VR has sent me to interesting places before - piloting starships,climbing mountains, even into cartoon shows I like - but I’ve yet to encounter anything that elicited a Keanu-esque “whoa” - at least, not until I dove into Charm Games upcoming game FORM.
My demo started innocuously enough - I was in a fairly standard laboratory with high concrete walls, corrugated metal ceilings and equipment trapped somewhere in time between the late 1970s and today. Then, after a few “get comfy” tasks acclimating me to my virtual body, I was hurled into one of the strangest, most intriguing virtual spaces I’ve seen in any VR experience yet.
The core concept behind FORM is that the majority of the game takes place within the subconscious of your character, Dr. Devin Eli, a scientist with an uncanny ability to visualize theoretical patterns as geometric forms - essentially, he can “see” ideas and patterns in things that others would probably miss. As a result, this creates a visualization of the inner workings of his mind that seems to function like some sort of massive-yet-impossibly-intricate machine. Huge structures in broad expanses funnel into claustrophobic chambers full of strange gears and mechanisms in the blink of an eye, then explode back again in another. I watched every structure appear and disappear, construct and destroy itself, all while standing slackjawed inside my headset.
It’s about cool-looking stuff that does weird things - and the story and the gameplay exist to support that.
The various puzzles I encountered - from having to arrange strings of runes into specific patterns, to locating components and building a mechanism that fits into an even more complex machine - were similar to other VR simulators I’ve experienced (pick this up, rotate that, insert it here, etc), and despite the obscure design of each section, none felt foreign or overly difficult. “It’s a surreal environment,” says Charm’s Managing Director Alan Jernigan, “And the success of the design is in how well we managed to contextualize all this stuff that you see in non-contextual environments.”