This review was originally created in November 2018 for HTC, targeted to their Vive/Vive Pro (VIVEPORT). It is reproduced here without alteration.
Although there have been some excellent virtual reality escape room experiences, few have had ambitions beyond supersizing what can be experienced in a traditional physical adventure game setting. Host, on the other hand, takes the proven escape room concept and transports it into a mobile, otherworldly experience.
The premise is that your spacecraft crashes on an unknown planet. You need to navigate through the dark, alien corridors, using only your hands to solve the rooms and eventually make your way out.
Host supports Vive, Vive Pro, or Oculus Rift owners and is a standing, room-scale experience. And unlike many other room-scale experiences, this game really means it. There’s no other way to move within the game other than walking around your own room.
Unfortunately, Host‘s room-scale requirements are a bit steep. There’s a recommended play space of 3 x 2 meters, or about 10 x 6.5 feet. While you might be able to play in a smaller room, you may have trouble reaching some of the in-game areas you’ll need to access to advance. And because you’re literally walking around small, winding corridors in-game, there’s a good chance you’ll be bumping into your real world, in-room objects or walls. And of course, if you have your Chaperone settings turned on like I do – and probably need anyway for this type of game – you’ll be seeing way too much of the collision boundaries, hurting immersion.
While Host makes use of both Vive controllers, it’s merely to keep track of your hands. The in-game representation of your hands are permanently open and floating in space until you get near a touchable object. The virtual hand’s index finger then turns into a pointer. Otherwise, as stated, the rest of the game involves you physically walking around corridors and ducking into portals and other openings.
Audio-visually, there’s not much to the game, with sparse sound effects and graphically simple environments. Since it’s a dark, alien world, with a type of bioluminescent glowing effect to the surroundings and creatures, it’s still pretty effective at setting an otherworldly, and sometimes scary, mood. However, this is strictly about navigation and light puzzle solving, so there’s no actual danger of being attacked in-game. Surprisingly, knowing that doesn’t seem to lessen the tension when an alien creature gets in your face.
Outside of Host‘s use of true room-scale gameplay, there’s nothing else particularly engaging about the total experience, which lasts around 30 minutes or less. While you do feel like you’re walking around alien corridors, there’s not much to do, and, unless you have a particularly large room, it’s all too easy to break immersion or become frustrated by bumping into walls or seeing the Chaperone boundaries. Hopefully the developers can try again with a different project that refines this promising concept into something that works better in smaller spaces and has more compelling gameplay.
Score: 2 out of 5 stars.
Host is available on Viveport or with a Viveport Subscription.