Floating omnipotent-ly in the middle of a tiny world in the sky, I witnessed the events of Allumette unfold around me. I floated among the stars in the night sky, and among the clouds during the day. Little houses clustered together in the sky, some with tiny bridges connecting in between. Everything looked like a miniature model, with bright colors, fine textures, and little people the size of dolls that I wanted to reach out to and cradle in my hand.
I leaned around corners to see what was happening behind them. I leaned in to get a closer look when characters were interacting in important scenes. Allumette charmed me and allowed me to float in a new world for a while. This experience is a perfect kick-off to the beginning of a new era in entertainment technology, and the cost of entry is only 20 minutes of your time because Allumette is free on the PlayStation store.
An Experience VR Was Made For
To be clear, Allumette is a virtual reality experience, not a game. You cannot interact in the way you can in a usual video game, but the virtual reality immersion provides a sense of interaction, and in this case that immersion is profound. I cannot stress enough that Allumette is not a game, it is virtually reality. Events progress around you, and you invisibly observe.
Allumette makes you feel like you are really there in ways that 360-degree video cannot. It lets you actually lean and move around to examine your surroundings. It is a 3D experience, where you are truly present in that world and makes the virtual trip a more weighty experience.
The story has no words, but uses emotive noises much like pre-spoken word LEGO games. The warm noises make the characters and their expressions universally understood. A girl and her mother live aboard a Venetian-like sky boat, using a special machine inside it to create colorful, glowing matchsticks sized too big for such tiny dolls. They dock periodically at one of the tiny house clusters to peddle their matches, delighting passersby with their brightly colored flames. At one point, a match almost rolls off the edge of a platform to be lost forever in the sky below, and I instinctively reached out to catch it. I couldn’t help it, it is virtual reality. Your brain cannot distinguish real 3D spaces from virtual spaces no matter what you promise to yourself going into the experience.
The bond between mother and daughter is beautifully portrayed, which makes the story powerful and at times tear-inducing. At 20 minutes, it is a veritable saga in the new realm of VR cinematic experiences. The story is inspired by the classic tale The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen, and I won’t say more because I want to allow everyone to experience this VR short film for themselves. It’s impossible to call this a game; it’s unfair to call it a film. This is an experience unlike any other, made possible by virtual reality and thankfully brought to us on PlayStation, where we as gamers already appreciate games as a powerful artistic medium and will embrace VR the same way.
Allumette code sent by the publisher for review. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.