Developer Owlchemy Labs quickly found a winning formula with its virtual reality titles, most notably Job Simulator. It’s widely regarded as one of the medium’s early successes, giving the player lots of things to interact with and entertaining spaces in which to play. You can feel that same core running through Cosmonious High, a PSVR2 launch game that emphasises free-flowing fun.
You play as a new arrival at the titular school, an intergalactic institution for aliens of all shapes and sizes. As a Prismi, you’re capable of adapting to your surroundings, developing new abilities on the fly in reaction to certain situations. For example, upon arrival at Cosmonious High, the bus crashes into the side of the school, causing a large fire. Your first ability, then? You can now shoot water from your hands.
There are many abilities like this to unlock as you make your way through the adventure. The game’s structure is non-linear, and it actively encourages you to explore the school without any real guidance. You’re often given a gentle push towards classrooms, which are largely where the meat of the game takes place and often where you’ll discover new Prismi powers. However, you can go at your own pace, and are never punished for playing hooky.
The overall effect is that the game becomes a sort of soft Metroidvania; unlocking new abilities gives you more ways to interact with your surroundings, and thus discover new parts of the school that were previously sealed off. While Cosmonious High isn’t particularly long, there’s a nice sense of progression as you find new characters, various collectibles, and toys to mess around with.
Another measure of progression is in earning Credits. You can take on certain assignments within classes, and these reward you with Credits, basically just a mark that you’ve achieved something. There are loads of optional Credits to find peppered across the school, too. Small displays will show you what’s required, and you simply need to find or make the necessary objects. They’re all pretty simple, which is good, because you’ll need a certain number of Credits to reach some areas.
It’s also worth chatting with your classmates and teachers, as they’ll sometimes have additional quests to take on. As with all interactions in the game, conversing with characters is pretty novel; you simply wave at someone and they’ll start talking with you, and then you can reach up to your mouth and pull out a speech bubble, with a few topics you can select. It’s a great touch.
Again, that sort of design is everywhere. The powers come into play here; you’ll be able to cast gusts of wind, grow and shrink objects, grab things from far away, and more. Importantly, all of them are fun and intuitive to use, and your environment reacts how you would expect. You can put out fires with your water jets, for example, or pull open large hatches to discover new places. It’s all pretty neat.
They’re shown off nicely in classes, which are space-themed variations on normal subjects. Chemosophy lets you experiment with unusual chemicals, combining them to make fun new materials. Visualetics is an art room in which you can create pictures using stamps and more. Astralgebra is all about planets, and is set inside a self-contained zero-gravity zone. Each has a few interesting ideas and, of course, plenty to toy with at your leisure.
Great use is made of the PSVR2 Sense Controllers — you grab objects with L1 and R1 and let go of them to, well, let go, which feels pretty natural once you get used to it. You use your powers by pressing either X or Square, and if you make a fist, it’ll change how the power behaves. For example, you can either blow ice or form an ice ball that affects a large area. Changing your power is a case of touching the crystals on the back of your hands and choosing the one you want.
The whole game is delivered with a chilled out attitude, despite the school clearly going through some sort of malfunction and falling apart around you. It’s quietly comical, with a tone that puts us in mind of Saturday morning cartoons. That’s matched by the visual style, which is incredibly colourful and stylised, again, in a cartoonish way that looks great.
You get around by teleporting, a common mode of movement in VR, and it uses snap turning if you don’t want to physically turn on the spot. These navigation methods are perfectly comfortable and we suffered no sickness at all, but we were surprised to find a lack of options. You can’t choose smooth locomotion or turning, and there’s no “sticky” option for grabbing items, either. It’s not the end of the world, but we expected a bit more flexibility in this department.
Having said that, we ought to mention the Small Student Mode, which you can toggle on to increase the height of the player character. This is ideal for children (and this is absolutely an all-ages game), but we ended up using it to play sitting down. Strangely, the game doesn’t adjust for this; booting the game up sat down, you’ll spawn in far too short to play normally. It’s clear you’re meant to play standing, despite sitting being advertised as an option.
In better news, the tracking is excellent on both the controllers and the headset, as is the haptic feedback. We even appreciated the foveated rendering here, which puts things you’re looking at into sharp focus — great for reading in-game books and other text.
Cosmonious High is a candy-coloured treat for players of all ages. Developer Owlchemy Labs has applied its low pressure sandbox experience to a madcap school full of things to see and do, and there’s some great VR design on display. The powers at your disposal are fun to use, while classes offer up some varied tasks that make the most of Sony’s new hardware. While some more comfort options would’ve been nice and playing sat down isn’t really an option, the game’s relaxed tone and variety of gameplay makes it worth enrolling.