Meta to Dissolve App Lab Next Month, Putting More Steam Behind Early Access Program

Meta’s App Lab distribution channel for early access games is still around, but it won’t be for long. Although Meta made App Lab content searchable on the main store for the first time earlier this summer, now the company is preparing for App Lab’s complete dissolution next month, putting more of a Steam-like emphasis on Early Access moving forward.

Update (July 8th, 2024): Meta announced in a developer blogpost that starting August 5th, all content previously shipped in App Lab will be on the main Horizon Store (ex-Quest Store). Notably, this will feature all existing App Lab apps, including those under development and under review.

The company is also allowing developers to use ‘Early Access’ badges for their games, although previous App Lab games are not required to use it.

Image courtesy Meta

Meta notes that all apps submitted to the Horizon Store must meet a variety of Virtual Reality Checks (VRCs), which include a number of performance, security, tracking, and functionality checks.

The original article detailing App Lab discoverability follows below:

Original Article (May 14th, 2024): Meta is making its operating system and app store available on third-party VR headsets sometime soon, and one of the bigger changes coming to the platform is the blurring of the barrier between the Main Store and App Lab.

Besides offering a way for studios to publish their titles in early access, App Lab also lets any developer who meets basic technical and content requirements ship software on the platform, effectively making it open to studios of any size.

Now App Lab has its own section of the store, making those indie titles and early access games a lot more visible. To boot, App Lab games were previously hidden in the Main Store, but are now showing up in search results, appended with the new ‘App Lab’ section title.

Meta has also removed the previous pop-up warning as well when viewing an App Lab game, replacing it with a smaller note next to the game’s user rating, stating “This app may be experimental or still in development.”

Elevating App Lab games makes a good deal of sense considering how well indie titles like Gorilla Tag have fared through the parallel distribution in the past, which to date is not only the platform’s most reviewed game, but has also generated the most revenue on Quest. It’s likely the company will look to further dissolve the boundaries between Main Store and App Lab as it begins licensing Horizon OS (ex-Quest OS).

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App Lab Roundup: Puzzles, Blocks and Smashing

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 fixing priceless artefacts, playing 3D Tetris and smashing out our anger!


There’s a wonderful simplicity to VRPuzzle; as the game starts I find myself in a museum room surrounded by valuable sculptures and earthenware. Tapping the grip button while aiming at a sculpture breaks it down into shattered pieces, across three difficulty levels. Choosing the easiest, I tapped the grip button again and found myself in the centre of the room, pieces of statue around me.

From here, it should seem quite obvious that I needed to put the bust together again. There’s a lovely, very satisfying click as the correct pieces slot together. Manipulating the pieces is smooth and intuitive, they can be passed from hand to hand in order to find the sweet spot.

At the easiest level, VRPuzzle is a ridiculously calming experience. It’s still relaxing at the hard difficulty, but the sheer number of broken pieces can feel a bit overwhelming, as I picked through the tiniest shards to form the sculpted face or waves of hair. I found myself playing for much longer than I intended, picking bowls and urns to puzzle over, feeling satisfied once the sculpt clicks together and fully completes.


I don’t know why this game is called Flickblocks, there are blocks, but there’s no flicking. Definitely lots of blocks though. They fall from the sky at timed intervals and the idea is to grab them and place them on a grid which floats in front of the player. 

At first, I was unsure I’d have enough space to play because the game requires free movement around the grid, particularly to pick up any pieces which land on the floor, and you’ll need to grab those because if too many pieces fall to the floor, it’ll be game over.

Much like Tetris, once the bottom layer is filled the layer disappears. Because I was using 3D shapes, though there are some familiar shapes from the classic title, it forced me to think in more dimensions, leaving gaps open on higher layers for more blocks. For example, sending a four-block piece on its end means thinking about the three layers above the base. 

At first, Flickblocks feels simple, but it quickly becomes a devious puzzler. Thankfully the gameplay loop just screams out ‘one more turn’, particularly if you, like me, enjoy trying to beat your own high scores.

Smashy Smashy VR

Your mileage may vary with Smashy Smashy VR. For some, it’ll be a few minutes of distraction, for others it might be a much-needed way to unload some stress; because this is literally a destruction simulator. I first chose a corporate office to smash up. I was throwing telephones through windows, picking up potted plants and launching them across the office to shatter TV screens. I found a fire axe and crumpled every desk into splinters. Obviously, I was having a bad day.

