Kayak VR: Mirage (Sniper)
Format: PSVR2
Genre: Sports
Developer: Better Than Life
Publisher: Better Than Life

PSVR2 owners who were justifiably impressed with pack-in title "Horizon Call of the Mountain" ought to check this release out, because it debatably is even better looking! This game is certainly higher resolution, even if trees and foliage can look a bit muddy at times. Lighting is pre-baked for preset times of day, but seeing the sun or moon shine off the water, or the incredible reflections on the game's inflatable toy objects, is mind boggling. The texture resolution is great, and jaws drop right from the title screen as the player is placed, with his kayak, into a super immersive indoor pool scene.

If the graphics are amazing, the sound is not so much. It's true that the wave splashing sounds superb, and incidental sounds like the paddle hitting a rock or the craft itself are fine-- but the music is a real hodge-podge between some weird hipster indie stuff, some Hollywood-esque items with wailing women, and even a generic "metal" instrumental piece during the storm races. All-in-all, it's more of the same from modern gaming, where music theory and compositional quality take a back seat to attempts at creating "epic-ness", whatever that means.

The in-game kayak is maneuvered just like one in real life, and-- as this reviewer is told-- the physics are quite realistic. The unique movement required to row the craft on either side with the paddles attached by a single bar has quite the learning curve, and feels a bit like wrestling with a bear. There are four areas in the title, which are somewhat open, but also fairly constrained. Within those zones there is a race mode, where the player needs to steer the craft against AI-controlled opponents through a series of gates-- and a "free roam" mode, which is quite boring considering how slow the vessel moves in the grand scheme of things.

In its brightest, most optimistic moments Kayak VR: Mirage feels a bit like a new "Wave Race", except with the cool added nuance that the player requires the skill to row his own way. But more often than that, the game tends to bog down and a yearning for a petrol-powered jet ski and a "hold a button to go really fast" urge becomes overwhelming. At its low price, especially when on sale, this is a great game-- the best, perhaps?-- to show off the PSVR2's graphical capabilities. But the core mechanics themselves require maybe a bit too much patience for anyone but kayak and nature enthusiasts.

Sniper's verdict: