Though I’ve only dabbled in virtual reality since it hit the market, I haven’t played or seen much to get me truly enthused with the concept. That was until I gave Blasters of the Universe a go during E3. The project began as a game jam between an artist and developer at studio Secret Location before larger vision focused on bringing the challenging and reflex-focused bullet hell genre to first-person VR. So far, I believe Secret Location is one the right track. Blasters of the Universe got my adrenaline racing like few VR experiences I’ve encountered.
Playing with the Oculus Rift and Touch controllers, I held a gun in my right hand and a shield in my left. One of two loadouts were available. One was big, powerful gun paired with a durable shield and a missile barrage special attack. The other was a smaller gun with faster firing rate that can split into a pair of firearms as a special attack. It also came with a smaller shield that deflects bullets back at enemies. I opted for the former. The full experience will boast full weapon customization with players outfitting arms with a selection of parts (like a laser sight) and modifier, such as bullets that rebound off walls. Shields also come in different types, such as one that can be split into three static barriers to take cover behind.
Soon after I plunged into the neon-tinted techno world, a squad of robots and weird floating heads converged upon me from all sides and opened fire. The player’s head is the only area that receives damage, so identifying gaps in the elaborate bullet patterns and aligning your noggin so that it slips through is crucial. Shields block a limited number of attacks before it has to recharge, meaning players must be mindful of when to block and when to dodge.
The opening minutes saw me getting wailed on from above and blindsided elsewhere since I kept focusing only on what was in front of me. After taking a rain of bullets to the face, I learned to fully scout my surroundings. Before long, I found a nice rhythm of bobbing and weaving around bullets, throwing up my shield to catch incoming attacks, and blasting enemies into oblivion. I even crossed my arms at points for maximum style points.
The sensation felt extremely cool and empowering–it really felt like my entire being against the world, and I licked my chops at each new wave that dared to challenge me.
Taking damage and interrupting a great groove feels devastating in traditional bullet hell games and it’s even more jarring here with bullets hitting you square in the face and halting everything for about a second. However, this only got my blood pumping more as I immediately wanted revenge against my polygonal transgressors. This was my first time using the Touch controllers, and they felt comfortable and sported great responsiveness.
The level’s boss was a large, teleporting robot that unloaded missiles like no tomorrow. My defensive skills got a serious run for their money, and the boss' constant warping between positions made it a challenging foe to take down. I eventually toppled it with the help of my handy missile barrages. Once I took off the headset and returned to reality, I needed to catch a breather but wanted nothing more than to jack back in and keep blasting.
Blasters of the Universe will feature four campaign levels, each with their own endless version for players to return to and fight for bragging rights across the cross-platform leaderboard rankings. Per the norm with bullet hell games, the challenge raises exponentially as the game progresses (to my surprise, difficulty was scaled back in my decidedly tough demo). Despite the difficulty, I had a very fun time with Blasters of the Universe. If you want to try it for yourself, the game is available now on Steam Early Access for Oculus Rift and Vive. The full release is slated for later this year.