I then chose an overly large chess set. Kind of like those toy versions you sometimes see in parks. Except these pieces are made of concrete and I had a huge hammer. Using that hammer I decimated every single chess piece before jumping out of that world and into a supermarket. 

I hate supermarkets so I grabbed a trolley (cart for those across the Atlantic) and brandished it above my head, bringing it down on each display. I pulled boxes out from the bottom of stands, watching everything tumble. I picked up six packs of beer and smashed every window I could see.

It was a satisfying fifteen minutes. It got a bit of rage out, it cracked a few smiles, but then I was done. I don’t really feel a need to pick it back up again, because there’s no tactility and the smashing can only go so far. Totally worth a little time being Smashy Smashy, though.

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.

App Lab Roundup: Puzzles and Destruction

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 solving puzzles and causing carnage!

Unblocking Demo

To say Unblocking is a Tetris-style clone does it a bit of a disservice. There are definitely Tetris elements at play; you’re presented with Tetris shapes and you must use them to solve puzzles or clear lines from a board. However, they don’t fall from the sky, they’re selected purposely.

In the puzzle mode, you’re tasked with clearing all of the blocks from the playing area. To do this, you must select a shape and overlap it against the blocks, making them disappear. Sometimes it’s as simple as using a cross over a cross-shape, other times you must clear one shape in order for the blocks above them to fall and create a new shape to erase.

In the arcade mode, things feel a bit more Tetris-y. Only again, you’re placing the blocks wherever you like. Here you are presented with four shapes, of different colours and the goal is to create horizontal lines to erase those blocks. You can chop and change the shapes and colours you place in the hopes of creating the perfect lines, but often you’ll need to overlap colours, blocking progress.

Unblocking is a devious little puzzler. On the surface, it appears simple, and the opening puzzle levels are exactly that. However, as you progress things become rather taxing. Sadly, as this is only a demo, there’s not much to experience, but what’s here is certainly an enticing opportunity for the developers to bring us a great puzzle game. The virtual reality doesn’t lend much to the game beyond playing in a fancy room, but it’s hard to complain when the puzzling is as good as this.

No More Rainbows Beta

I’m going to get this out of the way. I love this game.

At first, when No More Rainbows informed me I would need to use my arms to scoot along the floor I rolled my eyes and gave a sigh of exasperation. So many of the App Lab games recently have used the same technique. Whether you’re pretending to be a baby, a squid or a dog, there’s a game that wants to mimic crawling forward, and so far, I’ve hated each one.

But this? This works. You play as a snarling gorilla monster who seemingly hates happiness (much like myself). You wake up, smash the alarm clock and discover the land has been taken over by unicorns, fruity cute gumballs and bright colours. The tutorial tells you that you can take small leaps forward by swinging your arms. Then, if you do that with more force, you’ll kind of ‘Incredible Hulk leap’ all over the place.

What transpires from here is a literal assault on joy. You get to explore these bubblegum worlds leaping around, climbing vertical surfaces, bounding over bottomless chasms to smash anything cute you can see. Busting open the gumball creatures causes their soul to vanish inside of you, which then opens new worlds for more smashing.

I played this on a day where I was a little aggravated, which may have helped. However, the locomotion controls and the concept itself would have stood out to me anyway. Who doesn’t want to smash the smug happiness out of something so saccharine? As with Unblocking above, this is only a demo/beta, but it’s a generous one. Still, I reached the end and found myself craving more. I’ve never felt so happy destroying the happiness of others.

App Lab Roundup: Memory, Grapples and Racing

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 testing our cognitive function, swinging through the air and building racetracks.

Upgrade VR

Remember when every platform was bringing out a Brain Training game or app? That feels a bit dated when it comes to VR platforms, but the use of motion controls and freedom of movement opens up that formula. With Upgrade VR, you won’t really be exercising too much of the old great matter, though it’ll nudge you occasionally. This app tests your coordination, concentration, reaction and memory.

This is achieved through various mini-games, which start off very simply. Reaction, for example, fires balls towards you from portals. If it’s a green ball, you use the green coloured hand, if it’s blue, then it’s the other hand. At first, the balls move through the air slowly, over time they speed up and introduce balls that must be avoided. In memory, you’ll be shown strings of 3D models and must remember the order they appeared and place them in the correct spots.

