From the studio that created Dark Souls, a twisted Gothic action RPG so infamously challenging that it’s become gaming shorthand for punishing difficulty, comes Deracine, a ponderous virtual reality puzzler set in a Victorian boarding school, in which you take on the role of a mischievous fairy playing tricks on the residents.
Headset on, you float around the oak-panelled corridors and sun-dappled gardens of the school like an invisible caretaker. Time is frozen, the students each suspended in animation during their various activities: attempting to break into the music room, cooking a stew or just milling about the place.
Each static scene is a still life, an intricate diorama in which you use the PlayStation Move controllers to paw at and interact with objects. The puzzles are simple enough, but the canvas is sprawling. With the school building occupying several floors it’s easy, though not frustrating, to become lost. Solve a puzzle and you clasp your virtual hands together on a stopwatch, to be catapulted forwards or backwards in time, to see the outcome of your mystical meddling, and to do some more.
The PSVR adds a sense of space and magical physicality to what would otherwise be a rudimentary problem-solving game. The students cannot see you, but sense that you might be there, sometimes leaning towards you to whisper requests or reveal secrets. It’s uncanny and, even though you are the ghost in the situation, a little creepy, like an ASMR video.
And despite the shift in setting away from the corrupted horrorscapes of the Dark Souls games, there is still a familiar sense of foreboding as the story progresses and its intentions become less shrouded. FromSoftware’s talent for adding detail where it’s needed is evident in every last key, button and floorboard. And boarding schools don’t need too much help to seem sinister, especially at night.
A light but disquieting puzzler, Deracine is made more captivating by PSVR.