A trip you’ll want to avoid.
Robinson: The Journey on PlayStation 4 Pro
Robinson: The Journey made it so difficult for me to enjoy the experience. Not because it’s an inherently bad game or because it ran poorly, but because it’s quite possibly the worst game I’ve played on PSVR for motion sickness. If you can battle your way through constant waves of nausea, Robinson: The Journey is one of the most immersive experiences out there, though it still suffers from some glaring issues.
Robinson puts you in the shoes of a young boy named Robin who finds himself on the planet Tyson III after a huge spaceship called the Esmerelda crash landed. All alone except for HIGS, an AI unit from the ship, Robinson must search Tyson III for crew members, completing environmental and item-based puzzles along the way. It may sound a little cliche, but the story provides enough justification as to why you’re there and exploring this seemingly Jurassic paradise. In reality, the story wasn’t why I was playing Robinson, it was the stunningly detailed and engrossing planet and the creatures that inhabited it that kept me going through my bouts of sickness.
Crytek has done a great job of using VR to transport players into what feels like a real living world. Dinosaurs and other animals react to your movement and the fauna looks so real. Forests are lush and huge cliffs tower above you making you feel incredibly inferior within this world. Things step up a notch when playing on the PS4 Pro too, with a higher rendering resolution, improved lighting effects, and higher quality texture filtering (just to name a few of the improvements) providing a much crisper and even prettier experience. Robinson’s world has an incredible sense of scale and part of me wishes there was a free roam mode to just go and explore every inch of it at my own leisure without having to worry about frustrating unclear puzzles.
While some puzzles are glaringly obvious or just require a light bit of thinking, others will have you staring blankly at your surroundings searching desperately for whatever item or object you need to interact with to proceed. Making things more frustrating is the game’s tendency to ignore the fact you’re trying to perform the action it wants to. For example, I literally had to walk rub Robin up against the side of a cliff for a good 30 seconds before the game finally allowed me to grab on and begin my climbing excursion over a tar pit. When it did work, though, Tyson III tops the list of interesting worlds to explore in VR hands down.
It’s a shame, then, that simply navigating the world will have you pulling off your headset far faster than anything else out for the virtual reality headset. There are no jump scares, but waves upon waves of feeling nauseous from simply turning your head and moving around the world with the help of the DualShock 4. Considering Robinson: The Journey’s gameplay centers around player exploration and interaction with the environment in puzzle-like situations, the motion sickness comes a big problem. Especially when combined with Robinson’s awful control scheme.
Strangely enough, Robinson is controlled with the DualShock 4, despite every sign indicating Crytek intended to use PlayStation Move. When your viewpoint is obstructed by a handheld device your character is holding that looks incredibly similar in shape to the Move controller, you get the feeling that a quick change had to be made to a more traditional control method and, unfortunately, it’s detrimental to the experience. Robinson’s puzzles, for the most part, require you to pick up an object and place it across a gap to continue your expedition into the wild of Tyson III.
However, placing you into a 360-degree 3D world with no means of moving items closer to or further away from you makes for some infuriating moments of the controls simply not being accurate enough to work properly. I found myself leaning forwards and backwards in my seat just to try and get things to get remotely close to the position they needed to be in. Just a heads up, waggling your head around doesn’t help the motion sickness and leads to a sore neck, too. It only gets worse when the game requires you to climb up the side of a cliff, forcing you to stretch your neck around in all sorts of angles to get Robin’s hand to reach out before glitching out and leading you to fall to your death.
On top of that, Robinson seems to struggle a little when it comes to its physics engine. Items got randomly stuck in cliff sides, dinosaurs send objects flying through the sky only for them not to respawn, requiring me to quit out and load my save up again. It’s a shame, as had Crytek focused on a more accurate control scheme and a spent a little more time polishing up Robinson, it could have been a completely different story.
Overlooking the dodgy controls and nausea, Tyson III was a joy to explore and coming face to face with a giant dinosaur never gets old. HIGS’ very charismatic commentary adds a little personality to the guiding voice for your adventure and certainly helps to make you feel less alone. Oh, and you’ll also have an adorable baby T-Rex called Laika to help you along the way. She’s capable of roaring, following you, waiting, and that’s about it. Though her abilities sometimes offer a bit of variation in puzzle solutions, they’re used so rarely and the environment does such a poor effort of hinting you need to use her that sometimes HIGS will have to pipe up just to point out she could be useful.
Robinson: The Journey was one of my most anticipated VR titles and the final outcome is incredibly disappointing. The control scheme feels like an afterthought, motion sickness plagues the exploration and puzzle-based gameplay, and a number of technical hiccups lead to things taking far longer than they really should or, in some cases, so infuriating you’ll feel like giving up. If you can take the rough with the smooth, Robinson: The Journey can be one of the most immersive experiences available for PSVR right now, and you’ll find it hard to stop smiling when a dinosaur leans down to give you a thorough inspection. Unfortunately, its shortcomings overpower the positives and make playing Robinson feel overly tedious.
Score: 2.5/5 – Poor
• Engrossing world and beautiful visuals.
• Motion sickness plagues the experience.
• Control scheme feels like an afterthought.
• Lack of guidance and direction.