Cortopia Studios, the Stockholm-based team behind the spellcasting combat game Wands (2016), showed off their next entry into the realm of VR at Gamescom 2019 this week. Called Down the Rabbit Hole, I got a chance to go hands-on with the third-person adventure game, which tasks you with solving a variety of puzzles while leading a lost girl through a miniature world inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (1865).
Strapping on an Oculus Quest, I find myself looking at a two inch-tall pair of characters, a girl (simply called ‘The Girl) and a little playing card-shaped knight, the so-called 4½ of Spades.
Grabbing onto a large root suspended below the scene, I pull the diorama of the dark forest closer to me, and absentmindedly brush my fingers through a river and play with the leaves of the bonzai-sized trees.
Image courtesy Cortopia Studios
The narrator tells me that the plucky duo is searching for something called the King’s Keep on their quest to follow the White Rabbit, and as luck would have it, a tiny Cheshire Cat is there to help.
Much of my 15-minute demo was played in the third-person; character locomotion is achieved by either moving the pint-sized people via Touch’s thumbstick or drawing a path to the desired destination (the latter is especially useful when you have to backtrack through complex pathways). However at times you’ll also snap into a first-person mode too. Walking close to the Cheshire Cat, I’m presented with a dialogue tree populated with a few options to interrogate the curious kitty.
Image captured by Road to VR
If you know your lore, you’ll remember that Cheshire Cat is pathologically incapable of answering straight forward questions though, so he instead saddles us with the important task of rounding up five pesky butter-flies—literal sticks of butter with wings, which is the overarching task for the demo.
Although I say ‘most’ of the game is in third-person, I can’t really be sure of that from what I’ve played. As with dialogue trees, some of the puzzles I encountered were actually in the first-person too, so it feels like there’s going to be plenty of latitude for interesting and varied interactions between the two.
Ambling my characters separately through a few adjacent rooms to complete some door puzzles—all of it in service of those hidden butter-flies—it becomes clear to me that it’s actually I who is down the rabbit hole. The numerous dioramas eventually create a cylinder around me, and the black void above and below me keeps revealing more and more little rooms stacked on top of each other. Using the same locomotion method as when I leaned in to get a better look, I shift the world around me and climb around by using the many roots as handholds.
Eventually we run into more familiar faces, including the hookah-smoking Caterpillar himself, and a pretty suspicious-looking King, who is really just a low-numbered card with hastily painted on whiteout and a big ‘K’ scribbled on his chest. That’s some low-key Swedish comedy for you.
Image courtesy Cortopia Studios
The demo’s puzzles, both first and third-person, were fairly simple, although were varied enough to keep my attention. A puzzle with a singing bird and musical set of flowers was the most difficult for me personally, although that’s because every musical instrument I’ve ever laid my fingers on turns to dust and flies out the window in a magical tornado conjured by the ghosts of classical musicians past.
In the end, it appears the game isn’t going to offer a single prescribed ending either, as Cortopia say that you’ll be able to make “many choices about the girl’s backstory” and how you want to deal with the various characters, something they say will ultimately determine the ending of the game.
Down the Rabbit Hole is slated to arrive on PSVR, PC VR headsets, and Oculus Quest sometime in December 2019.