As a child of the 90s, 3D platformers were my bread and butter during the early years of my gaming fixation. The jump from 2D side-scrolling platformers into this new dimension was astonishing, especially seeing heroes like Mario in his polygonal glory. Now, with a new type of gaming hitting the market, games like Demeter hope to push the envelope even further with the literal fourth wall-breaking gimmick that it brings, putting the stages you explore directly in your living room.
Explore a New Dimension With Me
Demeter is an incredibly unique experience and something that couldn’t be done without the technology brought to life by VR. In a normal platformer experience, you spend your time seated in a chair, watching your controlled avatar make its way through various puzzles at your control. I’ve got control of nearly everything in the environment, from the camera to the way that my character moves to the beat of my every whim and fancy.
Demeter, however, is a different case. I’m still in control, but in a much more dramatic way. I’m the physical camera, moving around the stages that are floating in your room, thanks to the great use of Mixed Reality. I’m also still in control of the main character, Atalanta, as I help her make her way back home after crash landing on Earth. It’s a simple narrative overall as it plays on the emotions of homesickness and wanting to return to a familiar place, but it works well in this particular adventure.
While the option to bring these islands closer to me exists, Demeter is a game that is best experienced standing and moving around the intricately detailed environments. After taking a scan of my living room, I could use particular parts of it to aid Atalanta in her quest in a variety of unique ways. Worlds are built around me and my environment as I helped her through her own little environment. The luster doesn’t wear off quickly and helps propel this experience to a new level.
Beauty is in The Eye of the Beholder
Demeter may use a simple graphical style, but the results are quite stunning. A great art style can help push a game to new heights, and I fell in love with the aesthetic of Demeter as soon as I watched a spaceship crash through my roof. The world that was continuously showcased around me, alongside the fantastic effects that accompanied them, helped me lose myself in this world without a second guess as I embarrassingly tried to touch the ground of the world that was being projected before my eyes.
Seeing a giant pillar being brought to life in the middle of my living room still feels surreal, even after playing for a fair bit. Demeter may be short — its runtime is about 4 hours — but the variety of levels keeps things from feeling boring. They may all share the same basic aesthetic overall, with a shade of variety thrown in to keep things from falling into a familiar pattern. Still, the overall result looks fantastic on the Meta Quest 3. Walking around these structures to see small secrets and alternate paths that I can take is exciting, seeing as each level is rather short overall.
One point of frustration that I experienced with Demeter is after the stage has been completed, a small ball of energy will fly throughout the room and select where the next stage is. Even after doing the room scan, I found that the next level would still be in awkward spots, like in the middle of my kitchen table, where I would need to enter the “Accessibility Mode” and pull the level back to a reasonable place. While this doesn’t happen every time, it would still happen often enough to be frustrating — especially considering that multiple animations happen when entering and exiting Accessibility Mode.
Slow Ride, Take it Easy
When it comes to taking control of Atalanta, she moves like a dream. Basic navigation is great, even if there are some detection issues when it comes to crawling along walls. It’s very few and far between, but it’s something to note, considering there is plenty of time scaling walls while exploring the many worlds before you. Combat is also relatively simple: pressing a button and watching the action unfold. It’s easy to see that combat is not the main focus here, while the slower pace of exploration is rather meditative.
Demeter is a game about taking it slow and watching the story and the world unfold around you. The backing music is serene, lending to the almost trance-like feeling of experiencing this adventure. Sound effects are also great, and the voice actress for Atalanta does a fantastic job conveying emotion through her being. She’s also not afraid to say what’s on her mind, like when I accidentally attacked a non-hostile creature, and she berated me for doing so. I’m used to scary dog-creatures being mean. I wasn’t expecting it to be friendly, so she has my apology.
The generative layout of the levels, paired with the sublime sound design, makes hours feel like minutes when exploring this world. Even with the mild frustration regarding the controls and bare-bones combat system, I was still eager to see what the next level would offer. One thing to note, however, for those that suffer from mobility issues — Demeter requires a fair bit of navigation around the level, both in the virtual sense and physical sense.
While Accessibility Mode works great to allow players to move the level around to their needs, I would like to see the process simplified further and refined to ensure that players of all levels can enjoy what is on offer here.
Demeter is an exciting and unique experience but isn’t without its faults. However, while its basic combat and finicky detection may leave some to be desired, it’s an appealing and inventive platformer that helps use virtual reality to greater extents than I could have imagined. I was willing to overlook these gripes, as I was invested in its world and wanted to see what was on the horizon.
Demeter is a great platformer, offering a touching story and plenty of replayability. This type of game could only be brought to life in virtual reality and excels at making me feel like I’m an organic part of its world. There are some bits I would love to see refined for a possible sequel, but Demeter hits all the marks I hoped it would.
- Beautiful aesthetic
- Unique game play elements
- Fantastic sound design
- Finicky detection when climbing
- Basic combat is rather unexciting
- Accessibility mode could use some refinement