All of this adds up scores, which depict your cognition ability. This all takes place within a sci-fi environment which feels pulled straight from a Hollywood movie. Everything is clean and well designed, there are no errors in the motion controls, it can be played standing or sitting and when you come back to the games in order to break your high score, it feels tremendous. 


Straight out of the gate, I have to say, the soundtrack to Grabble absolutely slaps (do people still say ‘slaps’?). The music has this great futuristic, funk feel which goes really well with the action. What’s the action? Well, I guess you could say this is a Spider-Man simulator. You have a grappling hook in each hand and they must be used to move through the air, between blocks.

The game ends if you fall into the infinite void below, which seems to happen quite a lot. You see, when grappling, the player moves very quickly. Often before the blocks even get a chance to spawn in. Thankfully, also attached to your hands, are boosters which can help propel you in particular directions saving you from danger, or even slowing your speed a little.

Grabble is pretty ‘bare bones’ currently, but the basis is there for a bigger and better experience. Plus, who doesn’t love swinging through the air on grapple hooks?

Racemaker VR

Full disclosure – I pride myself at being able to play pretty much all VR games without feeling ill. Racemaker VR broke me, however. 

Before we get to that, let me first recommend the game, because it’s kind of brilliant. You start in front of a gridded table with a toolbox of racetrack sections in your hand. The goal is to create a fun and frantic racetrack using curves, tunnels, speed boosts, jumps and straight sections of track.

Aside from some moments where the track pieces sometimes don’t snap together easily, building a track is engaging and enjoyable. You can make it as simple as you like or create a complex track of inclines and bridges constantly running at high speed. Once the track is complete, it’s time to race, and here is where I almost threw up my lunch.

Getting behind the wheel of the car is, at first, very smooth. Almost too smooth. Taking the corners felt like my view was overshooting my brain and stomach, cresting the bumpy track was like being thrown into a washing machine and when I hit a speed boost to jump through the air, I felt like I left my stomach behind on the track. Now, you might fare better than I. So, I would never not recommend the game, but be aware that the actual racing might cause some stomach upset.

Preview: Rogue Ascent – A Blast of Hand Tracked Action

Roguelite shooters are all the rage at the moment – some games are even adding roguelike elements in updates – but if you’re looking for one that definitely tries to do something a bit different then Rogue Ascent is what you’re looking for. Why? Because it’s the only roguelite shooter that’s dedicated to utilising Meta Quest’s hand tracking feature, for better and worse.

Rogue Ascent

Meta Quest needs more hand tracked videogames to showcase how much fun the technology can be. It’s a very bold move by developer Nooner Bear Studio to go for a fully hand tracked experience though, as there are some things the tech does very well such as interacting with objects and menus, for example, whilst locomotion is by far one of the weakest areas. All of which is required in a game like Rogue Ascent that’s mostly wall-to-wall action.

Rogue Ascent pulls on those nostalgia strings with its core gameplay component, shooting stuff with your fingers. The classic childhood activity of making a gun by pointing your index finger forward whilst putting your thumb in the air has very literally been used, turning your hand into whatever virtual gun you have equipped at the time; a pistol, phaser, revolver or sub-machine gun are the four options. Add to this the fact that reloading simply requires pointing your finger in the air, whereby the gun spins around in your hand like some futuristic western and you’re all set for some badass shootouts.

Dual wielding is totally an option so you can just stand there firing away, reload, and then shoot some more like you’re a kid again. Just this time it’s in VR and you don’t have to imagine all the visuals and sound effects. The premise is cool and there are moments playing through the levels where you get that 80s action hero vibe, where endless enemy projectiles meet a wall of your own and there’s that sense that you’re invincible. Oh, and shooting is automatic, no controller means there’s no trigger button to press.

Rogue Ascent

Hand tracking being what it is Rogue Ascent is less running and gunning and more about standing your ground and pummelling enemies. This is because the locomotion is entirely point-to-point teleportation, pointing your palm at the next location to move to, taking less than a couple of seconds to do so. In non-combat moments it’s quite easy to move about a level becoming more erratic when several hostiles are present. You can sacrifice one gun so one hand can shoot whilst the other teleports but after a few levels, it was plainly easier to stand my ground and go for an all-out attack.

There wasn’t any indication of a narrative, you’re plonked on a space station of some sort and have to kill everything on each level before jumping in the elevator up to the next area. Being a roguelite, the endless runs add greater depth by giving you several character classes to choose from, each making the gameplay tougher in their own way. Whilst in-game you collect coins to buy new guns or perks that can up stats like critical hits or adding fire to your projectiles.

