Credit: Photo by Wolf & Wood Interactive Ltd. via Steam. No copyright infringement intended. No changes were made to the image.
Already notorious for making up to 70% of users feel motion sickness—also called “cybersickness”—VR consoles aren’t exactly the best match for some of today’s more prolific first-person shooter (FPS) titles. Typically full of big explosions and sudden movements, most FPS games in VR offer a jarring experience that is anything but immersive.
On the flipside, horror games, especially those that aren’t afraid of a slow burn, are almost a natural match for VR. Usually, horror game players can take refuge in the distance between them and their screens. Within the realm of VR, though, players are placed right in the unsettling circumstances of the setting. Of all the VR-compatible horror games on the market, one which has continued to stand out is A Chair in a Room: Greenwater.
When Fear Becomes Personal
Originally released in 2016, A Chair in a Room: Greenwater is a psychological horror game from indie developers Wolf & Wood. Set in the Deep South, players navigate a nondescript asylum patient. The game begins with you inside the Greenwater mental institute being asked a series of psychological questions by an unknown individual. From this opening, the game makes it clear that you’re being watched and you’re very much alone.
As you go further along, A Chair in a Room unfurls its storyline of familial trauma and abuse through non-linear flashbacks. This serves to underscore how unreliable your character’s memory is but also to keep you invested. If the backstory were told more upfront, players would have less reason to interact with their surroundings. Instead, every random flashback forces you to look at posters, walk through dark rooms, flip through journals, and open drawers (even if you’re too afraid to). Thankfully, Wolf & Wood is able to prevent this from getting too tedious or too frightening. The detail and story themselves pull you in before you even realize it, and that keeps you invested.
The loneliness and fear your character undergoes transfers to you given that you’re literally walking in his shoes. Peppered with tasks that involve answering questions and solving puzzles, this title will have you working your mind through every heart-pumping setting. Neatly packaged within a 4-hour campaign, A Chair in a Room is effective because it doesn’t just scare you. It also gets under your skin.
A Humble VR Accomplishment
On a more technical note, there are a few minor issues with A Chair in a Room. Primarily, there are occasions when colliding with items can cause them to fly away or there’s difficulty picking things up. This can take away the immersion you’re going for.
Aside from this, the indie game isn’t the highest resolution. But this is understandable given it’s also on the PSVR and that it was fully created by a one-man team.
In terms of working with the console, Wolf & Wood succeeded where many other titles did not. A Chair in a Room leverages the immersive technology that VR consoles inarguably provide best. Because newer VR consoles have advanced PCB designs, they have good signal integrity. This ensures that there is little to zero latency so that whatever happens in this nuanced game, it can be experienced in real-time, too.
What’s more, because a Chair in a Room utilized room-scale tech, the game can successfully adapt to your physical playing space. This adds another layer of effective immersion since it lets you move around as you would want your player to. Those playing with controllers powered with dynamic sensors are in for an even more spine-tingling experience. With finger-tracking capabilities, these controllers let you interact without the need for buttons—much like you would in real life.
Overall, it’s obvious that A Chair in a Room works best because it was designed with VR as a primary platform and not an afterthought. Regardless if you’re a VR newbie or veteran, A Chair in a Room: Greenwater is a solid game to dive into. A game that can prove VR naysayers wrong, this indie title proves that often mindful execution and a simple but well-crafted story are all you need to make a successful impact.