I’ve never been so entranced by my own reflection. To be fair, it’s not actually my reflection, but that of Wilson, an unlucky old man with a wild imagination. He looks tired: bags beneath the eyes, blotchy arms, and wrinkled, well-worn hands. I’m not that old or that tired, but as Wilson moans and mutters to himself as I pull the small plungers off his temples, I don’t exactly feel like a golden boy videogame protagonist. Wilson’s at the end of his rope. Let’s see where it goes.
Twisted Pixel, a developer I nearly forgot about since ‘Splosion Man and The Maw, have nearly nailed it with Wilson’s Heart (opens in new tab), a hokey psychological horror game where you play a man who wakes up in an old hospital with no memory of how he got there.
Wilson’s Heart doesn’t avoid feeling like a showpiece for VR, a light pull this and push that puzzler at every opportunity, but it paints over its deep bag of tricks with some of the best production I’ve seen in a VR game. Featuring excellent voicework from big names like Peter Weller and Rosario Dawson, a dreamy black and white aesthetic that recalls The Twilight Zone, and an increasingly weird story, Wilson’s Heart is a must-play for anyone with an Oculus Rift and Touch controllers.
As Wilson, you teleport between predetermined points where you can inevitably interact with something, be it a key with a keyhole, a cigarette vending machine, or a comic book—and yeah, you can read the whole thing, hamstrung a bit by the Oculus Rift’s limited resolution.
It would all feel gimmicky if the interactions weren’t so natural. To light a furnace, I first turned on the gas, found a matchbox and tipped it to slide it open. With my other hand, I pinched out a matchstick and slid it against the side of the box, igniting it. Nothing has ever felt more like my own, personal Diehard. I flicked that shit into the furnace with a finesse I’ve never felt before.
Doing so exposed some shadow creatures to the light, dissolving them instantly. They shrieked and so did I as I poured kerosene over a few old mattresses on a push cart, lit them, and pushed them into another crowd of shadow monsters.
Wilson’s Heart strings together all sorts of fun, physical sequences like this, from beating the stuffing out of evil teddy bears to bashing a vending machine with an hulking trophy. You’re still just pushing and pulling and throwing throughout, but what you pull, push, or throw and why is different almost every time.
As you work your way through the hospital, you’ll find pages of a dead doctor’s journal which unlock new abilities for your heart. And yeah, you just grab that sucker and pull it out of your chest to use it. One ability turns the heart into a power source, imbuing otherwise busted lamps and bulbs with intense light. There’s a creature in the game that really hates the stuff. Another turns your heart into a magic ball boomerang. Throw it and then point where you’d like it to go on it’s arc. Fail to catch it on the return trip and you’ll get winded, leaving you open to attack.
You won’t need to worry about plucking out your heart to throw at monsters: most use cases for the heart abilities are situational. If you need to turn on a light, it’ll make noise. If monsters are coming at you in waves, you bet you can throw that thing. Otherwise, scrape at your chest all you like. Your heart is staying put.
Despite such relentless variety, Wilson’s Heart suffers from its lack of focus. The scares oscillate between laughable and insidious—guess which camp punching an evil teddy bear lands in. The most bored I’ve been is during the narrative scenes featuring a recurring cast of characters, some of which go on far too long as they muse over a simple point in five-minute chunks. All I could do was stand there as they talked at me, which is annoying enough in real life. Nothing has ever felt more like sitting through church as a kid, unable to move with only my hands as entertainment.
Besides being long-winded at times, the story is also all over the damn place. One moment I’m getting attacked by a dead soldier and the next I’m tossing a microwave into the maw of a tentacled tub monster, and I have no idea why. Sometimes these scenarios feel built around demonstrating the capabilities of Oculus Touch rather than building toward a satisfying end for Wilson. But it might all make sense in the end, and I’m enjoying feeling as discombobulated as Wilson is, for now. It’s still one of the most fully formed Oculus-exclusive games I’ve played besides Chronos, and for anyone waiting on VR libraries to fill out, Wilson’s Heart is a rich one to start with.