Rogue Ascent on App Lab is doing some amazing things with Meta Quest’s hand tracking technology, pushing it to the limit of what’s possible with its accuracy and speed. It’s easy to get the hang off and the perks in combination with the procedurally generated levels make for an experience with plenty of scope to come back time and again. However, the hand tracking can be a mighty bit twitchy with all the action going on especially if you want to multitask, combining moving with reloading or quickly swapping between hands for certain actions. With Meta’s upcoming 2.0 hand tracking update on the horizon, hopefully, Nooner Bear Studio has plans on implementing it as this could really take Rogue Ascent to another level and make the experience shine.

App Lab Roundup: Basketball, Cables and Rabid Babies

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 shooting some hoops, untangling wires and… running away from babies?!

Blacktop Hoops

I feel like basketball games, or games which have a basketball mini-game, are a dime a dozen. It’s an easy sport to replicate in VR, although it’s difficult to get it right. So, those that feel like playing the sport for real are more of a rarity. Enter Blacktop Hoops, probably the best basketball game I’ve played in VR, hands down.

In order to get a sports game right, everything needs to feel natural – you need to forget you’re in VR, holding motion controls. With just a few buttons, Blacktop Hoops transports you into a pick-up game in a one on one game. The ball feels intuitive; pretend to dribble the ball and it bounces to the ground and back to your hand; bounce it on a diagonal towards your off-hand and you’ll perform a crossover dribble.

When you want to shoot, simply pull the trigger and use your off-hand to steady the shot. Once you let go, the ball soars cleanly, there’s no awkward physics, it makes you feel like you can shoot threes all day. There’s even a jump button to dunk or set up a fadeaway throw. My only issue is with movement. Using the thumbstick to move feels like wading through jelly at times, which often gives the AI an advantage. Even on the easiest setting, I was finding myself turned around looking for the ball while my opponent was swishing the hoop.

It’s only in alpha at the moment and it’s completely free, so it’s worth downloading to stay in the practice mode and feel like Steph Curry for a while.

Cable Salad

Weird name, right? It’s easily explained if you’ve ever seen film footage of old telephone centres, where receptionists would pull out random wires and shove them into random holes in order to connect a call. That’s Cable Salad in an elevator pitch. You stand in front of a socket and must plug in the right cable to send a message to a person on the screen. The only issue is, the cables trail over, under and roundabout, so it’s like solving a maze.

You get points for connecting the right person and the mazes get harder and harder. It’s a pretty simple concept, really. Oddly, in between rounds of playing telephone, you get to grab a toy dart gun and shoot some holographic floating targets. I’m not sure why, but it’s still good fun to be had.

It might all be very simple – though the cable mazes can get deceptively tough – but the game takes place in a kind of workshop which is wonderfully animated and realised. There are sparking robot arms, junk cluttering the shelving and a general sense of mild chaos. I’d love to see this fleshed out with a story.

Baby Tag

Okay, stick with me on this one. Remember that scene in Trainspotting where Renton is desperately trying to kick heroin and he sees the scary baby crawling across the ceiling? Yeah, well, someone put that into a game. Kind of.

Baby Tag does exactly what it says in the name; you play as a baby in a nursery and have to avoid being tagged by other babies. You use the motion controls to crawl or slide across the floor, but weirdly, you can also climb sheer surfaces by tapping the grip buttons. Personally, I began to treat this game like a survival horror, instead of the cute mini-game it’s meant to be.

Dashing away from rampaging babies covered in green slime, which I believe represents the germs that most kids carry, is frankly terrifying. Looking around the room, as the babies charge towards you is worse than staring down hordes of zombies in Left 4 Dead! It certainly spurred me on to avoid being tagged.

Sadly, there’s not much game here, but if you want a laugh, or to be frightened like a 1990’s drug addict, give it a shot.

Omega Pilot Puts You in Z-Race’s Cockpit This May

XOCUS, the virtual reality (VR) developer behind Z-Race has announced the upcoming launch of its next racing title, Omega Pilot. Putting players in the cockpit of ludicrously fast vehicles, Omega Pilot is due to speed onto Steam Early Access an Oculus App Lab in a couple of weeks.

