Tentacular is a fun throwback to early VR
Do you remember the first time you tried VR? How will even the simplest things shock you – just because they actually work? Have you ever thought back and wondered how you can capture the magic you first felt when putting on this helmet? Sprawling is a game that resembles those experiences, both to its advantage and its detriment.
As the name suggests, this game is about tentacles. You play as a huge octopus creature after its 16th birthday. In doing so, you must get out there, find a job, and become an asset to your town – a town full of tiny humans. think somewhere in between ghost giant and work simulator and you have a pretty good description of what you’re going to do. There’s a bit more story and atmosphere than the latter and way too much clunkyness for the former.
You are first greeted by your little human sister and she is your anchor in the story. After each hard day, you come back and tell him about your life. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable experience to go from throwing containers and solving problems to sitting at sea, listening to your sister talk about her life. It’s desperately needed to stop Sprawling feeling too much of a note.
Sprawling is divided into set levels where you are tasked with completing the objectives. You are thrown from job to job – tasked with helping the city and understanding your own history. Levels are basically small dioramas, all with tiny moving parts. You can swim in the ocean, move around houses and monuments to replenish your task. When you’re not solving a puzzle, you’re told right away what to do – fight your own gigantic tentacles. You feel awkward and uncoordinated, often reminding me of things like QWOP. Despite this, Sprawling doesn’t feel too frustrating.
If you grab with the tips of your tentacles, you can guarantee extra accuracy at the expense of your grip strength. This means that you should use the widest parts of your arm to move the heaviest objects. It takes some getting used to, but it feels pretty natural when you’re in the thick of it. Sprawling does a good job of slowly increasing the difficulty of your tasks. Where it initially tasks you with simply moving containers or grabbing objects, it eventually evolves into building you complex structures with sticky balls or creating a makeshift slingshot with pylons and a bit of creativity.
There is a subtle intelligence in the design of Sprawling it really shows in the optional playground. Here you can create your own designs and fill the small area with pedestrians, cars and more. As you grow through the game, more items are unlocked, until you have the ability to build your own village or sculpture. New jobs give you more materials and these materials can be used in the playground, making Sprawling the development seems very natural.
Sprawling is much more cinematic than I expected, balancing story elements with real gameplay. It’s more tender scenes where you crank a crank while turning your lights back on or just watch someone talk, but it gives you a rewarding respite from everything else.
Sprawling does a great job of making you feel like a huge clumsy octopus, but it has real charm underneath it all. All humans speak a language I don’t understand but bubbles appear above them, translating everything. In a way, it’s a great way to see the world through the eyes of our main character. Although they live in a different world from yours, we can still understand each other. There is something quite sympathetic in these moments.
A little rough around the edges
Not everything is easy Sprawling corn. Some mission objectives are a bit inconsistent – requiring a reboot to get going again. It’s not a big deal, but it definitely disrupts the flow of the game. On top of that, while the jobs are fun – Sprawling could do a little more to shake it up.
The way the mechanics fit together is great, but it feels a bit sluggish at times and can get even weirder with everything. Finally, while grabbing things was fine – the game sometimes broke its own physics, causing things to fly wildly through the air or move into structures. None of these are revolutionary, but they cut the charm that Sprawling is just full of.
Ultimately, Sprawling is a game that I can’t wait to see grow. It has tons of charm and gameplay varied enough to keep it interesting, but small pacing issues and glitches leave it incomplete. The potential it holds to really capture those great feelings of the early days of VR is definitely there, but I don’t know if it has the ability to stick around just yet.
TechRaptor preview Sprawling on Meta Quest 2 with code provided by the publisher. The game does not have a release date at this time.