What if you opened the door and walked in not knowing what to expect only to find something unique and charming that you could not stop going forward? Would you keep on not knowing what is out there? Would you take that opportunity and embrace it even though it may be something that you might not have thought about in the past? These are some interesting questions that if presented to you, might make you stop and think for a second and actually do it or shut the door as you pass. So does Developer Visiontrick Media have the door that will make you want to go through it and not look back? Let’s find out with MARE for the Oculus Quest/Quest 2.
MARE has you crossing paths with a helpless companion as you venture deep into the unknown mysterious lands of MARE with its puzzling adventures to make sure that the arrival of the companion will meet her impending destiny. So before we begin, there is a couple of things I want to mention. For one, I do not want to spoil anything for anyone. Second, when you start MARE, do not stop playing). With that said, let’s continue.
When MARE first starts, there is no voice narration to guide you. There is no real holding of the hand here. This is a puzzle adventure, where the puzzles are not extremely difficult and might just require some thinking. So playing on the Oculus Quest 2, I noticed from the start that there was something unique as it turns out I was playing as a mechanical bird. But the thing is, you are not in the first-person view of flight when you move from area to area. In the beginning, there is a sense of flight, but you see the mechanical bird at a distance. So, for those who might be worried if there is any chance of any motion sickness, don’t. There is none. The only time you really see the point of view from the bird is when you are sitting on the point you were trying to reach and then you get a real sense of height depending on where the pylon points are located.
But it’s not until you see what is being carried through these hot air balloons that you start to follow it do things start to get more interesting. Following this cargo and going through the clouds to where it was sunny and then have the weather change to have it raining really brings out the 3D depth that from the rain the ocean below and seeing the shadow of a building structure in the distance really made me at that point, knew I was in for something special. So make sure you have one of your Oculus Touch controllers charged (yes, you will only need one controller here), and let’s keep moving.
But it’s just not being this mechanical steampunk bird, but it’s when you finally meet the companion, this girl, who has been chained without any explanation as to why that the trust between the two really comes into play. You as the bird will guide the girl from different pylon points so hopefully, she can help you get to new areas that are blocked either by doors or switches and she will only be able to reach. Sometimes there are multiple pylon points where you may need to go to the left so she follows and then has to wait for her to get as far as she can before moving to the next point. You will know she can go as far as she can because she will call out and wave to you. You also want to make sure you don’t get too far ahead because the lands of MARE are pretty good and size and this girl is having to do all the running with no shoes and jumping where if you or I were to try and made those jumps, something might break.
As you and the girl continue on, there are going to be some points where the girl is being attacked by these mysterious figures. Thankfully, you have this electrical shock ability that you can use to defend the girl as well as use it at certain points to help direct her when it comes to it as well as use it to activate triggers along the way. Just be careful when you use this ability near or on the girl as it can scare her. There will be times where the girl was attacked and no matter what you do helps. This is all part of the progression as you will be in a new area and see the girl lying down and you will need to figure out how to wake her up. But what I found that made me go hmmm on an occasion or two, was that no matter what, it seemed like the girl was not phased by the attacks as when she woke, things just carried on.
Throughout the different lands of MARE, you will notice cat artifacts. I am going to say this now if you see any of these cat artifacts, get the girl to collect them. The reason why is there if you do not collect them all and you get to the end of MARE, you will have one ending and by collecting all of the artifacts, you will get another ending, that should not be missed. But one good thing is after you beat the game and if you did not collect all of the artifacts, you can go back to any land and certain points so you can then collect them. Which is a great thing for the developer to do.
Let’s talk about the graphics and sound. The art style is so fantastic here and works extremely well in VR. From the shadows from the trees and horses to just the lighting choices that were used is really remarkable. The girl’s movements are very lifelike with the way she is moving from jumping to climbing. When you have the trees moving because of the wind and each individual leaf is flowing on its own, it really shows the amount of hard work that Visiontrick Media has put into the work since MARE was first announced in 2016.
When you talk about sound, the one thing you want to have is the balance that it can bring to complete the immersive experience within Virtual Reality. And this is the case here. To hear the wind made me feel like I could imagine how it would have felt if I was on these lands. When you get to certain mechanical objects and to hear those squeaks just like if they have been there for a lifetime, but not been used for a while brings the authenticity of the sounds. To hear just the slightest of the music playing that did not overplay its welcome at the right moments but made its presence known when it was needed was a refreshing touch. And to hear this mechanical bird flap its wings through the air really gives you a sense of its size.
There are just a few things that I would love to see added to MARE. For one, there is only click turning. It works, but it would be nice to be able to have an option for smooth turning. Second, if you do miss the cat artifacts, I think it would be great for those that were missed to somehow show up on the map instead of just black circles of the different parts you can start on each stage. You can always get out and go to any that you completed very quickly, but it would be a nice touch if that option was available. And lastly, I wish MARE could be longer. The world of MARE is pretty massive and after I was done and without really any explanation that still may have you trying to figure things out, I just wanted to keep exploring.
MARE shows that when the door opens, that we should not pass it by and instead go through it with an open mind and let the door close behind us. It’s when these times come around that we should embrace what we might not know as we then might realize that it’s times like these that make us appreciate what we may not normally be aware of. And shouldn’t we all take more chances in life on those doors that open up to give us those opportunities instead of just closing them?
MARE is out now on the Oculus Quest/Quest 2 on the Oculus Store. A review code was provided.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy. Until next time, I think I am just going to go back and enjoy the view.