I’ve spent so much time in the cyberpunk world over the last year that I’ve now got a dystopian soundtrack constantly going round in my head. Neon skylines, cybernetic upgrades that I can inject into my brain, and rain falling on night time cities are pretty much the norm to me now. Of course, much of this came about via the release of Cyberpunk 2077, but there have been loads of great indie games that have managed to work themselves into this genre too – games like Cloudpunk, for instance. VirtuaVerse is another game that fits neatly like a good fitting cyber glove, so let us go off on a neon adventure together and see what the city of the VirtuaVerse has to offer.
VirtuaVerse is an old-fashioned 2D point-and-click adventure set in a city in the future. The game starts with no preamble or cutscene. You are in a futuristic apartment in a high-rise block, playing Nathan. His main problems seem to focus on where the hell his girlfriend has gone and most importantly how to fix his AVR goggles which are broken. You get your stuff and head off into the city, all before the credits roll and the story begins.
The writing, storytelling, and world-building are extremely well placed and well thought out. The dialogue itself is witty, exciting and deals with some effective subject matter. One of the things I enjoyed about the world was the seeming rebellion against the present technology and how it controls the status quo. The game also takes us to some very surprising places, moving from the city to lush wilderness and even into space. It reminds so much of those huge adventures we all used to go on in the 1990s.
Gameplay-wise and VirtuaVerse is a game that embraces its old-school roots, working most effectively in terms of visuals, gameplay, and the challenging aspects of puzzle solving. You can point to where you want to move around the screen and Nathan will go there; every screen sees you presented with a world that is packed with stuff to find, examine, or people to talk to. Due to this, you’ll probably miss a lot of stuff initially, backtracking in order to understand what is going on. A recent move by many titles in the point-and-click genre has been to include a mechanic in which interactable elements are highlighted on screen. VirtuaVerse doesn’t bother with this and that makes progress tricky.
From there, VirtuaVerse is pretty much what you would expect of a game of this genre, as you go out walking and talking to people, following leads, and working out where to go next. Your journal, which is nicely implemented as a monitor on your wrist, will tell you what to do next, but as with all games like this you will pick up leads and find yourself going off on tangents, helping side characters to get something that you need to work with the main character or plotline. What’s quite nice is that VirtuaVerse is initially limited to a few areas, so that you don’t get too lost or have to track back too much.
Standard stuff also plays out in the items you collect, combining them with others to create something else. Some of the solutions found in VirtuaVerse are pretty complex and tricky though and so it’s good that there is an easy mode for those looking for less of a test. For the most part, even though I personally found some of these bits hard to understand, the journey the game took me on has been a satisfying one. Again though, much like every point-and-clicker that has ever come to console, using a mouse instead of a controller would make the whole experience much easier.
VirtuaVerse employs a pixel art style brilliantly and it is here where the world comes alive, helped by a great colour palette and world design. There’s a superb cutscene credit scene at the beginning that introduces the world, and this has been brilliantly edited and crafted. And when the story plays out, the locations are packed and full of detail; a joy to explore. The soundtrack works well and fits the mood entirely too.
If you’re an old-school point-and-click fan then you will adore VirtuaVerse. It has a good story, a great setting, and a solid challenge to its play. Some may struggle with parts, especially as screens are full of so much detail, but the writing and world-building are top notch. It’s most definitely a game which will be enjoyed by those who love the genre, yet a newcomer might find it too overwhelming at times, and a little bit old-fashioned in others. On the whole Virtuaverse is another decent addition to the ever-increasing cyberpunk-themed library of games.
VirtuaVerse is available from the Xbox Store