Robinson: The Journey had been on my radar ever since I impulse-bought my PSVR unit the day after launch. I’d played just about everything that was available on day-one, yet I yearned for more. I yearned for adventure. To be honest, I yearned for nicer graphics after playing DriveClub VR… Robinson: The Journey is exactly what I wanted.
Crytek is well-known for pushing the limits of console hardware to the point of breaking – just try playing a Crysis game on PS3 without having to explain to the neighbours that you don’t own a jet engine – and it’s no different with Robinson: The Journey, though it doesn’t make the PS4 sound like it’s going to reach for the sky.
The game’s a looker, for sure, but it’s not just pretty graphics. The game opens with a disappointingly short intro that just tells you the ship that the titular hero was travelling on has crash-landed on a strange and unusual planet. It’s not all bad, mind, as the game aims to get you playing as soon as is possible. Unfortunately that takes a couple of minutes due to some offensively long load times, but once you’ve overcome the initial loading screens it’s all plain sailing from here on out.
VR games can live and die by their controls. Get the controls right and you’re halfway to a decent game, get them wrong and you’re fighting an uphill battle to keep the player interested. Thankfully Robinson: The Journey’s controls work perfectly fine. Almost. You won’t need a pair of PS Move wands for this one; it’s played entirely with the DualShock 4. I’ve got to say, I was a little gutted that I wouldn’t be getting a good workout with the PS Move controllers, but in hindsight it’s probably for the best.
You’re given free rein of your own movement and there are even a few extra control options to help do away with pesky VR sickness – something I’m always grateful for. You move forwards, backwards, and side-to-side with the left stick, while the right stick turns your body. The default mode is probably the best option as it moves you in small increments to avoid motion sickness. I made the foolish decision to change the settings so that movement on the right stick was set to ‘smooth’ – I chundered within five minutes. Still, it’s worth experimenting to see what works best for you. One minor annoyance I did have with the movement was that it was just too darn slow at times. A lot of the game is spent moving from one place to another, yet Robin is never in any kind of rush. Small peeve, but worth a mention.
Robin doesn’t have a massive arsenal of guns, knives, or throwing stars. Robin relies on his trusty tool to get the job done. Oh er. No, you perverted git, I mean his multi-tool which can be used to levitate objects or scan the local wildlife. Controls are mapped to the triggers and the headset; you aim by moving your head around. At first this was a bit of a mind-bender but I soon got used to it and within minutes I was throwing junk around like a rebel Jedi tidying his garden.
After being given the chance to move around a little and make use of the multi-tool, you’re soon free to get outside and do some exploring. This is when the game really shines. Opening the hatch door of my make-shift house opened up a wonderfully weird world full of colour. The world screamed around me with the sounds of the different creatures that called this weird place home. I moved forward and looked ahead into the distance to see my old space station lying ruined. A huge monolithic sculpture of humanity’s insistence to poke its nose into other planets’ business. Oh, and flying bloody dinosaurs! Yeah, dinosaurs!
HIGS, my personal assistant/robot slave/nanny, suggested that I find my pet dinosaur Laika and also get the power back on to give the campsite some much-needed electricity. A simple bit of problem solving later and I’d thrown out the debris that was blocking the water turbine. Easy enough. Then I made my way to find my pet dinosaur (a pet dinosaur, damn it!) and I nicked her ball and threw it down into the valley. Bit of a dick move, but whatever.
From here on in I was guided by HIGS to carry out the tasks needed to progress. He wasn’t always happy with me though, being the little nanny that he is, he didn’t appreciate me walking off the beaten path and having a mooch around. I thought he was just being a bit of a wimp, but when those bloody raptors started jumping up from their pit, I may have let out a small whimper in fear. HIGS is a bit of a spoil sport in that sense, but at the end of the day he just wants to make sure little Robin is safe. I respect that. Except when he’s being a whiny little bitch…
Much of the gameplay could be categorised as “walking simulator” though I’m not too fond of the term. Yeah, you spend a fair bit of time trotting around but there’s still plenty to do outside of walking. For example, you can climb and die. That’s what I did. One part of the adventure required some climbing (which was a bit trippy) and I looked down, panicked, let go of the triggers which were acting as my hands gripping the rock, and I fell to my death. There’s also a heavy reliance on puzzles, too, so get your smart cap on. I actually quite liked the game’s approach to problem solving as there’s usually more than one way progress. Your trusty pet dino is forever by your side waiting for orders – you can command her to roar at animals, for example – and HIGS is usually close by to offer some kind of assistance. One very, very cool touch was the ability to see the world from HIGS’ point of view to solve some puzzles. When you enter HIGS mode you see the world from an angled, top-down view that makes everything seem like a it’s a miniature toy set. It’s pretty cool, actually, though these gameplay sections are mainly puzzles and I never found them to be all that interesting; I much preferred to be Robin walking around, or scrambling up a cliff face.
Though not necessarily required, you’re able to scan the local wildlife with the multi-tool. It acts as a mini-game of sorts by having you need to scan the green dots on a creatures body while avoiding the red dot. Hit the red dot and you’ll have to do it all over again. It’s not the greatest part of the game by any means, but it’s a nice touch and when you’ve finished the main story, collecting all the data from the indigenous inhabitants of this strange world is something to do while you move around the world.
The majority of the game’s story is told through the data that you collect from other HIGS units that are scattered around the planet. Once you find a unit you can then listen to its recordings to paint a clearer picture of just what the hell is going on. I’m not going to spoil any story twists or turns, though I did find myself kinda, sorta, in a roundabout way seeing where the story was going pretty early on. It didn’t dampen the game or the experience as a whole though, so I can’t really fault it, and in fairness it’s very well presented. Robin is a minimalist in the vocal department so it’s left to HIGS to provide the running commentary and hand out tips when needed. The voice acting is a little naff but it’s serviceable.
All in all, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the story. Cheesy and a little bit daft? Damn right, but it was at least enjoyable; I’ve played far worse this year, let me tell you that. The short running time may be a put-off for some, but with the replay factor and just general “wow-ness” of the game, I think it’s possible to get more than a few extra hours out of this one. With the amount of exploring I’ve still got left to do, I don’t think I’ll be done with Robinson: The Journey just yet, and in all honesty I think it’s probably going to get a second sitting by the weekend.
Now what kind of man would I be if I ended this review without touching on the game’s presentation? I’d be a bad man, that’s what. Robinson: The Journey is without a doubt the most graphically impressive title out right now for the PSVR, that much I can be certain of. It’s not just bells and whistles for the sake of it though, but it builds the world and creates a truly wonderful atmosphere; you actually feel like you’re on this strange planet, even more so with the VR element done so well. You actually think that everything is touchable – in reality, not much is – but the game does a great job at pulling you in and making you believe in its existence. It’s not quite at the level of regular PS4 games in terms of graphical fidelity and picture quality, but damn does it come close at times. Could this be the first of many full-on PSVR games? Maybe, but with a playtime of just 4-5 hours (excluding trophy hunting and collectibles) it’s a tough pill to swallow at the price it’s being sold at.
Robinson: The Journey is out now on PS4/PSVR. You can get your copy either digitally from the PlayStation Store, or physically via Amazon.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher on a regular non-Pro PS4. This has no effect on the content of the review or the final score awarded. For more information, please read our Review Policy.