When I was younger, I used to play Lemmings for hours on end. I would spend hours trying to keep as many of my lemmings alive as possible through the intricate puzzles. In a lot of ways Pop-Up Pilgrims bears a lot of similarities to Lemmings, but the VR nature of this puzzle title adds an extra element of immersion to the guiding puzzles.
The Playstation VR hasn’t seen a lot of puzzle games released for the platform, and it’s hard to judge if this is a jumping off point for the genre or if it’s something that should just be considered as an optional peripheral for games. During gameplay, it becomes increasingly apparent that Pop-Up Pilgrims shouldn’t require VR. Players will take control of the Cloud God, a being that floats above each level and guides the pilgrims to their destination. The VR headset tracks where the in-game pointer lies and players will use triggers on the controller to get the pilgrims to jump or interact within the stages.
I’m happy the Playstation VR has another title for its library, but Pop-Up Pilgrims doesn’t have moving environments and is basically just multi-leveled 2D planes. It would’ve been perfectly easy to implement a plane switching feature for non-VR gameplay, and Pop-Up Pilgrims might have benefited from it due to finicky head tracking.
Like most puzzle games, Pop-Up Pilgrims warms up slowly with fairly introductory levels to introduce players to the game design. The pacing felt really good in terms of puzzle difficulty, even if I was left to figure out most of the controls on my own. Even the menu system and just starting the game in the beginning wasn’t intuitive to use until I was forced to figure it all out on my own. Pop-Up Pilgrims would have benefited greatly from more of a tutorial in the beginning, but once I learned the controls they stayed consistent and simple from start to finish.
The art style is the most striking thing about Pop-Up Pilgrims. Its classically oriental design and music keep each level vibrant and soothing, without being overwhelming using the VR platform. Each level takes up more of the viewing space the VR can populate, so players will end up looking all around while keeping track of all of their pilgrims. In later levels when things are a little more chaotic, the music helped keep the pace of each level and I was able to center myself into figuring out the right timing for jumps and actions.
Each level is filled with collectibles too, but after a certain point players are better off leaving most of their pilgrims either going through a loop and staying safe, or finishing the level with all but one pilgrim who then gets sent off to track down all of the items. It makes collecting all of the items in the game feel very rudimentary, so it’s a shame there are a handful of trophies tied to collecting all of them.
Pop-Up Pilgrims may not be an essential part of the Playstation VR library, but anyone who likes puzzle games and needs something to play on VR should have a few hours of fun on Pop-Up Pilgrims. The $14.99 price point might be a little high for what’s on display here, but the beautiful visuals and solid soundtrack help make up for some finicky head tracking issues and uninspired collectibles. Playing an omniscient Cloud God can only hold one’s interest for so long, but there is fun to be had before Pop-Up Pilgrims overstays it’s welcome.
Pop-Up Pilgrims is available now for Playstation VR. This review is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher for that purpose.