Dakko Dakko have been making challenging and innovative games for years. However, does their debut VR offering live up to the legacy of The 2D Adventures of Rotating Octopus Character and Scram Kitty and His Buddy on Rails?
You play Pop-Up Pilgrims by controlling Cloud God to carefully guide his gathering of pilgrims to each stage's exit. These little fellows will perpetually move forward except when they reach the end of a platform which makes them turn around. They'll also touch leaves and stone signs that instruct them to hop to another plane as well as automatically collect golden octopi upon touching them (which act as Pop-Up Pilgrims' collectibles) and demon orbs that they can drop off at a guardian statue in order to get the exit gate to appear. Anyway, you interact with the pilgrims by commanding them to jump as well as place instructions on the ground to help guide them to different planes which uses up devotion hearts. Meanwhile, enemies will try and kill your little pilgrims so you must steer them out of harm's way. Overall, it's a surprisingly challenging game that rewards carefully planned strategies and quick thinking.
Pop-Up Pilgrims is a delightful game to observe due to its lighthearted music, charming character sprites, and beautifully rendered environments as you find yourself trekking through cherry blossom filled gardens, ice-covered mountainsides, and eerie midnight landscapes. However, as I was playing, I couldn't help but wonder why this needs to be exclusive to VR. It certainly isn't as immersive as many other virtual reality titles. It reminded me a lot of playing the recently released StarDrone VR in that it's cool that you can control the Cloud God simply by rotating your head left and right but besides that, the visuals just seem like you're playing a 3DS game.
As you progress through the campaign's six worlds, you'll be surprised by how many mechanics are gradually introduced. You'll eventually toggle switches that raise and lower platforms, gain access to pilgrims that can fight back such as archers and warriors, and battle bosses in order to obtain sacred scrolls. On top of all that, you can even have a second player join you who controls Borb the pig while collecting golden octopi and giving the pilgrims an occasional nudge. Although the varied campaign and multiplayer mode are great, Pop-Up Pilgrims doesn't have much else to offer. There are only basic options and no additional content so all you can do is work through the super-tough campaign. I wish there was a difficulty select, some sort of high score mode, and perhaps a list of challenges. Replaying stages in order to save all the pilgrims and acquire every golden octopus is rewarding but there could have been so much more.
Finally, one aspect of Pop-Up Pilgrims is so frustrating that it'll make even the most patient gamers irritated. Basically, the gameplay mechanics are far too sensitive and you'll regularly find yourself losing pilgrims for the silliest of reasons. First, you can point at pilgrims with the right stick and once you let go, they jump. Considering pressing another button also makes them jump, it's easy to forget that letting go of the stick does it, too. Therefore, you may point at a pilgrim, see that another one is in danger and rush over only to be cruelly reminded by having the first pilgrim accidentally jump off a cliff. Next, you can easily run out of devotion hearts and be unable to collect more so you have to play the entire stage again. Why can't they automatically regenerate? Limiting them adds more to the frustration factor than the fun. In the end, if there was a rewind button then these issues would be a lot easier to deal with.
Pop-Up Pilgrims is a super-challenging VR game that's sure to reward perfectionists who love to strategize. However, its unreasonably sensitive mechanics will frequently make you feel like brutally bashing your headset in.
- + Challenging gameplay that rewards careful strategising and quick thinking
- + Charming music, sprites, and environments
- + Loads of variety slowly gets introduced
- - Overly sensitive mechanics can be incredibly irritating / could use a rewind feature
- - VR implementation isn't that immersive
- - Lack of options and additional modes