Ready Player One – The Stacks
Best Part:Completely original level design, Unlike any other maze game you have played.
Worst Part:Game play can be a bit repetitive. Requires a powerful PC to run correctly.
This game is quite tough and finding the QR cubes is a lot harder than it sounds. You need to be within 20 feet of a cube for it to emit any audio and they can easily be missed in the larger areas as you move so fast. The stacks is a test of patients as much as it is a test of skill however it is lovingly put together and the game reflects this in buckets as the quality of the finished product is magnificent.
Recently Sean Foreman released his indie game “ Ready Player One ( The Stacks ) “ on the world and I have to say we are impressed.
This game is a homage to VR and science fiction movies. It is composed of 8 areas linked together through a central hub area. You start the game in the famous Valve VR room with lots of QR codes on the wall. The object of “The stacks” is to collect enough QR cubes to unlock the gates to get to the next area. At its core the stacks is a simple seek and collect game but with all the science fiction references it’s more a journey into past memories.
The games art direction is what really makes this stand out and from the very start as you walk through a music room with records which you can play you can tell that this is going to be a different type of experience from the usual corridor maze.
The first area is based on the book “ Ready Player One” and recreates The Stacks which has lots of housing all stacked on top of each other. You need to find the QR cubes hidden throughout the area but the level is so vast it can be difficult as the cubes are so small. Thankfully on this first stage the developer has included a small map marked with the location of the cubes but it can still be difficult to find them all. Each cube emits a low ringing sound as you get closer so often you will find yourself jumping around listening out for the audio cue and then narrowing your search visually.
As you control your character you can run at well over a hundred miles per hour or jump hundreds of feet in the air with a single leap. If you’re prone to VR sickness then expect this to be a rough ride.
One thing we disliked about this first area is that if you fall off the map trying to reach a difficult cube you always start back inside a maze made of crates. You can’t jump over the walls even though nothing is blocking your view of the sky so you have to try navigate your way through the maze without getting lost. This can be quite annoying when you are still learning how to jump correctly because when you try to reach the QR cubes near the moon you will fall repeatedley at first until you master your landings on the clouds.
Another issue with this level is that it takes quite a powerful graphics card and lots of RAM to render all the stacks on screen at the same time. Thankfully Sean has included the option to reduce the stacks with a simple button press which really helps your frame rate.
Once you collect enough QR cubes you can progress through the next gate where you have the option of playing through two new areas. The first area we tried was the Matrix inspired Maze.
When I first entered this area I just stood still and looked around taking in the digital landscape. It has the famous matrix code running down the walls and is a recreation of the finale in the first movie. This maze is extremely difficult to navigate as it has many floors and often times when you think you are near to collecting a new cube you will find your path blocked and have to retrace your steps.
The third area brings you into an area with thousands of cubes however the start of this area is something special. You start by looking at Jupiter and see a space ship moving towards you which you have to jump on. The ship is none other than Discovery One from the movie 2001 A Space Odyssey which was directed by Stanley Kubrick . This area comes as a welcome relief to the first two areas which are heavily focused on searching for QR cubes as this level is more a test of your skills with the controls. You need to hop from one cube to another until you reach the end of a row and collect the QR cubes. This area really reminds me of early Pink Floyd videos for some strange reason and is one of my personal favourites.
After collecting enough cubes you can progress through the next gate and you get to visit Trantor which is a fictional planet from Issac Asimov’s , Foundation Series of science fiction novels. This area is one of the more stunning areas to look at as the large cubes fly around and the immense scale of the structures which surround you really make you feel small in this game arena.
One stand out moment is getting inside a glass box and taking a spin around the level which really helps point out where the QR cubes are hidden.
The final level we played was the Transparent Stacks Area which is a repeat of the first area but this time the walls and floor will dematerialize and then reappear in a short cycle which makes it difficult to navigate through the start maze but easier to find the elusive QR cubes. There are another two area’s to be explored but you will have to reach them yourself to find out what is in store.
This game is quite tough and finding the cubes is a lot harder than it sounds. You need to be within 20 feet of a cube for it to emit any audio and they can easily be missed in the larger areas as you move so fast. The stacks is a test of patience as much as it is a test of skill however it is lovingly put together and the game reflects this in buckets as the quality of the finished product is magnificent.
We are astonished that Ready Player One is all the work of just one single Indi developer working by himself and we are more astonished that he has released this piece of art for free. Even if you don’t have a Rift you can play this as he has included a non-Rift version on his website. If you haven’t already checked this out you really have no reason not to.
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