Time Vortex VR
Developed for the BBC by Goodboy Digital,
For use with cardboard headsets, Google Daydream, Samsung Gear VR and HTC Vive
Originally Released December 2017
An update of the previous Time Vortex 360
game, now fully deployed for VR, Time Vortex
isn’t going to change the world but it doesn’t intend to. Based on the single line elevator pitch “Imagine you could play
the Doctor Who
titles,” it’s a fun, if slight, idea well executed.
A brief tutorial requires you to play through the basic elements of the game while huge block capital instructions on what to do fly down the vortex in true 2005 style and gets you up to speed quickly, though thankfully, unlike some games, it only appears on your first play and you did have to sit through it over and over. Those elements are pretty straightforward – as you fly the TARDIS down the vortex, you have to hit glowing balls flying towards you, dodge asteroids, and pilot your way through the gates of force fields that block your way. Each energy ball collected, or hazard avoided, gets you points.
The real selling point here is the gameplay, which involves tilting your device left or right to steer, or tilt forward or back to pull up or dive down as you hurtle onward. If you have a full VR set like Google Daydream, Samsung Gear VR or HTC Vive, or even a cardboard set up to slot your phone into, it’s better again as it’s actually moving your head as you look around the environment which directs your course. A particular delight is the fact you get ‘attacked’ from behind by asteroids that are travelling up the vortex faster than you – requiring you to turn around on the spot to face them so you can avoid them, meaningly you wind up flying backwards with the ‘past’ receding away from you.
These things can be tough to play, and we’ve all seen VR environments where the program gets easily confused and insists the walls are on the floor or slight turns of your head cause you to spin madly through the virtual world like a top, but none of these problems are apparent with Time Vortex VR. It’s responsive, but not annoyingly oversensitive and all the movements you make result in what you instinctively expect to happen. That’s important as there’s few things worse than a game that has a good idea but is infuriately difficult to actually control. In contrast to that, this is an easy joy to play and should be especially embraced by younger kids getting to swish their way around their living room in the TARDIS. That’s particularly impressive as this is presented up front as a “Taster Experiment” with the warning that “Ideas May Break.”
All of this is accompanied by a suitably jaunty and enthusiastic version of the Doctor Who theme, while the Police Box itself probably looks most like the 1980s prop but is plainly intended as a compromise version that simultaneously resembles, to some degree, all and none of the TV incarnations. This ties in to the game’s take on the vortex itself which regularly transforms itself in a flash of light from one era to another. Not designed to be exact, they still raise a smile of recognition of the decade they represent. So there’s a distinctly 2005 looking one, one that’s in more open space with lots of asteroids ala 1987, and a rainbowtastic one that’s very Colin Baker. There’s also a 1960s inspired one, though it’s effectively a modern vortex rendered in black and white rather than the sweeping horizontal sheets of the Hartnell titles. It also creates the only slight quibble with Time Vortex VR, as it can be devilishly hard to tell the difference between the asteroids and the walls of the vortex itself when both are in black and white.
Time Vortex VR won’t be anybody’s idea of the big Christmas present under the tree, but it’s a perfectly judged stocking filler sure to provide kids from six to six hundred with a fun diversion as they jump around the house, getting under the feet of Mums, Dads and guardians as they try to serve up the Christmas dinner this year. Plus, it’s free to play for the first three months (what exactly happens after that is a little… vague) so there’s literally nothing to lose by giving it a literal spin.