Review: Eye of the Temple

Roomscale gaming where you purely use your body and not the controllers isn’t something often seen anymore. There are plenty of virtual reality (VR) titles where you can move about a virtual space, crouching or walking over to pick up an object but actually employing your two feet as the only locomotion isn’t easy; especially if you’re working with a minimum 2m x 2m area. Sure, videogames like Space Pirate Trainer DX offer the chance to run around a play space if you can find an area large enough. This is why Eye of the Temple is a bit of a rarity, a true roomscale experience with an awesome Indiana Jones vibe.

Eye of the Temple is the work of solo indie developer Rune Skovbo Johansen who’s been working on this project for several years now. The whole ethos behind the title is navigating your way through an ancient, trap-filled temple, carefully watching where you place each and every foot. One wrong step and it is instant death.

While you might be quite comfortable walking around in any normal VR experience, Eye of the Temple is very different, for one you spend a lot of time looking at the floor and around your feet. Traversal through is primarily via stone blocks that move in one particular direction, carefully gauging your timing so you don’t fall between the gaps. There are some cylindrical blocks as well, encouraging you to keep your position by walking backwards as it rolls forward.

It’s this type of movement where some players are going to struggle, Eye of the Temple even offers a warning right at the start. You might think that physically stepping through the environment would be fine, however, a disconnect can happen when a block suddenly drops down, raises up or moves in an unexpected way. As long as you’re aware of this Eye of the Temple can be a lot of fun.

The gameplay is challenging right from the outset, it isn’t just about looking where to step next, there are gems to collect, multiple pathways to choose from and then there’s the whip. In fact, you have a whip in one hand and an unlit torch in the other, both designed to help you interact with the environment and solve puzzles. At times Eye of the Temple is like trying to rub your belly whilst tapping your head, as well as being spatially aware of obstacles; ducking under stuff plays an important part.

Even though Indiana Jones makes using a whip look easy, that isn’t the case here. With it, you can smash jars filled with gems, use it to pull levers from afar or kill enemies like little annoying flying scarabs. It certainly takes practice as the first few times trying to wrap the whip around a lever just seemed impossible.

As you can probably tell, Eye of the Temple is a physical experience all the way through, and it’ll have your heart thumping in no time. Not in the same way a rhythm action title would as the pace is steadier but you soon notice it after an hour or so. It becomes that engrossing you really do need to make sure your gameplay area is clear of any objects, it’s used to the maximum. If your boundary stops at a wall at times you’re going to be right up against it.

Eye of the Temple isn’t hectic in any way, encouraging you to take your time and explore. All those extra pathways offer secrets to discover which is exactly what you’d expect when exploring a lava-filled temple of death. No difficulty option is available, surprisingly though some accessibility options are, like being able to change the duck height or the whip hand if you’re left-handed. Best of all though is the auto-saving which seems to happen at every block. So there’s no trudging through swathes of a level if the worse happens.  

This October features some really big VR releases and sandwiched in between them all is this nugget of indie inventiveness. Eye of the Temple feels like it goes back to VR’s roots in a way, the gameplay is simple but very effective, always keeping you thinking and on your toes. The whole experience achieves that one sort after quality in VR, immersion, where you become so focused on what you’re doing it’s easy to forget that the temple is actually your living room. Just be careful not to topple over, that can happen!   

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