Have you ever wanted to experience what it would feel like if you could explore a creepy old mansion full of steam-punk like devices as you lifted up objects with a Sonic Screwdriver? If so, then you’re in luck! Torn is a VR puzzle adventure game, from Aspyr, in which you must explore an abandoned mansion as you seek answers to what went on there many years before your arrival. Armed with only an anti-gravity device, which looks like a Sonic Screwdriver, you must solve a single puzzle many times in order to unlock new memories.
The question is, does the repetitive nature of the puzzles diminish my enjoyment of the overall game? I’m really ‘Torn‘ about how I feel…
The story of Torn is a rather intriguing one as you uncover new information at the same pace as our protagonist, Katherine Patterson. Katherine is a keen blogger who stumbles upon a fantastical mansion one day as she’s strolling around the forest. As she’s of a curious nature, and she wants a new story for her blog, she decides to investigate this strange building. After a series of unfortunate events, it’s uncovered that the mansion belongs to a Dr. Talbot, a genius in his field of intrusive psychic-medication, and his wife. Both the doctor and his wife vanished from the face of the Earth 64 years ago and nobody has stepped foot within this magnificent structure since.
Shortly into our exploration adventure, we meet with the elusive doctor. Well, we meet what’s left of him anyway. You see, the doctor has used his device he created and trapped himself within another dimension, free from his Earthly body, we get to talk to him as a floating blob of light. Realising that this is the story of a lifetime, Katherine agrees to help out the poor doctor in his attempt at returning to the real world and being once again reunited with his body.
So, Talbot presents Katherine with his Sonic Screwdriver (this is how I’ll be referring to it from now on) and teaches her how to solve the rather unique and interesting puzzles within the mansion. However, get used to this mechanic as it’s pretty much the main thing you’ll be doing for the next 24 puzzles over the next 5-7 hours.
Being a VR game, Torn utilises two move controllers only as its form of controls. However, there are various control options for you to adjust, which I thought was pretty good, to be honest. First, you have the movement options, you can blink, dash or freely move. Blink is basically teleporting, the screen goes black for a fraction of a second then you’ve moved, dash moves you with your eyes open – very quickly, and free-move lets you walk by holding the Move button and walk faster by holding the Move and Trigger buttons. The downside is, each movement style has a flaw that restricts you from moving around at a decent speed.
Blink and Dash have the same restriction/flaw – the teleportation arc is very limp. You can move about three feet in front of where you’re standing. this means it takes you about seven or eight teleports just to move from one end of the room to another. I get what the developers have done here, they have made it realistic and as if you’re moving one step at a time, but it just comes out cumbersome and long-winded. When using the free movement mode, holding the Move button makes you walk very slow – this is great for lining yourself up but not moving around – and the ‘run’ mechanic of holding both the Move and Trigger buttons sees you walking at a normal pace. So no running here!
It’s not a big issue and I happily played through the game with the free movement, but in my opinion, it was a bit too slow.
The other movement controls you can change is the rotation, you can snap turn in increments of 30, 45 or 90 degrees. It’s great that you have a choice, but I wish we had free/smooth turning as the first-gen of PSVR starts to drift to the left after a few hours, so snap turning doesn’t let you correctly line yourself up all the time. This leads me to the main problem with Torn and one which actually caused me to punch the floor…
Torn is a game that wants you to play standing up as it isn’t correctly configured for people who have to sit down like myself. At first, I thought this wouldn’t be the case, as the Sonic Screwdriver can pick up all the objects for you – but then I encountered the keys which you have to literally touch with your hand. Keys that appear so low down, I had to punch the floor so the PSVR would add momentum and think I’ve put my hand through the floor so I can grab it. Now, in games like this, there is usually an option to adjust your in-game height or at the least, you can stand up, hold Options so it re-configures your ‘default’ height, and then sit back down so you are technically ducking in-game. However…
Torn doesn’t let you hold the Options button to recalibrate your height in-game. This is a major oversight and I hope the developers take this into account for their next venture. As such, the only way to readjust your height is to close the game from the dashboard, stand up to the height you want as your ‘default’ height, start up the game whilst sanding in this position, then when the game starts you can sit down. I understand that the game came from PC and it thinks that you’re stood up playing the game, but with the device you have in-game, you literally have no reason to stand up whilst playing, so the height should be adjusted accordingly.
This is one of my main issues with the game, yet I imagine it will only affect those like me who have back issues and can’t stand for long periods. Those who do buy Torn, play it standing up, your knuckles will thank me later!
I don’t like saying this, but at times Torn felt like a one-trick pony. At first, being handed the Sonic Screwdriver and given the ability to pick up literally every piece of furniture and item in the house and throw it around was really cool. However, that’s the basis for the 24 puzzles you’ll have to solve throughout the game. The concept is simple, the device has a torch on it which unveils hidden mechanisms within the walls, floor and ceiling of the building. As you look around, the majority of the items such as suitcases, TVs, Plant pots and even grandfather clocks, have symbols on their underside. You must find an item with the corresponding symbol on it and use the device to lift it up and slot it into the socket. Then, you rotate the item with the Move controllers face buttons in order to complete the circuit.
The overall mechanics work really well and it’s quite fun having a giant clock dangling from the ceiling or a cupboard just floating there in the distance. However, aside from a few different variations such as matching the sails on a boat, this is the core mechanic. I personally didn’t mind it, but if you want a VR game with lots of variety in the puzzles then maybe take a look at a game like Blind or Red Matter instead. Another key part of the actual mechanics is the collecting of ‘light’. These little blighters hide within all the random objects in a room and cause books to fly off shelves, tables to jump, toys to move, and paintings to fall down. A simple yank on the said item will send the light into the collection device within the room and go towards progression and a rather big collect-a-thon trophy.
