'Medusa And Her Lover' Is A Weird VR Game

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'Medusa And Her Lover' Is A Weird VR Game
August 2, 2019

I remain a virtual reality skeptic. I've been impressed with some VR games for their uniqueness—Funomena's LunaSuperhot VR—but nothing has yet made me believe that virtual reality is worth investing in a new platform.

 

But it's that curiosity, that suspicion that there might be something there, that drew me to Medusa and Her Lover. Co-op games are increasingly unusual, and the promise of a game that I could play with my husband with a unique VR conceit hooked me. He played the titular lover—Gaios—who can attack the various creatures who threaten him and Medusa with a short-range sword, and I played Medusa with the PlayStation VR headset.

 

Medusa's role is the more interesting one. Just as in the ancient myths, Medusa's gaze turns people and creatures to stone. Make eye contact for even a brief moment, and whatever creature you lock eyes with will become stone, including Gaios. Turning him to stone is an immediate game over, meaning that the two players (the game can also be played single-player, with the player using both hands to control one character with each hand) must communicate, calling out their targets and plans rather than acting entirely on their own.

 

It's a neat little metaphor for communication in a loving relationship, but the game isn't particularly interested in exploring it with any depth. That's not necessarily to its detriment, as I had a great time playing it over the hour or so it took to beat the game's six episodes on normal difficulty. Play felt very much like a comedy of errors—the narrative is unclear and the mechanics, particularly "love," which is scored at the end of each episode, are only briefly explained, so we embraced the absurdity and occasional frustration in the interest of having a good time.

 

I was continually flustered by Medusa's infamous snakes writhing in front of my eyes, we routinely couldn't figure out where to go or what to do and, more than once, we defeated an enemy without really understanding how we'd done it. But it was fun trying to navigate the esoteric story and bizarre mechanics. The tutorial was overly simple, leaving us unprepared for the actual game, but nonetheless enjoying ourselves as we struggled through it.

Medusa and Her Lover
 SHIP OF EYLN

 

The game was more than a little janky, but that was part of its charm. It's not a particularly polished experience, with clunky, strange controls and a story that seems to have little to do with the mechanics. But it's risky—giving the players two different experiences and asking them to communicate effectively is not an entirely new concept, but it works with special effectiveness in virtual reality. I appreciate that about it, especially because the memories it leaves me with are less about the weird controls or loose story and more about the surprise of seeing Medusa's snakes float in front of my face or about the time I accidentally turned my husband to stone.

 

Did Medusa and Her Lover convince me that VR is worth the entry price, especially given its length and flaws? No, not really. But like all things playful and experimental, it made me curious. Virtual reality may not be quite the promised technology of the future yet, but games like this suggest that the future could be a place of fun and experimentation, which makes me excited rather than cynical. I can't really ask for more than that.

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