Developer / Publisher – Flat Head Studio
Price – US $19.99 / CAN $22.99 / EU €19.99 / UK £17.99
Release Date – June 01, 2023
Input – 2 x Touch Controllers
Play Area – Seated, Standing, Roomscale
Store Links – Meta, Steam
Reviewed on – Meta Quest 2
This is We Are One, the latest entry in the Clone-like genre where you must mess with time to work with versions of yourself while fending off hordes of robots in over 50 different stages. With almost every entry in this VR exclusive genre being a game I highly recommend (like Transpose, Maskmaker & The Last Clockwinder) the bar is set high as each new clone-like title so far has delivered something unique that made it an absolute joy to play through…so on that note, let’s see if this is yet another new layer to this genre or the first misstep.
As I said, I love playing with myself, or rather with clones of myself and thus the clone-like genre has become one of my favorites as not only could it just not be done properly out of VR, but it’s arguably one the best new genres to be born out of it. In We Are One, Mother Nature’s forests are under attack from machine hordes and it’s up to you, as her underling to fight against these mechanical monsters by jumping from plant to plant and working in sync with yourself by using the weapons around you to ensure that all the enemies are destroyed before you can move on. What starts of fairly simple soon becomes quite challenging as new abilities and obstacles are introduced, forcing you to fight against time to not only advance, but climb those online leaderboards.
The first few stages act as a tutorial explaining how you hop from seedling to seedling as you view each puzzle from the vantage point of Mother Nature’s giant hand. Once you hop into a seedling, the flow of time begins and whatever actions you make before hopping out of that seedling will be recorded though you can only rewrite the motions of the last seedling you inhabited. You’ll start off learning how to arm your guns and pass weapons to yourself by tossing them in the direction of the next seedling. Hopping into that next seedling will have watching your actions in the 1st one while waiting and recording new actions typically reliant on the first’s movements. The more seedlings available to you, the more complex the puzzle and the more obstacles you’ll have to contend with including blocked sight lines, seedlings you can’t control, surfaces to ricochet your seed bullets off of, ones that mimic your actions and many more challenges that make for yet another fantastic puzzler.
This is a stationary experience and I do recommend turning in the real world if you are looking for those top scores though there is the option for smooth or click-turning should you want to use that instead though options for blinders while using this locomotion are absent and I think should be included to ensure that everyone can enjoy this without issue. Additionally, there is a height offset slider which works great for seated play as well as a competitive mode which turns off narration and story to let you tackle the puzzles with less distractions. With over 50 stages to unravel, I’m guessing most will take somewhere in the 3-hour range to get through them all with the latter half really slowing me in my tracks thanks to the complexity of each stage and while the final solution to each puzzle may only take a few seconds, figuring out the proper combination of moves to get there will take much longer.
Unsurprisingly, I pretty much fell in love with We Are One almost instantly as pretty much everything in here is refined to near perfection minus one thing, and that is throwing, an issue that has plagued VR games for the last 7 years. Don’t get me wrong, the throwing in here isn’t busted, but it’s just finicky enough to cause a few failed attempts though outside of that, my only frustrations were with the puzzles as when the solution eluded me, it was a bit maddening. Thankfully, there is a hint system that gave me helpful advice when I did hit those walls and never did the puzzles feel unfair, but it is one of those games where taking a break and coming back with fresh eyes was just as helpful as trying and failing again and again. The lack of locomotion might make this feel like a lesser quality clone-like than the others I listed earlier, but I can assure you that this is just as fun and rewarding as any other, sometimes even more so thanks to the complexity and cleverness of some of the situations you find yourself in.
Complimenting that clever game design is a wonderfully cartoonish art style that pops in the headset. I’ve said in more than few reviews that opting for this sort of cell-shaded art style lends itself well to VR and especially in less powerful stand-alone headsets. Everything in here looks sharp and it’s clear that a lot of care has gone into this smaller game by making it look anything but. Each stage is fairly small as most of your seedlings will be within throwing distance of each other with the encroaching foes also appearing nearby though the environments you play in look much larger. What initially starts off as a beautiful game full of various greenery soon turns into something a little more troubling as you travel deeper and deeper toward the origin of the machines. This doesn’t change just how good the game looks and each stage looks different than the last offering different settings from lush green forests to destroyed ones and stark industrial areas rife with larger machines like conveyor belts, excavators, rail cars and host more all painted with a drab color palette that really hammers home the destruction you are trying to fend off. Much of the game and nearby environments are rendered in 3D though further backgrounds are still and stylized simple images though I honestly never took offence to anything in here and while I have criticized other games for similar visual choices, in here, everything just works and looks great!
Audio wise, it’s a simple but effective package as each plant or machine elicits its own unique sound effects while a simple, melodic tune plays over most of the game. The star of the show has to be Mother Nature herself who does a bulk of the storytelling at the beginning and end of a level, lamenting your shortcomings when you fail and praising your successes with her delivery coming off and heartfelt and authentic. Spatial audio is in play here and works well though is underutilized through a bulk of the game thanks to the stage design and the fact that in most levels, the action is happening in front of you but when I did notice it, it was appreciated.
If it’s not clear up to this point, I have fallen in love with We Are One and while it may be lacking in narrative, it makes up for in cleverness and fun. While shooting guns is a key mechanic of the game, this is ultimately a puzzle game first and I think you should know that before diving in as it can get very hard. It might be the “smallest” clone-like I have played up to this point, but in no way does that take away from the fun I had here as it offers up new mechanics I have never had to contend with in a VR puzzler. If you are looking to play a unique puzzler that bends your brain while manipulating time and your own actions, I highly recommend this for the asking price as it’s not quite like any VR puzzler I have played up to this point.
Meta provide press codes for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!