If you do begin to feel like you’ve been hit with deja vu, due to the puzzles, the one thing that will keep you hooked right until the end credits is the intriguing story and overall narrative. As you walk around the house, Talbot will pop out of the device (as he has a limited Earthly presence) and recall memories and events around certain items or rooms you enter into. After you’ve collected all the light fragments within each room you’re also sent to the otherworldly realm where you get a more detailed and interesting conversation with the real Talbot as he regains the memories you bring back to him.
The whole experience for me was great. I played through it in one sitting of around 4.5 hours (it would have been longer but my save file got corrupt so I knew where I was going) and I literally couldn’t stop playing it because I was so hooked on what was about to happen next. However, there was a major issue here, which I’m sure a few of you will probably guess. Torn has no subtitles… Considering Torns core gameplay mechanic is rather repetitive without all the verbal interactions from the companion character, having no subtitles means you’ve just cut off all deaf or hard of hearing from enjoying your game.
I touched on this in my Earth Defence Force 5 review, as they have no subtitles so the hard of hearing won’t get the story that’s going on, and in Spyro, there are no cutscene subtitles, so nobody can read what’s happening in key moments of all three games. Torn really should have had subtitles implemented to ensure that everyone can enjoy their title, regardless of their abilities. I’m okay with hearing, I have subtitles on when playing a game on my TV so I can have something on my iPad at the same time, I can’t do that with VR (obviously), but there were times when Talbot would move far away so I couldn’t hear what he was saying. As such, I feel my enjoyment was also reduced due to them not being available.
Speaking of which, aside from the brilliant narrative and Twilight Zone-like experience, Talbot is annoying as hell in the final segment. He moves about 10ft and then complains that I’m not keeping up, even though I’m moving as fast as the game lets me. He does this over and over and over again and it gets so annoying. I don’t mind a character telling me to keep up, but not when I literally can’t go any faster in order to keep up.
Whilst I’m on the subject, Torn appears to have done a Blind on us. Plenty of puzzles, exploration and narrative right up until the final part of the game. then, the game got too long-winded as it turned into a more narrative walking simulation as you do as you’re told. I don’t mind it as the story got a decent ending and it was all very interesting, but the length combined with Talbots constant moaning made this final part drag on like it was about twice as long as it should have been.
Torn is technically a great VR game. Perfect implementation of the Move controllers, good quality visuals (the assets are great but the resolution was quite low, so there is a lot of jaggies and flicker), great 3D sound, and a really atmospheric experience that draws you in. The voice acting was spot on, although the subtitles being omitted did mean I missed a few things which were being said at times. I would have liked it if Torn has taken advantage of the PS4 Pro more and bumped up the AA and resolution like we’ve seen in games like Red Matter, as that game looks a lot cleaner and sharper when it’s most likely a very similar setup in the backend.
However, Torn is a great game to show off in-game physics within VR as that’s its strong point as most of the puzzles revolve around physics-based elements. My save data did get corrupted and I lost a 70% complete playthrough, but I’ll explain what happened below.
I know it seems like I’ve said a lot of harsh words against Torn in the above review and you’d probably expect me to say how much I hate it here, but I don’t. I played Torn for five hours, until I entered the Nursery and saw that the cables coming from the ceiling had no cable, just floating sockets. I ignored this and continued, the game crashed and my save became corrupted. However, I was so invested in the game at that point, I simply started up a new game and played it for 4.5 hours until I completed the game. Had I not been enjoying the game up until that point, there is no way I would have started it again from scratch, especially considering there is no platinum trophy.
So yeah, the name is very appropriate as I am literally Torn between what to say! Torn has its flaws, as do most games, but Torns comes in the form of no subtitles, very slow movement with no smooth turning, the possibility of corrupt data, repetitive puzzles, and an annoying companion in the final long-winded segment. From the outside, that looks like a lot of issues, but for me, the environments, physics, the puzzles themselves, the characters and their personalities, the narrative, and the overall experience allowed me to see past the flaws and really enjoy the experience I had with the game.
It’s a game where your mileage will vary I imagine. If you can’t stand up for long periods, you require subtitles to read due to hearing issues, or if you like a big variety in gameplay, then maybe Torn isn’t for you. However, I’d still strongly recommend it as one of the most interesting and full-length VR titles on the PSVR out there, regardless of its flaws.
Torn is yet another great VR title that I’d strongly recommend you check out if you have the hardware. Sure, it has flaws such as the lack of subtitles, slow-paced movement with no smooth turning, no ability to adjust your in-game height, and repetitive puzzles, but the overall experience trumps most of those complaints once you get sucked into its world. I really enjoyed the puzzles, even though the vast majority of them are pretty much the same puzzle repeated in different rooms, Torn has a strong core mechanic and the developers chose to focus on that as their key aspect.
If you can see past its flaws and don’t require any of the omitted features, then I’d strongly recommend you pick it up either digitally or on the Perp Games Store today.
- - Brilliant narrative with a very interesting overall story
- - Great use of the move controllers for moving around the objects and interacting with things
- - Great voice acting
- - Very suspenseful and mood-setting music
- - A decent length, at around 5-7 hours if you explore the mansion
- - Movement is slow and no smooth turning
- - No subtitles at all within a narrative-heavy game
- - The puzzle mechanic can get a bit boring/monotonous if you're not interested in the story
- - The game did corrupt my data once, but I think that was a glitch
- - No option to recalibrate your height and the 'hold Options' mechanic is disabled