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Bitsummit: Paper Garden Preview – Relaxing Fun (VR)

May 28, 2017Written by Heath Hindman

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Paper Garden excels in doing what video games were created to do: provide simple fun. (Quick note because this is a PlayStation website: I played this on Oculus Rift, but Peter Traylor of developer Vitei Backroom told me PlayStation VR isn’t ruled out. Good enough!)

All players have to do is sit back, enjoy the scenery, and glide a paper airplane to shiny gold target in the distance. Sounds simple, might even sound boring, but it turned out to be one of my favorite VR games to date — and this was just a demo.

At first, I hesitated, because I’ve never been gifted at throwing anything other than fits of rage. But for people like me and for general playability, the planes fly with some guided physics — a hybrid of a real throw with a lil help to make it not utterly discouraging. Furthermore, after a plane is let loose, players can give it a touch of guidance by rotating their controllers (in my case, Oculus Rift).

After hitting enough of the golden targets, one can fly a blue teleportation airplane and warp to another point. I enjoyed giving myself an extra challenge by trying to hit faraway targets before warping to the closer vantage point. It felt like making trick shots in basketball, except I actually had a chance at success. Can’t lie, it felt pret-ty co-ol when the dev said, “Oh, nice, haven’t seen anyone make that shot yet.”

When I was first told to throw a blue airplane to a teleportation point, I was a bit dismayed, because I thought that meant movement was restricted. I’m never a fan of arbitrarily restricting movement like that. Fortunately, developer Vitei Backroom sees it the same way, and the blue planes fly automatically to the teleportation pods.

And if you’re the kind of gamer who looks at those last three or four paragraphs and gets mad at Paper Garden possibly being “too easy” or “casual,” then, two notes:
1) Video games might not be for you.
2) It’s about flying paper fuckin’ airplanes, you dickhead.

I played on the Oculus Rift, but Peter Traylor of Vitei told me they’ve also played it on an HTC Vive in their office and that a PlayStation VR release is possible, if the cards fall right. Given that this impressive demo was made after only a month or two of planning and one more of actual development, nothing was ruled out. While far, far, far from a confirmation or even hint-dropping, PlayStation Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida did play Paper Garden at Bitsummit and tweeted that he was pretty impressed:

Paper Garden is currently without a publisher; find one was part of Vitei Backroom’s plan in bringing this game to Bitsummit in the first place. The polite journalist in me said that he probably couldn’t name names, and he grinned and told me, “I don’t have to name names sspecifically, because I can quite honestly tell you that everyone has loved it so far.” In the interest of gamers in general, I hope that translates to Paper Garden becoming commercially available in the near future.

When an airplane missed a target, it would explode into a bushel of grass. This was a placeholder, and as the game includes “Garden” in the title, I asked about other flowers and plants. Like most things in a tech demo, this idea was met with a nod and a “Yeah, we’re messing with some stuff.”

I also asked about a persistent garden that might build up over time, and while this isn’t yet implemented, but the team is considering how one could be done.

Paper Garden felt fun and relaxing while also providing a challenge. It looked pretty, played well, and holds all the promise in the world, in the very likely event it gets picked up by a publisher.

Virtual Reality gaming fans (and on this website, I especially mean PlayStation VR fans) take note: Paper Garden is one to keep your eye on. If it comes to the headset of your choice, I definitely recommend checking it out.