Secret Location is unveiling Transpose, a dream-like, gravity defying virtual reality game where you manipulate time back and forth to solve puzzles. The game is set in a surreal world with computer graphics inspired art style.
I tried out the game in a preview recently, and it was interesting to see VR progress from the more obvious games, like shooters, to something more cerebral like a puzzle game, where you have to look at something from different perspectives before you can solve it. It’s part of Toronto-based Secret Location’s plan to become an independent voice in the emerging market of virtual reality.
Last week, Secret Location also announced it was making The Great C, a VR movie based on Philip K. Dick’s short story of the same name. It is doing so with the support of the Canadian Media Fund and the Ontario Media Development Corporation. Secret Location was founded in 2009 as a services company. Four years ago, it moved to doing more of its own projects. Entertainment One, which has a movie library valued at $1.7 billion, acquired the company in 2016. Secret Location won a Primetime Emmy Award for a VR project called Sleepy Hollow Virtual Reality Experience. Secret Location also created the Vusr suite of VR tools.
But Transpose is the company’s first stab at an original title in VR, with its own original story. The company created the story and gameplay where you can shift perspectives and get a better vantage point to solve a puzzle — something not so easily done in other media. Your goal is to power up an ancient machine and to use the three dimensions of virtual reality to access the fourth dimension, time. The art style was darker, colorful, and geometrical. It reminded me vaguely of Tron.
“You get a little taste of what that larger story is with this preview,” said Ryan Andal, president and cofounder of Secret Location, in an interview with GamesBeat. “That spark of curiosity is what we are teeing up here.”
The game challenges players to solve physics puzzles as they explore the sci-fi world. In Transpose, players are may manipulate time, enabling them to create multiple, overlapping versions of themselves, to solve puzzles which become increasingly complex as they play. Players record and layer these past “echoes” of themselves to traverse incredible paths and collaborate across time. Those echoes become useful in creating enough instances of yourself to solve puzzles.
You can create loops of yourself and play them back. The game can do this because it does real-time motion capture of your character, recording every movement you make. You can see a move right after you make it by playing it back. I played the game while sitting down, and I walked around in the world teleport style. I grabbed objects in space with my VR hand controls. I picked up a box and pushed it into a slot to open a gate, making the physical motions as I did so.
That’s a very interesting feature, and it matches the themes of life and death, reincarnation, the expansion and contraction of the universe in the Big Bang. You’re the catalyst to make things happen on a cosmic level in this world, and that’s part of the story.
“VR is all about wonder, and we wanted to encapsulate that in a game that extends our perception of what’s possible in VR through a lengthy and fully-realized experience,” said Andal. “Transpose’s heavy surrealism is our attempt to, literally and figuratively, completely turn you on your head and transport you into a warped reality you’d never be able to experience otherwise – this is when VR is at its best.”
Players must collect and sacrifice energy as they progress through more than 30 levels, powering up a mysterious ancient machine as they advance. The game has three unique worlds.
Player-created time loops are used to record and coordinate multiple echoes of the player to solve increasingly difficult puzzles. Players can rotate the environment around them to walk on walls and ceilings, and to view environments from different perspectives. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re in M.C. Escher’s Relativity painting.
The game will go on sale in the fall of 2018 for $20. It has about eight hours of gameplay, and it embraces multiple locomotion and comfort options, including both standing and seated play. It will be localized in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Japanese, Simplified Chinese, and Korean. It will debut on the PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Steam, and the Humble Store.
That’s pretty broad distribution for a VR title, and it shows you that Secret Location is serious about getting it in front of audiences.
In room-scale VR, players will use their spatial problem-solving skills to manipulate their past actions and the environment with VR’s motion tracking capabilities by recoding players’ movements and playing them back in real time.