App Lab Roundup: Climbing and Escaping

Each week we will be taking a look at some of the upcoming videogames, demos and unique experiences available through Oculus App Lab for the Meta Quest headsets. Many of these videogames come in varying states of completion, so each title is subject to change.

This week we’re climbing mountains and trying to conquer an escape room!


In Ascend, you’re faced with a rather large mountain. The goal, as may seem obvious, is to reach the summit. You’ll see there are plenty of handholds and a handy press of the ‘A’ button will even show an optimal route to take. The actual climbing is pretty simple, just hold the grip buttons when your hand is in the vicinity of a jut of rock. From then on it’s a simple affair of pulling yourself up and reaching out for new grips.

There are few dangers, aside from the obvious gravity. Falling or being bitten by a snake or wolf will cause your vision to turn a hazy red, which can only be healed by taking a swig of water or finding and petting a friendly animal, like a goat (In my opinion, goats aren’t all that friendly). This will clear your vision, allowing for a speedier climb.

Because reaching the top is your only real goal, this all becomes gamified by the timer on your left hand. Repeating play requires you to climb faster and beat your time. To be honest though, I wanted to take everything rather slowly. The idea of spotting my next handhold, plodding along slowly, became my preferred way to play.

The world of Ascend doesn’t feel overly fleshed out; the textures are rather plain, though the mountain when stood back looks mighty impressive. Ascend isn’t going to wow anyone visually, but for those looking for a relaxed mountain climber, you can’t do much better than ‘for free’ on App Lab. Let’s hope the developer expands the mountain range and gives us more reasons to climb.

Vertical Room

Right off the bat, this game comes with two warnings from me. The first is that you need a minimum of two metres by two metres to play; the second is that all of the audio is, for some reason, spoken in German. The latter point is a minor frustration as the game does a great job of showing you what to do visually.

You start off in an elevator and the goal is to reach the top floor and escape. On each floor is a puzzle or game which must be beaten before the elevator unlocks and can travel upwards again. The puzzles vary wildly, from block stacking while matching patterns, to moving a hoop around a track of arrows, avoiding touching them, kind of like those old wire games which buzzed when the metal touched.

I wish I could tell you if there was a story to accompany the action, but the German Voiceover continued throughout. Thankfully it isn’t too off-putting. What was quite frustrating however, was a game where you had to catch balls fired at random intervals. I had enough space in my playing area and yet there were so many missed catches, even though I could have sworn that I moved my hand in time.

With some tweaking and more puzzles and games, Vertical Room could prove to be a huge success, as few developers have managed to truly capture the idea of an escape room in VR. As with so many of the games we cover here, Vertical Room is completely free through App Lab and hopefully there’s enough interest to create other language tracks, as well as more depth to the puzzles. A great proof of concept though.