(Pocket-lint) - As exclusive games go Land's End takes the crown. To play it you need to have a Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 edge or Note 4 smartphone. You then need to also own a Samsung Gear VR headset.
But it's oh so worth it because Land's End is one of the most immersive and innovative gaming experiences of this decade. After spending time setting up the rig, we played through the game in one go. It's so good that we couldn't stop.
There we go giving away the end result early, but it doesn't matter because there's so much to grasp about this stunning virtual reality experience. Let us help guide you.
Land's End represents the future of VR gaming. Immersion in its worlds is total and hugely engaging. No game in two dimensions can come close to the feeling that this game offers. Yes, Fallout 4, we're looking at you.
The limitations of no controller and a VR headset with smartphone graphics have not hindered the designers here, but, if anything, enhanced their work. Simplicity can sometimes be a far more beautiful thing than over-complicated depth - and Land's End is a prime example of gaming stripped to its core, with striking visual style to match.
While Land's End is quite simple, and rather short too, it shows just why virtual reality is set to be the next big thing. It's a very exciting future indeed that leaves us craving for more.
- Beautiful worlds
- Engaging gameplay
- Calming music
- Intuitive controls
- Quite short-lived before completion
- Gear VR only
Land's End review: Visually stunning
If the visuals look familiar then that's because Land's End was created by Ustwo, famed for its Monument Valley puzzle game, adopting a similar graphical style. But that's a beautiful thing, and experiencing it in first-person virtual reality can only be a good thing, right?
READ: Monument Valley review
Ustwo describes the experience as a "surreal trip through an archipelago of forgotten worlds". That it is. You begin on a beach at the foot of an over-arching mountain as waves lap at your feet. Look down, go on, you can take in what you want when you want.
The graphics might have a cartoon-esque finish to them but rather than inhibit the experience it actually makes it more enveloping; more ethereal. It gives a calm beauty to the settings which, complemented by the music, relaxes you into the game's other-worldly mood. Which is exactly what a good game should do.
Since you float rather than walk, everything is smooth, which makes for a soaring VR experience. Often you find yourself flying across deep valleys looking about while taking in the beauty of the world you're in. It's both dizzying and awe inspiring.
Land's End review: What's the concept?
Which is all well and good, but watching videos and looking at screen shots of the game and you might be left there scratching your head. What, indeed, is Land's End all about? In a similar vein to Monument Valley, or even Portal, it's a puzzle game.
Throughout worlds you'll see white dots that can be lit by looking at them, and then you automatically move in that direction. This is how you progress through the worlds - it's literally about joining the dots.
At certain points there are blocked paths. At these junctures there are generally circular markings with black holes at the centre. Look at these and a trail of light emits from the hole to where you are looking. By looking at the next nearest dot it connects the two. The goal is to light all dots and finish at a triangle shape with a dot in the centre.
Now this might sound simple, and it is. But that's the beauty of the game: it builds on simple foundations and makes them more challenging and entertaining. This dot system later adds a new shape positioned on rocks that, if looked at, allows for movement of them making those dot connection possibilities more varied and difficult.
Just like its concept, the controls are kept simple too. This is the first time we've played through an entire game while standing up with hands in our pockets. All the interaction required to play Land's End is through head movements.
Land's End review: Play time
While the game is mentally engaging we didn't find ourselves stuck for long at any of the puzzles. It felt like an ideal blend of learning and adapting. But it's left us hungry for more, so we do hope Ustwo will make more chapters for the game.
At present there are five chapters in the game, each featuring a different world - from the rocky beach at the start, through to a sandy desert and eery cave. This keeps you constantly in awe of your surroundings as the game becomes more complex to progress through.
But if you've splashed out on a new phone and VR headset just to play this game then you may be left a little let down. Not because of the game quality, but because of the longevity. Land's End lasted us for about an hour.
Perhaps it's best to think of it as the equivalent of a really good movie, or a pilot episode to an amazing series. You've bought the TV, Blu-Ray player and movie and it's all over in under two hours. It doesn't mean the experience wasn't life-changing in that instance.
Land's End review: VR Experience
Since the Gear VR uses the 2K screen of the Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 edge or Note 4 for its entire visual panorama it looks a little pixelated when playing Land's End. Holding any screen close to your eyes is always going to be – well maybe not Sony's 4K Xperia Z5 Premium – but that's why the minimal graphical style of the the game world ais perfect for this experience.
The fact Gear VR is actually comfortable is a big help, too, plus it's not tethered like some other VR headsets so you can play alone without a cord dragging you down. However, the phone popped into the headset will get pretty hot after an hour. Oh, and you can all but forget about battery life - perhaps that's another reason for a short play-through experience?
Still, there is no latency and in our experience the game was totally bug-free. We've had mixed opinions about the Samsung Gear VR in among the team, but Land's End might well be the single turning point to make everyone a fan. Plus more Gear VR games will be coming to the hardware in the future, which is sorely needs.
This shows a glimpse of what virtual reality gaming could offer and it's stunning. The only negative is that it didn't continue on for longer. But with this level or immersion and potential addiction maybe that's for the best.