Accessibility can mean different things. For Nintendo, the Wii Remote provided intuitive gesture-based controls, while Microsoft’s Adaptive Controller allows players with disabilities to customise controls according to their needs. In the case of Arca’s Path, its use of VR removes the controller altogether, leaving players to literally use their heads.
On its own, Arca’s Path looks like a prettier version of the arcade classic Marble Madness, where you’re rolling a ball through labyrinthian levels to reach the goal. But instead of conventional controls, head-tracking means simply gazing at a point will have the ball rolling there. It’s not quite the VR telekinesis you expect, as you’re not directly controlling the ball, but rather using your head to control a cursor that magnetically pulls it along. Looking just a little in front of it will steer it at a gentle pace, while looking further away pulls it at a higher speed.
If you’re liable to motion sickness, the velocity fortunately doesn’t ramp up too much, even when rolling downhill or navigating a half-pipe. Indeed, there’s an overall dreamlike calm to Arca’s Path. Without a timer counting down, you’re free to take your time negotiating your run through these ethereal mazes that get progressively longer.
Gradually, a handful of new mechanics and hazards are introduced, and it’s not long before you’re crossing paths without any barriers preventing you from tumbling into the abyss or encountering floors that crumble away if you roll over them too fast. Fortunately, the game is generous with its checkpoints, and things like activated switches or collected crystals will remain in place when you retry. For the most part, then, Arca’s Path feels like an escapist playground, albeit one with plenty of peril lying beneath its light narrative.
Whether its gaze-based controls are more intuitive and innovative than your thumbs is debatable; there’s the occasionally tricky path where my head’s spatial awareness failed me in a way that using a control stick or mouse wouldn’t have. There’s no denying the novelty of head-tracking as a control function, but it’s ultimately neither as clever or inventive as, say, the world-tilting antics of Super Monkey Ball.
Like many VR games, it’s also rather short at just 25 levels. There is, however, incentive to replay if you want to collect all of the crystals, which unlocks a time trial mode for that level. This should give Arca’s Path the challenge and longevity others – like cool-headed speedrunners – may crave.
Arca’s Path is an old-school puzzler given a VR spin – just not as innovative or intuitive as you’d think.
Format: PSVR (tested) / Rift / Vive / Steam VR / Gear / Go / Focus
Developer: Dream Reality Interactive
Price: £13.99 (console/PC) / £7.99 (mobile)
Release: Out now