Omega Pilot

It was just over a year ago that XOCUS launched its futuristic racer Z-Race for PCVR headsets. One of its main features was the comfortable control scheme, whereby players controlled their vehicles directly through the physical movement of their hands; kind of like a toy car. Receiving a positive response from the community, players also wanted to step into the cockpit but due to Z-Race’s particular control scheme that wasn’t possible. So Omega Pilot was born.

Creating a whole new game just so fans could heart-pounding speeds in first-person inside Z-Race’s tubular tracks, Omega Pilot will feature “realistic physics and control mechanics.” The early access launch in May will include 10 tracks and three gameplay modes; Circuit racing, Checkpoint racing and Slalom. XOCUS hasn’t confirmed if these are brand new tracks or tracks ported from Z-race.

Initially, Omega Pilot – just like Z-Race did – will feature an asynchronous multiplayer so players will race against each other’s times rather than directly against one another. That’ll change as development progresses, with more content and features added.

Omega Pilot

The final version of Omega Pilot which is slated to arrive before the end of 2022 will offer: “a real-time multiplayer with an exciting deathmatch arena mode. The player will take on the role of a racer of the future, who must advance along increasingly difficult tracks and defeat dexterous rivals in order to become the Omega Pilot champion,” the developer explains in a statement.

Omega Pilot will launch as an Early Access title on Steam and via Meta Quest’s App Lab on 12th May 2022. No price has been revealed just yet but for further updates keep reading gmw3.

App Lab Roundup: Spacedust, Guns and Cacti

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 crossing the cosmos, blasting hundreds of bullets and playing at cacti in wartime.

Star Stuff: A Way for the Universe to Know Itself

Yes, I know, the title is quite a mouthful. Now, I’ve played a lot of meditative titles on the Quest recently. The ability to transcend our reality to find a crumb of serotonin is appealing to most, but aside from TRIPP’s Quest app, many of the so-called ‘calming’ experiences do little more than place you in a static environment and pipe in some free YouTube soothing music.

Star Stuff opens with a quote from Carl Sagan, focusing on our place in the universe. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think of my place in the grand scheme of things, I feel pretty insignificant. All of this wonderful and mysterious energy pulsing around us can have a calming effect, however. Precisely because it’s all so much bigger than us. So when Star Stuff plonked me into a starfield from the Milky Way and began to play soulful music, I actually felt calmer.

Then I realised what the app actually wants you to do. Because I was sitting down, I didn’t realise it at first, but hundreds of stars, moons, and small planets, were leaking from where my body was positioned. I ran my hand through the particles, watched as they flew out and away from me, drifted and danced. Before I knew it, ten minutes had passed and I was waving my arms like a born again spiritualist. Did I feel more at peace? I actually did. Will I ‘play’ it again? Maybe, I’ll definitely recommend that people take a few minutes and experience it.


As with the previous entry in this roundup, there are lots of games and apps which achieve what’s done here; in this instance, allow you to shoot a variety of weapons. Now, there’s not a great amount of guns here; some pistols, a shotgun and an assault rifle, but gosh, the animations and models are just fantastic.

I think what GUNSdemo did, which made me take notice, is make everything feel like it has weight and heft. The Assault Rifle feels large and slightly cumbersome, it kicks back with every bullet fired, the sharp metallic sound of dropping and reloading a magazine feels slick. The pistols have a great animation when using the off-hand to pull back the slide before firing, similarly to the shotgun which reloads by pulling back the slide as an empty shell flies out.

The area in which you test these guns is limited currently; a type of old farm with a few targets, but hopefully, the developer expands this over time. There’s so much attention to detail that it can’t be ignored. For example, many games I’ve played in VR which allow you to look down a rifle scope make it too clunky, or the image in the sight is muddy. Here however it’s beautifully crisp and seems to compensate for the motion controls, meaning shooting isn’t a chore. I only hope this stretches out into a full game release or is buffed with more guns, targets and environments.

Cactus Cowboy – Plants At War

Plants at War opens with a skit of a kid (cactus) being asked by his grandpa (cactus) “are ya winning son?” In true meme fashion. It cracks a wry smile, the kid (cactus) is annoyed the latest shooter isn’t available in VR, which spins into a story about how grandpa (cactus) fought in ‘the war’ and we take his role. After a short cutscene and tutorial, we’re thrown into a D-Day style beach landing, where worm-like bugs are attempting to wipe out the cacti people.

As the boat approaches the beach, the credits roll through the sky above and the developers suggest Plants at War is “a game of questionable quality”, a bit of a misdirect, because the game is actually remarkably good. What might stymie the game however is its timing; many of the accents are Eastern European, the visuals within the cutscene feel eerily close to current conflicts, which is life repeating itself. At points I felt a little uncomfortable with the action, despite the brilliant gun handling, animations and the scale of the world created.

Of course, any game depicting war will feel awkward in the current political climate. Cactus Cowboy – Plants At War tries to make itself as silly as possible, which goes some way to easing that concern. Underneath all the jokes and oddball moments is a very solid shooter which relies on the kinds of gunplay seen in the aforementioned GUNSdemo; everything feels like it has purpose and the mechanics of each gun makes for seriously involved play.

Loading and cocking a gun feels, for lack of a better fitting word, ‘cool’. Like, ‘Matrix in 1999 cool.’ The difficulty spikes (cactus pun) a little unfairly at times and there were moments I found myself wandering around a battlefield unsure how to interact with things like mortars, but when the game is a simple ‘run and gun’ shooter, it’s bags of fun.

App Lab Roundup: Magic, Dreams and Godlike Power

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 getting involved with some proof of concepts featuring magic, nightmares and God-like abilities.

Fantasy Arena

I’m going to be honest, I didn’t think a MOBA would work in virtual reality (VR). Ultimately, it shouldn’t. A genre that is usually viewed from a top-down or isometric camera, has been adapted so that the player takes a first-person view of a headline hero. 

Here, in Fantasy Arena, you’re equipped with a magic staff and a squad of soldiers. As the genre dictates, you march on, capturing strategic points along a path until you reach the enemy spawn point. Playing as a magic character, you can fire off energy bolts or sticky goo which damages or traps the enemy respectively. Better than that, a vast Area of Effect (AoE) attack can rain down lightning and decimate any bad guys within the circle.

Now, before you go running off to download Fantasy Arena, and you should, it’s worth keeping in mind that this is very much a work in progress. The environments are bare with only a few buildings and there is no variation in the enemies. Taken as a proof of concept, it shows that a MOBA can work very well in VR as it puts you into the shoes of the heroes. With two maps available, Fantasy Arena showcases its potential very well.

The Client VR

A much chunkier demo comes from The Client VR and is perhaps the most interesting title this week. You play as a disembodied pair of hands that can wield a form of magic. You have a magic wand and a crystal ball and these must be used to solve environmental puzzles.

You play as a guardian of sorts, watching over people trapped within a nightmare. The aim is to guide the dreamer from point A to point B – point B just happens to be a nice cosy bed where they will enjoy a better night’s sleep. The path to decent slumber is made dangerous due to horrible little demons who will attack the dreamer, plus a maze-like environment to hold them up. You use the wand to blast the demons or distract them, while the crystal ball opens gates and moves aspects of the maze.

There’s a sense of late-90s puzzler to The Client VR in its gameplay, but also its quirky aesthetic. This is a major highlight for me because the game then stands out from so many other titles available in VR. It’s bizarre in places, oddly funny, and while the puzzles may not be overly taxing, the game stretches itself out by challenging you to complete each level with certain requirements.

On the whole, the design of The Client VR is lovely – spooky and surreal while being outlandish in a seemingly Japanese presentation. I found myself taking off the headset and wanting to put it straight back on to play some more. 

Project Demigod

Project Demigod feels like a sandbox playground. You start in a lab of some kind, where you will learn how to use weapons and abilities before spawning into the main playing area, with or without AI enemies. In this area you’ll find moving targets, crumbling buildings, and giant platforms – it’s a violent version of Total Wipeout!

Where this demo comes alive, is in how it makes you feel. There’s a lot of inspiration taken from comic book superpowers. Each hand can take on a different ability for some mixing and matching. For example, at one point I had a web-shooter on my right hand and a pillar of flame in my left. This allowed me to swing through the obstacles, let go of the web, and then hover in mid-air by angling the flame downwards.

Once my feet hit the ground again, I spawned in some goons to fight and switched my abilities for more combat-focused powers. Now I had a sword in one hand and an energy blaster on the other and I was laying out the bad guys left and right.

For anyone looking for some depth, you won’t really find it here. As a sandbox experience, however, it will spark joy, for sure. The physics are great, the abilities are varied and give a real sense of power. In essence, this is a superpower simulator, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. I only hope the game that sprawls out of this manages to capture this sense of fun.