Old Friend is a virtual reality music video — although that’s a weak way to describe something this good — and it’s one of the first things I show to friends when they come over to check out the technology.
Their reaction is often pure joy. The beat hits them first, and nearly everyone begins to dance before they realize what they’re doing; it helps that you can’t see other people looking at you. The game itself presents you with long, floppy arms to wave around the world. If you look down, you see your own round body with cartoon-style feet. You’re not watching something happen around you; you’re a character inside this very strange reality.
It’s a perfectly self-contained music video mixed with a score-less rhythm game, and it only takes a few minutes to play the whole thing. Old Friend turns traditional “value” on its head due to its $2.99 price. It’s worth every penny, and is one of those releases that proves how silly it is to think about art on a cost-per-minute basis.
It’s also impossible to describe to anyone who hasn’t tried VR, or hasn’t used some form of harder psychedelic substance. You are completely wrapped inside this world of dance, music and animation. Your body moves without you thinking about it. Forgetting that the real world exists for a few minutes is suddenly the easiest thing, and the sense of scale and adventure in the animations and scene transitions remains amazing even after you’ve tried it multiple times.
I’ve played Old Friend hundreds of times since getting access to it, in fact, but promised not to write about it before it was released commercially. “Here is a thing of pure happiness that you can’t buy” is a poor hook.
I’ve spoken with Tyler Hurd, who created Old Friend with VR studio Wevr, in the past about how to cover Old Friend, but I never found a good way to translate how bizarre and merrily designed the experience is with words or pictures. I briefly flirted with the idea of doing a video, but I’m still nervous that anyone who watches someone else play it may think they know how it feels to be inside that world themselves.
Watching the entire thing from the outside isn’t just missing the point; it’s robbing yourself of the chance to experience it for the first time in the way it’s meant to be seen. Having a few friends over and passing the headset around like a joint to watch each person go through the experience for themselves is one of my favorite things.
I’m very happy Old Friend is available for everyone now. If you have access to a Rift or Vive, consider this my highest recommendation.