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Kayak VR: Mirage review – All the fun without the sunburn


Virtual reality games provide certain escapism for players who might otherwise not have the opportunity to see or experience unique adventures. Whether that be rock climbing, meditation, or kayaking through the Arctic Ocean, these games allow players to live out new and interesting activities without any of the danger. That doesn’t mean there won’t be opportunities to break a sweat, though.

BetterThanLife Immersive Studio is a team of developers out of Amsterdam that has been laser-focused on creating new and innovative VR experiences. The company’s first project was the free-to-play Meditation VR, where players are placed on a deserted island and can relax and enjoy the view. It’s also a great game to take some time to center yourself with meditation against the ocean backdrop.

Now, BetterThanLife has released their newest VR project onto Steam called Kayak VR: Mirage. Like its original game, Kayak VR takes advantage of the beautiful scenery that exists in the real world. Players can take their time enjoying the different worlds they can kayak in, with dynamic environments that invite the player to explore and find out every secret these locations have.

The game starts simply enough, with the player loading into their kayak inside of a small pool. This serves as a great practice ground before the player actually embarks on a trip to the different locations. The menu is split into different options, but the locations take up most of the UI. This immediately invites the player to select a destination to get into the fun.

Image: BetterThanLife / Try Hard Guides

There is also the option to access the tutorial and learn the basics of the game’s controls and physics, which are quite detailed. While the tutorial covers the basics, it feels as if it stops short of giving complete lessons on the game’s controls. Things like using the paddle to push off objects or making a hard turn by sticking the paddle in the water while maintaining speed are things that the player has to figure out.

That only speaks to the impressiveness of the game’s controls and the quality of the paddling and water mechanics. Not only is the paddling smooth, but so are the effects it creates in the water, rippling outwards. It’s immediately noticeable how beautiful the quality of water is, especially since the player is located near it at all times.

Some players have suggested that using a broomstick or other long pole and attaching your controllers to it is a more immersive way to play the game. This allows the player to feel what it would be like to hold the paddle and may even provide even better exercise for your arms.

Whether the player wants to casually paddle through a level or engage in one of the fast-paced races, it never feels like a chore to paddle since the game usually sends you in the direction you want to go. Once they pick up some of the finer movements, players can dash across the entire map in no time at all. The game never puts that pressure on the player though, as there are no hard requirements to progress.

A kayak sits in the ocean between some glaciers
Image: BetterThanLife / Try Hard Guides

That doesn’t mean that players are stuck paddling with no ability to mark their progression at all, though. There are different customization options for your paddle, kayak, and hat once you’ve traveled enough distance. The game keeps track of how far you’ve traveled with Sea Miles, which can be traded for the different customization options.

Currently, there are only four different levels for the player to kayak in, but each one is beautifully detailed and begging to be explored. Each map also has a race that pits you against other players from around the world in a predetermined course. These races are a unique challenge both in skill and physical requirements. It’s a great arm workout and you may even break a sweat when doing them back to back.

The option for replayability is fairly low outside of just enjoying the relaxation. While the races can be fun until you finally get the gold medal, eventually the player will have explored all of the levels and found everything there is to see. Hopefully, BetterThanLife can add more activities like the suggested Fishing on the Kayak VR roadmap.

When free-roaming the different worlds, players can choose what time of day or night and sometimes even the weather in that location. Whether visiting Antarctica at sunset or a range of islands in a storm, each environment is beautifully crafted to feel like you’re really there amongst the waves. While this range could be applied to all levels, what’s already there is really something special.

A kayak and paddle in between to large rock formations in a storm
Image: BetterThanLife / Try Hard Guides

The sound design is phenomenal, whether it be the local wildlife or peaceful music as you free roam. When participating in the race mode, an energetic beat keeps you focused and energized as you try to be faster than the other competitors. The audio is a cherry on top of what is already a beautiful and impressive work of art.

As with all VR games, Kayak VR: Mirage struggles when faced with some of the real-world physics that are hard to replicate. Pushing off a shallow area of water feels really tedious. Without the ability to judge the strength you’re putting into it, the paddle sometimes doesn’t want to push the player away at all. This is really frustrating, especially when it happens multiple times in a row.

The game could also do with a little more content, maybe even an additional map. However, that will be easily implemented as BetterThanLife is planning on introducing new content to Kayak VR as time goes on. Just in the near future, the developer has planned new weather effects, multiplayer, customization options, and more.

The Final Word

Overall, Kayak VR: Mirage is a beautiful game that manages to create a kayaking simulator that feels like you’re actually paddling through scenic locations. Not only is it a peaceful way to relax, but your arms will certainly get a workout the longer you play. While the game might be a little light on content at the moment, that is sure to improve as the devs continue to support it post-launch.

9

Try Hard Guides was provided with a Steam PC review copy of this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website!

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