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PSVR is slowly gaining a really noteworthy library of games.Credit: Sony

It’s Black Friday week, so if you’re a PlayStation fan, you might have your eye on that sweet Spider-Man PS4 bundle. If you already have a PS4, then you may be looking to finally pick up the amazing God of War, or the now classic Uncharted 4, or Horizon Zero Dawn, or even the dramatically cinematic Detroit: Become Human. Maybe multi-platform is more your style, so perhaps GOTY contender Red Dead Redemption 2 is on your radar, or perhaps you’re just wanting a truck-load of Fortnite V-bucks so you can buy all those sweet skins.

What if I told you that PSVR should be on your shopping list, along with a copy of a little game called Astro Bot Rescue Mission? As it turns out, the game currently has a bundle of its own–packaged with a headset, a camera and the equally breathtaking Mosson sale now at GameStop for a reasonable $199.99. If you’ve never tried PSVR, or you’re simply curious about the best of what the system has to offer, you might want to consider grabbing one of those bundles. But what does Astro Bot have to do with it, and is it really that good?

ASTRO BOT Rescue MissionCredit: Mitch Wallace/Sony

Since its quiet release last month, I’ve been hearing great things about Sony Japan’s 3D platforming VR tour-de-force. A quick look at Metacritic reveals the unassuming killer app resting well above a whole slew of recent releases (*cough* Fallout 76 *cough*), with a score of 90 from critics and an 89 from users. Not bad, Rescue Mission. Not bad at all. But after playing it for a few days now, after exploring much of what the game has to offer, does it live up to the lofty hype? I’d say so. I’d even say it exceeds it. Which makes it a damn shame that it seems like nobody knows about it.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission has been accurately compared to some of the best 3D Super Mario titles, and from the minute you drop into the first level, it’s really easy to see why. And it’s not a bad thing that the game wears both its structural and gameplay inspirations on its sleeve, because at the end of the day, the team over at Sony Japan has taken influence from what Nintendo does best and created something unique to PlayStation. Good artists copy, great artists steal and all that.

ASTRO BOT Rescue MissionCredit: Mitch Wallace/Sony

You’ve got your largely linear levels, which are actually more akin to something like Crash Bandicoot or Super Magnetic Neo than Super Mario 64. The whole setup is probably closer to Super Mario 3D World. Then you’ve got your coins, which you collect throughout the beautiful stages to spend later on a cool redemption crane game, in which you earn pieces of miniature 3D playsets to run around in at your leisure. And since this is an official rescue mission, there are plenty of wayward Astro Bots, eight of them per level that you need to find and save. This creates some nice replayability, since some of these little guys are really well hidden.

Speaking of hidden things, one of the aspects this game does best is force you to look all around while playing, and I’m talking all around–360 degrees. There will be times when you need to crouch over to look inside caves, gaze up at perilous walkways as your hero tightrope-walks across dangerous chasms, watch your robot friend zip through an awesome roller coaster track from afar, and then other times when you’ll hear the cries of a sad lost bot stuck somewhere behind you and thus need to turn around completely to find it. Like the brilliant Moss before it, Rescue Mission plops players down into believable fantasy worlds, fills its landscapes with whimsical characters and devilish traps, and most importantly of all, shows you the true potential of virtual reality via bespoke experiences.

ASTRO BOT Rescue MissionCredit: Mitch Wallace/Sony

Whether it was head-butting a virtual soccer ball and smashing obstacles with my actual head, launching ninja stars with the touchpad into spiderwebs to beat a boss, watching ocean water flood my headset, having a giant bee smash the glass of my viewfinder as I literally dodged its projectiles, yanking out a giant ape’s tooth with actual pulling motion, or my absolute favorite, blowing the seeds off a towering dandelion–I just kept uttering the same phrase: Wow, this is so much fun! Every little moment in Astro Bot Rescue Mission felt like a small, virtual, hand-crafted gift. It also felt like I was playing through the last segment on Nick Arcade, you know, the one where every kid always messed up. Yeah, that kind of thing, only happier.

To be fair, I’ve been hard on PSVR in the past (I think rightly so), and if you’re interested in why those opinions have been harsh, feel free to explore some of my past articles. But between this little masterpiece and Moss, I’ve really been coming around not only to PSVR, but VR in general. It still strains my eyes. It can still occasionally make me motion sick, especially if there’s independent camera movement within a particular game, though that’s slowly getting better. It still isn’t how I’d like to play most of my video games. But I think for special experiences like this one, there really is no other way to go about it. Sure, you could rework this game to be a standard 3D platformer, but it just wouldn’t be the same.

ASTRO BOT Rescue MissionCredit: Mitch Wallace/Sony

As is always the case this time of year, there’s a flood of exciting titles to play, and it’s not like they’re going to stop releasing, either. So if you already own PSVR and are looking for a game that will really dust off the cobwebs, look no further. And if you’re thinking about taking the PSVR plunge, there’s truly no better way to start out.

Disclosure: Sony provided review product for coverage purposes.

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