Thursday, December 24, 2020

VR recommendations (for Oculus Quest 1 & 2)

I expect plenty of people will be waking up to a new Oculus Quest 2 tomorrow, so figure it could be helpful to share some recommendations, as a long-time fan of virtual reality...

First, a cautionary note: the Quest 2 requires a Facebook account to log in, and Facebook actively tries to delete "fake" accounts, so I wouldn't risk using a fake profile. (There are reports of people losing their accounts -- and all their games -- from doing this.)

Oculus store recommendations: Oculus lists some of their top recommendations here.  You can try things out and refund them within 2 hours of playing time (and within 14 days of purchase) if you don't like them. I would especially recommend:

* Echo VR (free) - Zero-G multiplayer frisbee.  Incredibly immersive and fun.

* Superhot VR demo (free) - Time moves when you do.  Incredible use of VR, and something everyone should experience once, but I didn't find enough replay value to make the full version worth it (YMMV).

* In Death: Unchained - best archery game, ever.  (Easily the best paid game on the Quest. A must-buy.)

* Eleven Table Tennis - accurate physics, feels just like playing in real life, except that you don't have to chase missed / wayward balls around the room.

* The Thrill of the Fight - boxing sim, best VR exercise. (More conventional fitness apps, like FitXR, are also worth checking out, but TTotF seems more effective to me, as well as being more fun -- and cheaper, too.)

* Audica - rhythm games are amazing in VR, and this is the best of the lot.  Pistol Whip is cooler (and more universally acclaimed), but I actually get more sheer enjoyment from Audica.

* TRIPP - meditation app.  The breathing exercises help me to sleep better.  I'm more motivated to meditate with the VR visuals compared to non-VR options like Headspace; but be warned that the "inspirational" voiceovers can be annoying. (Fortunately there is a mute option.)

* Dreadhalls - cheap horror game, primarily recommended for watching others get creeped out when you share your headset. (There may be better options, I'm not really into the horror genre.)

Sidequest (free): Sidequest is PC software that lets you "sideload" more apps (i.e., not from the Oculus appstore) on to your Quest (setup instructions here).  This is worth doing because Oculus is really restrictive about what they approve for their app store (though I gather that Oculus has plans to eventually incorporate Sidequest into their online store.).  You can try out lots more free demos and unofficially ported games this way.  I especially recommend:

* Tea for God - Turns your play area, no matter how small, into a massive non-Euclidean space that you literally walk around, seemingly without end. Mind-bending stuff.

* Cosmic Flow - like being inside a kaleidoscope.  Great background for relaxing / meditation. (Also included in the official TRIPP app.)

* Lambda1VR - port of Half-Life.  The creator has done similar ports of the old Doom engine and even Return to Castle Wolfenstein. (As someone with fond memories of playing Heretic as a kid, it was amazing to get to experience being inside that creepy, pixelated world, firing at imps with my crystal staff...)

PCVR (Oculus Link) - if you have a VR-capable gaming PC, you can connect your Quest via USB link (or, better, wirelessly using the Virtual Desktop sidequest patch, if you have wired connection between your PC and a 5 GHz router) to play PCVR games from the Oculus Rift store or even SteamVR.  This opens up limitless possibilities.  A few that I'd especially recommend considering include:

Google Earth VR (free) - everyone loves this.  Go anywhere, see anything.  Can be a massive nostalgia trip, visiting familiar places you haven't seen in a while (old homes, etc.).

* Exploration games like No Man's Sky and Outer Wilds (VR mod).  NMS is the most fun I've had in VR, despite occasional stuttering from my computer struggling to keep up.  A great escape from pandemic lockdowns...

* Skyrim VR (modded) - I've spent more time getting the mods set up than actually playing, but it's something I look forward to getting back into when I have more time.

* The Lab (free) - Valve shows off what early VR can do -- the longbow and xortex games are fun.

* The Invisible Hours - immersive theatre, reminiscent of Sleep No More.

* Tetris Effect - it's amazing what they've managed to achieve with this classic.  The music and background visuals sync with your Tetris moves.  (Also available on Quest store, but the PCVR version offers better visuals, and doesn't lose anything from being tethered.)

* War Thunder (free) - multiplayer arcade flight combat.  (I expect that newer options like Star Wars: Squadrons or Project Wingman are better, but haven't tried those yet.)

* VTOL VR for a more realistic flight sim, where all controls are "hands-on": toggling switches, etc. (I haven't had time to invest in learning to pilot this properly, but look forward to doing so some day.)

* Redout - if you want an arcade racer.  (Currently in a bundle for just $5.)

* [Update: I should add that Half-Life: Alyx is generally considered to be the best PCVR game around, but I haven't yet tried it myself.]

N.B. r/vrgamedeals is a good source for finding sales.  Oculus store rarely has good deals, but most SteamVR games you can eventually get for half price (or better in a bundle), if you don't mind waiting for a sale.

Comfort mods: Many people find the Quest headsets to be uncomfortably "front-heavy".  VR Balance sells well-designed "counterweight" attachments that make it more comfortable (I have an earlier model from them that works great).  Alternatively, you might be able to make your own.

Any other VR fans reading this?  Feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments...


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