Developer / Publisher – Top Right Corner / TRC DMI
Price – US $14.99 / CAN $17.49 / EU €14.99 / UK £12.99 / AU $19.95
Release Date – April 13th, 2022
Input – 2 x Tracked Motion Controllers
Play Area – Seated, Standing, Roomscale
Store – Oculus, Steam
Reviewed on – Quest 2, Quest 2 w/ Link
Let’s set the stage shall we. The year is 1951 and you are the new floor manager at a luxurious Los Angeles theatre, The Atlas, that suffered tragedy a few years before your arrival. In this puzzle game, you’ll have to navigate not just the theatre, but it’s sordid history and unravel the events that led to the previous owner’s demise.
An opening tutorial breaks down the basics of movement and interaction with options for blinders and smooth or teleport locomotion so anyone of any comfort level should be able to play this without issue. In the first room, you’ll be walked through a few simple puzzles and be introduced to your backpack, which can be grabbed off your shoulders and can store any items you will need for current and even future obstacles. After that, it’s as simple as taking in your surroundings and paying attention to where you need to go. The Atlas is broken into escape room type sections and to unlock the next “room”, you’ll have to solve a few puzzles in the current room 1st. I say “room” because sometimes the only barrier between you and the next area may be a simple lock so as you solve each conundrum, more of the theater becomes available, though back-tracking is almost never needed if you pay attention. Throughout the Atlas are notes and news papers that shed light on the details of the past, filling in the story to it’s rather dramatic and surreal conclusion. The puzzles you face come in a wide variety from stock light reflecting and circuit puzzles to more unique ones that involve interactions that really could only happen in a theatre like making a food order or even restoring some old film. What is great is that each puzzle never repeats so even if I didn’t care for one, it was a one-time deal and by design, I never knew what type of obstacle I was going to encounter next making each discovery a delight as I tried to decipher its solution. A few puzzles held me up for a little bit, but even with those mental lapses, I still managed to beat the game in around 3 hours, which I thought was perfectly paced, as by the time I was getting a little worn by the puzzles, the game concluded quite nicely.
Whether you play the PC or Quest (App Lab) version, the game looks and plays nearly identically save for a few moments on the Quest version when the frame rate seemed to stutter, though these moments were few and seemed to only happen while using the smooth turn option. I’m not going to say the game looks great as it was clearly designed for the mobile platform with some reduced and flat looking textures, but it doesn’t look bad by any stretch with the theatre looking and feeling authentic enough for the time period. Where the walls and floors look generic, they are made up for by the posters and memorabilia scattered around theatre that really added to the retro feel and had me feeling like I had travelled back in time for this little mystery. There are some light physics at play though this is largely superfluous as only one puzzle, the ball maze, utilizes those physics but when I did notice something had a bit of weight to it (like a sledgehammer) it added to the immersion. Mostly static lighting effects are at play here bathing each room in ambient light with some areas being quite dark, adding to the spookiness and that feeling that I was very much alone in this creepy, Resident Evil style building.
Accompanying the presentation is a wonderful orchestral throwback soundtrack that sounds top quality with violin infused tunes that really set the mood as I tried to navigate the theatre. As events unfold, the music may turn a little more happy or suspenseful and I not only noticed when the beats changed up, but greatly appreciated just how much they added to the overall atmosphere of the entire game. Other than that, are sound effects that are on point with items all sounding as they should when they interact with each other. There is no voice work, with the entire plot being told by the notes found throughout the building and the revelations that unfold in the latter half of the story.
For those that enjoy games like Red Matter or A Fisherman’s Tale, The Atlas Mystery fits right in line with those game types offering up some very clever puzzles in a relatively unique setting. As is typical of the genre, I did get held up once or twice, but that was largely due to me not fully exploring the areas I was in, and missing key items needed to get me out of my current predicament. The game has an auto-save system which worked flawlessly during my play time with my only real issue being some of the collision detection between items and my hands. On many occasions my hands got stuck on something nearby causing me to waggle it free and never once did that break game, but it happened frequently enough to annoy me. In the main lobby are a bunch of mini-games like a western shooter arcade game and a whack-a-mole game that worked, but the machines weren’t actually on, and it would have been great to have these as active mini-games that tracked personal scores. I know that’s not what this game is about, but their uselessness stood out to me, nonetheless.
The Atlas Mystery is a budget puzzler with fair bit of charm and a decent little story. Minus only a few puzzles, the ones in here are unique which is something I always appreciate, and many are thematically linked to the theatre making them feel authentic for the setting. If you love VR puzzlers, The Atlas Mystery won’t blow you away, but it’s not one to miss either and offers up a very satisfying VR puzzle solving experience.
What would I pay? This is $15 US which is a great price for what’s on offer here. The puzzles are as challenging as they are rewarding, and the story is a fun one despite the fact you’ll have to read through a lot of notes to fully realize it.
Top Right Corner provided The VR Grid with a review code for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!