EDIT (March 11, 2018): As of Friday, Virtro Games has implemented a couple of awesome changes! 1) An option to turn off the narration sounds – which is perfect for those who are working towards mastery; and 2) A price drop from $29.99 to $19.99! All the more accessible. Thanks to the dev team for supporting and listening to the community’s feedback!
Virtual reality? Check.
Endless runner? Sure.
Rhythm game? Check.
Family-focused? Got it.
Got some plot with that too? Check that as well.
In case you’re thinking that a VR-rhythm-endless-runner-like game, playable by all-ages was impossible, it seems like the small indie team of 10 at Virtro Entertainment was able to accomplish what they set out to do with Run Dorothy Run. Locally made here in Vancouver, Virtro is founded by two Aussie women. They proudly advocate for diversity on their development team, which is composed of 50% women: a rare, but refreshing ratio to see!
Enter Run Dorothy Run, where you play as Dorothy with dancing shoes that do all the moving for you. An unlikely duo of characters (I won’t spoil it, but you can probably guess) from the inspiration source The Wizard of Oz follow you on your journey, spouting hints of plot points, and “dad jokes” throughout 18 areas. In your hands, your PlayStation Move controllers are transformed into scepters, reminiscent of Sailor Moon toys I had when I was a kid. The art design and world is a delight to be in. I wish there was a way to interact with Toto, who is sporting a bit of a corgi vibe in this re-imagined Oz universe!
The gameplay is fairly simple: you automatically move (“run”) in a straight line, while gems fly towards you to the rhythmic beat of an electro-swing soundtrack (and for fans of Caravan Palace, and Parov Stelar – this will be a fine addition to your playlists!) The speed is just right: probably the maximum you can take a player before any motion sickness starts to sneak its way in. I found that the easier levels were very forgiving, so for those who are not as musically inclined, you can focus on having fun.
Even though this is far from a violent game, for whatever reason, one of my fave parts was punching the crows that flew into my view. (Note that you don’t actually have to wind up, enthusiastically punching crows is just something I learned that I enjoy in VR.)
While I played the game before the trophies went live, I could see getting 100% being a tough one for fellow achievement hunters, with some trophies being focused on the grind. (Not that I got a Platinum trophy for Final Fantasy 13 or anything… OK, I did.) Being able to see all your collectibles in a singular Treasure Room also provides sense of progress. This is a game that is difficult to master. It’s physically engaging, and because of the fast requirements for arm movements, it emulates cardio well, and in longer duration you can easily get your heart rate up in winter months like this. (Hey, it snowed this weekend, and I am not running in that!)
Games like Run Dorothy Run are totally up my alley, but some quality of life changes that would be great to see would include a visual signifier to show a distinction with gems on different ‘planes’ and whether they need to be grabbed simultaneously or not. Soundboxing does a great job by using connecting lines to hint at the player if they need to move their arms up or down. I would like to see a challenge mode that includes more variance – perhaps focusing on a different mechanic. I also wish there was an option to turn off the voice acting, for when players want to get into “hard mode”. Once you beat the game, I imagine the next step is mastery, and being in tune with the gems, and the music would make practise more focused rather than needing to hear the same voice tracks if you’re replaying the same area over and over. Some of the story plots might have benefited from short cinematics, but I can also see how adding that to a project would inflate the scope a bit too much, especially for a small team. I suppose the semantics and my own imagination suffice here!
What does Run Dorothy Run get right in VR?
- Sweet spot in forward movement to avoid motion sickness
- Simple controls for players of all skill levels
- Sense of scale and immersive environments
- Sense of exploration for a standing experience (no room scale)
- Haptic feedback integrated well in game play
- Making exercise fun
As someone who remembers their hesitation with even trying VR, Run Dorothy Run is a beginner-friendly title, and family-focused in order to captivate a wide range of generations from kids to grandparents. With three levels of difficulty, there’s a setting for every player: easy mode is forgiving, while hard mode requires practise that won’t come overnight. Run Dorothy Run is a vibrant, and light-hearted change of pace from the more common VR shooter, and should appeal to gamers of all ages.
Run Dorothy Run is available today (February 20th, 2018) on PlayStation
Full disclosure: This press key was provided for an unbiased review.