Back in the faraway year of 2013, Nekcom Entertainment put out an escape room puzzle game called Dying: Sinner’s Escape. We reviewed it at the time and to save you a click, it wasn’t very good. It didn’t look good despite the developers boasting of its “highly mysterious style,” and it sounded even worse due to a voice crew whose performance fell short of the game’s advertisement of “fantastic voices.” The worst part of the game was its fee-based hint system, charging players upwards of $6 for a finite amount of hints. Long story short, it was a terrible and impotent experience of a game.
Not content to let it stay dead, Nekcom revived Dying: Sinner’s Escape and gave it a new, more apt name, Dying: Reborn. It was released on the PlayStation 4 in February. To its credit, the game looks a hell of a lot better than it did on iOS but it still fails to capture any imagination whatsoever. But that’s neither here nor there. I’m actually going to talk about the game’s VR companion, Dying: Reborn VR. The funny thing is, it’s not the full game. It’s merely a collection of three levels taken from the full game, heavily modified to make them function comfortably for the PlayStation VR. As such, there’s absolutely no reason to play the game if you have no intention of playing the full, non-VR edition.
Reborn VR's three chapters that were excised from Dying: Reborn are presented without annotation, so there’s nothing to connect the experience to the game’s overall story. The main character converses with the silhouetted antagonist (such scenes feature some incredibly terrible voice acting), a sort of back and forth tet-a-tet about things that don’t make a whole lot of sense, making you feel like you’ve walked into the middle of a conversation. Fortunately, each chapter doesn’t require much knowledge of the world beyond because they stand alone. But still, why bother putting in story beats if there’s no expectation for a resolution?
Like in the original game, you puzzle through each room using a point and click system of gameplay. The added VR allows you to examine the environment with the headset, letting you take in every nook and cranny of the 3D environment. This is just about the only part of the game that performs well. The environments aren’t pretty, even in their dilapidated appearances, but they're completely satisfactory. You can get up close to wall scribblings, signs, keypads, and notes and make out the text with good clarity. You don't have to worry about readjusting the camera or calibration because you’ll interact with objects, using them and combining them, with the PlayStation controller. In a time when Resident Evil VII set the bar for PlayStation VR quite high, I’m pretty satisfied with how it all handles. I just wish it was used for a better, more robust game.
Dying: Reborn VR is only half a product and the short shrift it gives the player doesn’t do any favors - and that’s not counting the horrible voice acting and heavy prevalence of spelling errors. Furthermore, some of the puzzles are broken, and you can get through them without solving them. For example, in the second chapter there’s a radio that needs to be powered on using a convoluted sequence of combining items and working through a circuit breaker puzzle. The weird thing was, I was able to fiddle with the radio and receive the transmission that unlocks another puzzle even though the device wasn’t connected to its power source. I didn’t realize this until after watching someone else’s walkthrough. This situation might have something to do with the fact that the VR version of Dying: Reborn has puzzles that are unique to the VR game. Put the VR and non-VR game back to back and you’ll notice there are startling differences in puzzle design. Weird.
Note: It's worth pointing out that the screenshots provided with this review are not from the VR version of Dying: Reborn, but the full version of the game.
In the end, Dying: Reborn VR could have been a fairly okay product if it weren’t so harshly abridged. It’s a good enough VR experience, but without a coherent story to back it all up, it amounts to nothing more than a paid demo. If you're new to PlayStation VR, there are much better ways to spend your money and time.
Teen Services Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.