Nothing can prepare you for what it feels like to hold a sizzling, thrumming blade of light up to your face, so close you can almost feel it singe off your eyebrows. The seeing—the way it scales up in your field of view as you draw the energy field close, then rotate it by slowly twisting the crystal-embedded hilt—is so persuasive that it’s almost believing.
This, more than hearing Han Solo on comms, or gawking at R2-D2’s chrome dome as the protuberant droid trundles up to you, or the spectacle of a ship as grand as the Millennium Falcon berthing on your face, is why you’ll want to play ILMxLab’s Trials on Tatooine. It’s out now, completely free, on SteamVR for HTC Vive owners.
I played it at the Game Developers Conference in March and came away properly astonished. It exhibits all that’s right and wrong with bigwig headset makers Oculus and HTC’s first pass at mainlining consumer virtual reality: a stupefying validation of the importance of visual immersion, tempered by the fact that you’re basically a rooted tree pretending that you’re a fully mo creature. In games like Trials on Tatooine, you’re more franchise rubbernecker than backflipping Jedi, in control of your head and hands, but little else.
And yet why not, if the goal is as Disney’s in so many of its storied “experiences” over the years? If Trials on Tatooine becomes the de facto approach developers take to blockbuster properties like Star Wars, then yes, fatigue threshold incoming. But for now, ILMxLab’s showy little frisson-inducing aperitif is both free to anyone with a Vive, and easy to recommend, for the novelty alone.