Get lost in a new world
Daydream has the potential to be the best mobile VR platform. Google built a comfortable, easy-to-use headset and a smart remote that creates a great VR experience for exploring new worlds, gaming, and watching 360-degree videos. And it’s not locked to just one hardware maker.
But any new initiative is only as good as the software. Even in the early days of Daydream, some true gems have emerged that you should check out right away. Google has the money and influence to do VR right, and from what we’ve seen so far things are off to a good start. Here are some titles to get you going if you’re looking for something new or are just getting started in the world inside of the goggles.
Fantastic Beasts (free) and Where to Find Them
There’s no better way to kick off a new platform than with a tie-in to a blockbuster movie. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is pretty fun, if for no other reason than to jump right inside of the Harry Potter universe.
Playing through the experience is rather slow going, as you need to mix up some ingredients in Newt Scamander’s workshop and then use your remote to cast the spells so the magical creatures stay calm. Die-hard Potter fans will love it, though everyone ought to check it out to experience what it's like to explore such a mystical world.
YouTube VR (free)
You knew that Google wasn’t going to leave its dominant video service out of the VR action. YouTube VR takes advantage of that 360-degree environment by turning any video into a more roundabout experience by stretching it around your vision and throwing in more menus. The real gems are the 360 degree videos, though of course there aren’t as many of those to be found just yet. However, I find it to be the best VR video experience available, especially since Play Movies and other apps are little more than a flat broadcast inside a VR environment.
Action Bowling ($3.49)
Bowling is a nearly ideal scenario for Daydream since Google includes a rather smart motion-tracked controller with the headset. Make sure you clear away the furniture or step into the center of the room for Action Bowling, since you’ll be swinging your arm to send that virtual ball down the lane.
It’s harder than you’d think. You can use the touch-sensitive portion of the controller to choose the cartoon hand’s angle (of course there are only four fingers) to put some spin on your roll. You’ll need to master this concept and put some power into the roll to get strikes.
Hunters Gate ($5.99)
I was enthralled by this game. Not because it’s the look-around-you type of environment, but instead because the actual gaming environment is like a 3-D board.
You choose one of two characters that must battle their way through a dark and dangerous world filled with demons. The game accelerates in difficulty fast with enemies coming at you from many different angles. But I found it very engrossing, and it’s a style of play that works very well in virtual reality.
NYT VR (free)
The NYT VR app was available with Cardboard, but it’s more immersive and lends to deeper exploration as a part of Daydream. There’s nowhere else where you can experience standing outside The Great Mosque in Mecca, turn around, and notice a KFC is open for business without actually being there.
There are several other experiences that are tied to current events (like the just-completed presidential election), numerous human interest stories, and opportunities to visit outside of Earth. It’s a unique way to experience the news, and it’s one that’s worth taking the time to experience given you don’t need a Times subscription to check it out.
Danger Goat ($5.99)
To be honest, the fact that the game is called Danger Goat was reason enough for me to check it out. But I came to love it for the playful, cartoon environment and puzzle-style gameplay. The graphics are fun and contain a lot of details for you to explore when turning your head around.
You have to manipulate various objects in order to send the goat to freedom. There are a ton of explosions and clever traps thrown in that make this a great game for those who want something that will challenge your brain inside of the VR environment while also holding onto a playtful theme.
The Arcslinger ($7.99)
Behold the promise of a first-person shooter in virtual reality. The Arcslinger is the first to really nail it on Daydream. It’s a fun, engaging game that carries through with a decent storyline. You’re in this weird western world trying to win shootout after shootout with an array of creatures. There are plenty of upgradeable weapons, a shield, and other tricks to help you survive the environment. If there’s a game that’s going to make you dizzy, however, this is it. So if VR makes you slightly dizzy, you may want to skip this one.
Star Chart VR (free)
One of the first apps that really mesmerized me on my first smartphone was Star Walk. Being able to slowly parse the sky with your phone and get an accurate view of the constellations was pretty breathtaking. Prepare for a similar technological leap with Star Chart VR. You’ll feel like an astronaut that is suspended in space, able to zoom and fly to distant worlds. The app also packs in a bunch of scientific information, so you can exercise your brain as well as your eyes.
MLB.com Home Run Derby ($4.99)
You had to see this one coming. With a controller in your hand, it’s easy to imagine that someone would put together a game where you’d be swinging for the fences. MLB executed its Home Run Derby well, letting you step behind the plate as one of the top players and to try and knock it out of the park.
You’ll want to make sure that your friends give you plenty of space in the room when checking this game out. You don’t exactly need a full-on swing to go yard, as most of the work is done by being accurate and making a strong flick of the wrist.
As fun as the game is, it made me wonder about the possibility for other sports integrations with Daydream, as it’d be fun to play a more robust baseball game where you pitch and can throw others out at first. Possibilities exist for golf, football, and many others.
Google Street View (free)
Street View is a pretty common tool today when it comes to exploring a map. But Street View in VR is another experience, and one that you should definitely check out.
Google has aggregated some spots around the globe worth checking out, such as historic buildings, national parks, and high-end buildings. But you can use the search function to also check out your local coffee shop and “walk” around it with your Daydream headset. This app is a great example of the possibilities of how VR can change your perspective on previously-existing technology.