Weeping Doll PS4 Review
Your favorite publisher of virtual mediocrity is at it again; as the launch period of the Playstation VR continues onward in a smaller trickle of titles beyond its debut week, Oasis Games seems uninterested in hitting the brakes on their VR bandwagon…no matter how squeaky the wheels may sound. Beginning with the utterly terrible, utterly unplayable Ace Banana and continuing forward with the less-offensive but still-substandard Pixel Gear, Oasis Games has quickly earned notoriety for their bottom of the barrel VR games looking to cash in quickly on the VR console craze. This time, the company has decided to add a horror title to their growing list of bargain bin genres, courtesy of a Chinese developer you probably never heard of before (but rest assured: they don’t care).
Weeping Doll is a VR horror game from TianShe Media, an Indie Chinese developer who first pitched the game to Steam Greenlight, but ironically is releasing it first on Playstation VR. The premise involves players taking on the role of the maid of a rich Asian family with noticeably British-sounding accents, who has arrived one day to find the estate in shambles, as if some mysterious force has passed through the house like a typhoon while its residents remain missing. Her only exit locked and her cellphone out of service, players must guide the maid through a series of even more horror clichés in order to uncover the dark secret kept hidden by the family and its youngest twin daughters, as well as the clues found within the eerily-lifelike dolls that are scattered throughout the ho-oh wait, it’s over.
Indeed, it should be brought to immediate attention that Weeping Doll is ridiculously short, even shorter than Batman: Arkham VR and without any of the polish or replay value. Calling the game a tech demo to showcase the imaginative VR tricks from the studio would almost be demeaning to other tech demos. What is especially baffling is how Weeping Doll seems to have some mechanics built in that are somewhat thought-out, but are only used once in the entirety of its duration. The first thing that the game teaches in its tutorial is how to pull up its admittedly-slick inventory screen, a series of floating boxes that appear in front of the player’s peripheral vision and can be navigated through head tracking. It’s a neat concept that could do wonders for inventory-dependent games like Resident Evil, but it is only used once in this game and never again.
Another example of squandered potential is the game’s visuals: while not the most impressive VR showing of the Unreal engine, Weeping Doll’s manor still does feature a detailed assortment of furniture, lightning, and lots of dilapidated dolls to at least establish the intended mood. Unfortunately, players will undoubtedly thrust out their virtual hands in curiosity only to discover that practically none of the environmental objects are interactive in any way, save for whatever key items are highlighted by the game, many of which happen to be keys. Solve the doll puzzle to obtain a key, unlock the nearby door to reach another room with a locked door, and find the key in there. One puzzle even involves using a key to unlock a desk that contains….another key. Weeping Doll’s puzzles are almost elementary, and the chatty maid avatar will persistently tell players where they need to go next, and even when to revisit certain rooms.
Speaking of which, the game’s movement system is ironically the spookiest part of this snore-fest of a horror game: In one of the most bizarre examples of teleporting around a VR space, players get around the manor by moving a ghostly image of the maid forward, then hitting the confirm button to instantly warp to wherever the avatar is facing. In all fairness, it’s not the worst way to get around, and it avoids the potential nausea that other VR games have caused with their movement. Unfortunately, it also breaks the immersion of walking around a spooky manor entirely, turning a well-crafted location with various things to observe into a 2D slideshow. When the eventual ghostly girl shows up, prompting players to follow her, the image of sending out the maid’s ghostly avatar to chase the fleeing ghost ends up as comical as it is clunky.
In the end, horror aficionados will probably prove the harshest audience for Weeping Doll: the potential for VR horror has already been seen in various demos and titles, creating a deep hunger for more fleshed-out and frightful experiences. Weeping Doll’s attempts to startle or unnerve players fail harder than a PG-rated horror movie on ABC Family. Even the disturbing revelations surrounding the family are undermined by poor voice acting (which may in fact feature one woman doing all of the female voice work by herself) as well as forcing players to literally sit down and listen to the tale multiple times. The “chilling climax” is also an awkward head-scratcher that doesn’t even let the player know that the game has ended: the reward for their wasted time is to walk back to the beginning room and be treated with real life photos of the dev team plastered on the walls. No, seriously…and you thought the ending to No Man’s Sky felt like a big middle finger.