: Astro Bot Rescue Mission.
Rescue Mission places players into the game as a silent robot master, using a DualShock controller to direct Astro Bot through twenty six stages. Each of these contains eight often deviously-hidden robots to find, plus a hidden chameleon which unlocks a separate challenge level when located. VR games are known for their relatively brief length, but that's certainly not the case here - finishing the main game will take a fair few hours, then if you throw in the challenge levels and extra replays to find all the robots, you'll definitely get your money's worth from this one.
While Rescue Mission would work well enough as a regular platformer, the VR side of things elevates it to a whole other level. Players effectively become the game's camera, looking around 360 degrees to find any hidden areas before figuring out how best to guide Astro to uncover their secrets. Cries of lost robots alert you to their presence, and excellent sound design means that playing with headphones helps massively with directing you to their location. Various tools are given to you throughout the game, and using these is always a joy - shurikens stick into walls to create platforms, the grappling hook and water hose have more uses than you'd imagine, and your own head even becomes useful in unexpected ways at times!
Anyone old enough to remember playing Super Mario 64 back in 1996 will find exactly the same sense of magic and wonder here. A tried and tested formula taken to new heights through clever utilisation of new technology, it's no exaggeration to suggest that in twenty years time we'll look back at Rescue Mission as a groundbreaking landmark in VR history. Brimming with personality and humour and immensely playable from beginning to end, as far as VR platformers go, this is now the one to beat.
ASTRO BOT: RESCUE MISSION / DEVELOPER: JAPAN STUDIO / PUBLISHER: SONY / PLATFORM: PLAYSTATION VR / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW