PathCraft Review: A VR Puzzler With Both Charm And Challenge
PathCraft, the puzzle-based platformer from Devil Cow Studios and Vertigo Games, is available now for Quest 2 and Quest Pro. This retro-inspired adventure immerses you in a whimsical world replete with elaborate puzzles to tickle your gray matter – here’s our full PathCraft review.
In each of its retro-themed levels, PathCraft introduces you to a colorful world filled with vibrant drawings and cardboard dioramas straight out of a child’s imagination. Your goal is to guide a young boy across a series of platforms and complete each level by collecting all of the power cells within it.
This sounds simple enough, except for one catch – you don’t have direct control over the child. Instead, he will march mindlessly in a straight line, only turning or jumping when an obstacle is placed in his way.
The only way to guide him through is by creating a tailored path l using strategically placed blocks. This makes timing and block placement essential, but beware – one false move and your kiddy companion will take a nose dive off the nearest edge.
Cute But Challenging
Micro-managing an AI using the environment is a familiar mechanic, with a style reminiscent of the classic puzzle game Lemmings. However, don’t let the cutesy visuals fool you – this puzzle game has teeth. It starts off simple, easing you into the mechanics, but swiftly cranks up the difficulty. I was left scratching my head more than once trying to figure out a solution.
You’ll not only need to work out the best path forward, but also how to get there using the limited number of blocks at your disposal. Wooden blocks are scarce and so have to be reused, which often left me frantically relocating resources while the little fella was on the move. It can get surprisingly intense.
Puzzles are well thought out and satisfying to complete for the most part. The majority of levels have a number of different solutions so you can get creative in trying to complete the stage in the most efficient way possible.
Gravity is not your only enemy – other hazards include blocks that kill on contact and automatic firing cannons, each requiring their own strategic solutions to navigate. Some stages also include one or more walking robots that behave exactly like the kid and can also be guided to pick up power cells or push buttons. These robotic companions bring an interesting dynamic, where you’re forced to split your attention and make sure everyone survives.
New items and obstacles are introduced as you progress, adding additional mechanics and challenges to overcome, spread across four different environments, each with their own soundtrack.
Like most well-designed strategic puzzle games, PathCraft requires you to think ahead and keep the next two or three moves in your head at all times. Even with meticulous planning, it’s easy to be too slow in placing a block or flicking a switch. It’s easy to miss a crucial detail that then leads to the child’s untimely demise – trial and error will be your best friend.
Overall, the level of puzzle difficulty is moderate – solutions rarely had me stumped for too long but kept me occupied long enough to complete all 80 stages across seven hours.
Oddly enough, the level of difficulty didn’t necessarily increase as the game progressed – with some of the easiest stages sprinkled in with some of the most difficult. The exception to this was the final ten levels or so which were decisively some of the toughest in the entire game.
Fun But Simple
There’s a noticeable absence of any kind of narrative or basic story in PathCraft, so don’t expect much more than a collection of unconnected puzzle stages.
A level editor is included as well, allowing you to make your own stages, share them online, and play other levels made by the community. The editor is mostly intuitive to use and should add some replayability to the game for those who’ve finished the main campaign and want more.
Completing campaign puzzles in as few moves as possible will earn you robot-themed coins, which can be spent on costume cosmetics for the kid and your virtual hands. Plus, you can compete for the best score in each stage through online leaderboards. While these features add some incentive to master each stage, they don’t feel enough to lure me back into replaying earlier levels.
Controlling the Action
Hand tracking is available as a control option, which sounds ideal for this type of game but I found myself opting for the controllers every time. Hand tracking works fine for the easier stages but as soon as speed and accuracy were required, it became far too slow and unreliable. Some of the issues with mistaken gestures, which we noticed in a demo last year, were also still present in the final build.
The touch controllers are the best method of controlling the action by far, but there’s sadly no option for rotational movement of the environment with any input method, only lateral.
There’s also no option to increase the game’s speed – there were a few occasions where my patience was tested having to wait for the kid to complete his inevitable path. Being able to speed up the action momentarily would have helped to save some time.
PathCraft Review – Final Verdict
PathCraft delivers on what it promises with good, wholesome puzzle-platforming but not a whole lot more. Don’t expect an engaging puzzle narrative as found in A Fisherman’s Tale and other popular entries in the genre – there’s no story to be found here.
What you can expect is a decent offering of thought-provoking puzzles that will reliably scratch that itch some satisfying brain teasers. Completing a series of disconnected puzzle challenges makes this a great experience to dip into for short stints of cerebral stimulation.
Overall, PathCraft offers up a cheerful journey through a vibrant world filled with fun puzzle-platforming action, suitable for VR newcomers and players of all ages.
UploadVR focuses on a label system for reviews, rather than a numeric score. Our reviews fall into one of four categories: Essential, Recommended, Avoid and reviews that we leave unlabeled. You can read more about our review guidelines here.