When I fired up VirtuaVerse, I thought: this will totally be my jam. Great pixel art adventure, cyberpunk vibes, 8-bit music, point-and-click adventure trappings. Sounds like a ton of things I enjoy, I figured.
About two hours later, I’m not sure if it was possible for me to dislike the game any harder.
It’s not like VirtuaVerse is the first game I’ve bounced off, and certainly not the first game I’ve bounced off hard. It’s a shame, because there’s a lot of great little elements that I really enjoy — and two that have basically ruined the entire experience.
The first part is that VirtuaVerse is very much an old old-school point-and-click adventure. Classically designed is probably the best way to describe it. You know those games like Riven and other puzzlers from the early ’90s that would often suffer from a brutal case of game developer logic?
Well, VirtuaVerse has that in spades. An early puzzle has you trying to reach a nearby merchant so you can get parts to repair your VR/AR goggles. A bouncer won’t let you in, so how do you get rid of him? There’s no way of contacting the owner inside. Talking to the bouncer, apart from nearly getting you killed, reveals that he’s hungry.
So the solution? Find a nearby terminal, and order a pizza. But don’t send the pizza to the bouncer. You’ve gotta send the pizza to yourself first, drive all the way home, pick it up, drive back to the merchant, order a second pizza, and send that pizza to the bouncer. The bouncer figures, hey I didn’t order anything, maybe the boss did, so he just leaves his post and wanders in with the drone.
There’s a lot of puzzles that are strangely finnicky like that. If you grew up with a lot of those adventures, you’re accustomed to inevitably finding yourself in a frame of mind where you’re just repeatedly rubbing every item in your inventory up against any interactable object just to progress.
As frustrating as that design is, what made a lot of those old classic games click was the charm of their characters and story. You had protagonists you wanted to root for, or enemies who desperately needed justice. VirtuaVerse puts you in charge of a titanic asshole. His solution to just about every problem puts his friends, loves ones and complete strangers in harm’s way, if not outright death.
It reminded me of what I liked about Neo Cab, the visual novel adventure from Chance Agency back in 2019. Neo Cab didn’t offer as much agency as I would have wanted, but I wanted resolution for some of the passengers I encountered. Most games are like that. They’re rarely perfect, but their best elements carry you through the sourer parts.
Ultimately, what I think I probably need to do is just bite the bullet on VA-11 Hall-A, which I’ve wanted to play for ages but never really gotten around to. I loved The Red Strings Club, which hits a lot of the same vibes. And since I never got around to Shadowrun Hong Kong, I should probably be looking there if I’m after that gritty, cyberpunk itch with more layered characters.
Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of should and will enjoy VirtuaVerse. But my degree of patience for obtuse point-and-click logic just isn’t what it used to be. I’ll happily smash my head against a wall for a tough puzzle — I’m looking at you, The Witness — but not if it’s pared with a complete asshole of a main character.
What games have you picked up, only to find it absolutely wasn’t your cup of tea?