We Are One review: Almost too clever
Smart VR games are not that common. Often they just repeat the same old shooter mechanics. We Are One is different.
You love shooters but hate bloody zombie slaughterhouses? You want to prevent the deforestation of (insert forest of your choice here) virtually? You like 3D puzzles with a time travel component?
Then We Are One should be your next VR game. Let me explain why.
We Are One: Review in a nutshell
The 3D and timing-based puzzles of this game are often very satisfying and clever. Figuring out the correct sequence of active clones and their actions is really fun. It is also great to be able to look at my perfectly combined chain of actions from an overview perspective afterwards. In addition, the cel shading art style is quite attractive and the VR game is bug-free and runs well.
However, the difficulty varies quite a bit. There can literally be worlds between two levels, and even if it is satisfying to find a solution after trying for fifteen minutes, better assistance and a more balanced increase in challenge would have been desirable.
The bottom line, though, is clear: Recommended.
Primarily tested on: Quest 2
You should play We Are One if you ...
- want to play something other than standard VR stuff,
- love clever puzzles and puzzle solving,
- think around corners and half a dozen steps ahead,
- and want to play a very polished VR game.
You shouldn't play We Are One if you ...
- don't like the cel shading look,
- 3D and timing puzzles melt your brain
- or if you get easily frustrated by large differences in difficulty.
What's it about?
I'm a tree sapling who helps Mother Nature keep pests and evil sawbots out of the forest or flatten entire sawmills. I have several tools at my disposal, including a wooden gun with seed ammunition and a wooden shield. The latter is reflective and I can send the saw blades that the saw bots shoot at me back to sender.
However, I don't have access to everything in every location in a level: For example, the seed pods are on one side, and the gun is on the other side of a tree trunk. On both sides are clone positions for my sapling: First I jump into one, throw the ammo over the trunk to the other clone position, and then switch there myself. From my new position, I can now see the action I just performed with the first clone, and I can catch or pick up the ammo it throws to me, load the weapon, and shoot enemies with it.
This gets more complex with each level. Occasionally I have to shoot at a clone position first, then switch to the clone being shot at and use the shield to direct the bullet at a hidden enemy. Other times, I control linked clones like a puppeteer, and have to be careful to make the right move at the right time to make the clones execute the moves effectively. At one point, I even had to use a clone to prevent my first action from happening in order to have enough ammo for all the enemies. Kind of crazy and every so often a little too clever!
How does it look?
The game is very detailed in all the right places, such as the weapon, ammunition and controller hands. The cel-shaded comic look used is both coherent and beautiful - although the large brown-gray areas of the timber industry sometimes look a bit depressing.
But this is made up by the clone shots, whose animations play back the exact movements I made at each clone position. So I get to watch myself play, which is pretty cool.
How does it play?
Mostly excellent. The controls are intuitive and mostly well explained. Often just a few moves are enough to successfully complete one of the 50+ levels. I also have to use my physical strength correctly and throw weapons and ammo with great sensitivity so that my clones actually catch the stuff, or at least have it within range.
From the observation platform where I start each time, I can get an overview and then enjoy how my plan was perfectly executed. Or how and why I failed, and then just start all over again. I can also repeat levels I've already completed to beat my best time.
I do have a couple of complaints, though: Sometimes puzzles can be solved simply by shooting quickly and deliberately - which is cool because it proves that you can reach your goal with different approaches. But then again, the puzzles are suddenly so difficult that I find myself scratching my head for minutes and only succeed by trial and error.
The hint that is supposed to help is almost always so general that it just doesn't help. This frustrated me several times, as it abruptly stopped my flow. The evenly increasing challenge curve is something that developer Flat Head Games didn't always manage well. This is also true when I later control connected clones like puppets - which is very cool on the one hand, but extremely difficult on the other because you have to puzzle in space and time at once.
This can overwhelm casual players and cause them to tune out, which is why better and more detailed help or even a visual demonstration of the solution would greatly help in understanding the mechanics.
We Are One review summary: 5D chess in the forest with killer robots
It's just a cool game concept and, perhaps most importantly, one that can only work properly in virtual reality. First I get an overview, then I come up with a solution, and finally, I execute it in the right order.
The tools to do this are clever and usually very satisfying: There's a lot of beauty in watching a fast and perfect level after it's been successfully played.
At the same time, it can be incredibly frustrating when I'm suddenly thrown into a level whose mechanics have not been explained enough. Sure: I manage by trial and error and brain twisting, but I would have liked a gentler introduction to the mechanics and the necessary way of thinking. Not everyone is a 5D chess grandmaster.
But that remains my only criticism. The scope of the game is good for the price of 20 Dollars and the game concept is worth an award. Looking for something cool, fresh and new in VR? Here you go.