Skeptical, but excited, I was interested to see where Netflix and DreamWorks would take Voltron. There have been several attempts to bring the Defender of the Universe to life after the 1984 version lit up my childhood, but none were overly successful, thanks to odd animations, “edgy” reboot attempts, and otherwise ham-fisted re-imaginings.
On the other hand, four seasons later, the DreamWorks Voltron is nothing short of phenomenal. With writing that respects the likely-older audience, but still attracts a new and younger crowd, the show has managed to tackle topics like racial stereotypes, gender diversity and power dynamics (no fainting princesses here!), and more heady topics. Not too shabby for a “kids show”. Now, we have our first attempt at a cross-adaptation in videogame form. Could DreamWorks and developer Digital Domain capture the magic of the new show and bring it to life in virtual reality? It’s time to join the Voltron Force and find out!
Voltron VR Chronicles opens in medius res, kicking off on the flagship of Emperor Zarkon. Flanked by Witch Haggar, he plots to destroy the Voltron force, assigning the task to one of this capital ship commanders. Smash cut to the Blue Lion and its pilot, Lance.
Voltron VR Chronicles is more of an interactive experience than it is a full game. Cutscenes give way to relatively easy puzzles, which again segues into more expository cutscenes. That said, screenshots simply do not do this game justice. The brightly-colored Voltron force and their massive lions come to life in a way that I cannot describe. Where the game lacks in its depth of interactivity, it makes up for in making you feel like a member of the Voltron force. Having the Blue Lion reach down and pick me up as I channeled my inner Lance was a moment you can only fully experience in VR.
After your first puzzle and cutscene combo, you’ll get behind the controls of the Blue Lion to zip around asteroids as the team rushes to take on the aforementioned capital ship. Pushing your hands forward and back like tank controls allows you to tilt the Blue Lion in one direction or the other. Once you get the hang of that, the developers add head-based targeting to the mix.
Most of the action in the roughly 45 minutes it takes to beat Voltron VR Chronicles revolves around doing some basic puzzle, checking out a cutscene, and then popping back into the Blue Lion to jet to the next area. There is a short stint as Princess Allura, but otherwise you’ll be playing as Lance. The rail shooter / puzzle combination of action never rises to the point of being difficult, but that doesn’t make it any less authentic to the show.
Jeremy Shada (Lance), Bex Taylor-Klaus (Pidge), Tyler Labine (Hunk), Kimberly Brooks (Allura), Steven Yuen (Keith), Neil Kaplan (Zarkon), Cree Summer (Haggar), and Rhys Darby (Coran) all lend their voices to the game, making it an absolutely pitch match to the show. While the game does occasionally have voice overlap, the work the team put into making it perfectly match the mouth movements of the characters is well beyond what I expected out of a $15 game. The entire look and sound of the game is, in a word, amazing.
The writing is equally as rock solid. While the game is short, the story kept me interested, hitting many of the same beats you might expect out of a full-length episode of the show. By the time the end credits rolled, the only thing I could hope for was that this was the first of several episodes to come.
I did run into an issue during gameplay: defeating Witch Haggar’s Robeast failed to trigger the final cutscene and end of the game. A quick reset and subsequent re-stomping let us continue to the game’s conclusion.
DreamWorks Voltron VR Chronicles Episode 1
It would have been very easy for Digital Domain to make a low-effort Voltron knockoff, but instead Voltron VR Chronicles feels like a small slice of the show brought to life. While it is a little short, and the interactivity is somewhat basic, if you are a fan, this game is a must have. Next time, just let us form Voltron and give us sword and shield VR controls to take out the next episode’s Robeast!