Launching in just a month’s time, Weeping Doll is a PlayStation VR game whose release is coming up thick and fast. Set in a creepy mansion filled with glassy-eyed dolls, the game pops you in the feet of a young woman exploring a series of puzzle-like rooms looking for ways to progress. My biggest question right now about the game is does the interface and control scheme work well enough to keep it enjoyable throughout?
Weeping Doll is a PSVR game controlled using your DualShock 4 controller, rather than the Move motion controllers most advertising for the headset centres around. You move around the house by moving a ghostly figure of a body with the left analogue stick into position as you would in any third person game, then pressing the X button to snap yourself and teleport to the spot your ghostly avatar was in. From there, you look around in first person witgh the headset, snapping your view 45 degrees at a time with the right stick if you want to avoid physically turning in circles, and interact with the world using the left and right triggers in place of your hands.
While losing the use of the Move controllers for your hands does feel like somewhat of a step backwards for intuitive interactions with a 3D world for those used to motion controlled VR, the system of projecting a ghostly avatar into the world then jumping to its position does a great job of reducing the effect of motion sickness. In a pretty short time I found myself leaping across rooms in a near sprinting fashion, snapping my view as I turned corners, and was able to race after creepy figures running down corridors without delay. Picking a position and jumping around a world reduces the lack of dissonance felt by your body as it expects physical movement sensation, and makes a 3D exploratory narrative much more easily binge-played.
A good sign of my immersion in Weeping Dolls? After a 15 minute demo I took the headset off and unwittingly found myself facing almost exactly the opposite direction to where I began. I had not noticed at all.
Weeping Doll’s core gameplay boils down to a series of initially simple room escape puzzles linked by the appearance of being a cohesive mansion. Individual rooms might have items which need combining and placing on pedestals, doors which need unlocking, keys hidden or codes written onto photographs. The idea is that each room contains a number of intractable but useless items available, with the player left to explore a confined space looking for ways to progress. In most of the early rooms this came down to finding a key through luck and trying it on things until it worked, but it did force a slow and thoughtful exploration of an interestingly built, relatively small environment.
When Weeping Dolls tries to be creepy, it does so fairly effectively. Forcing players to drain a bathtub knowing there’s a shadowy shape under the water or race after a figure knowing it could turn around and attack past any corner built an effective level of tension. My experience with the game did not include any jump scares, but did gently ramp up my level of tension so that I was on edge expecting a scary pay off.
While some aspects of the game’s presentation, like menus and inventory management, felt a little cheaply made, the overall control scheme used here complimented the game’s themes and reduced the motion sickness which has plagued a number of the more intense PSVR experiences I have tried. Weeping Doll is certainly worth keeping an eye on if you like the idea of room escape puzzles in a creepy mansion next month.