Kayak VR: Mirage is an incredible testament to the capabilities of the PlayStation VR2, providing a gorgeous and relaxing experience with impressively realistic water physics that is sure to become a go-to when wanting to show off your VR2 to friends and family. That said, Kayak VR is more of an experience than a full-fledged game, which is a bit of a letdown, but we’ll speak more on that later.
First off, let’s dive into the many great aspects of Kayak VR: Mirage and how well it uses the new PlayStation VR2 headset and Sense controllers. Kayak VR can be played while sitting, standing, or using the roomscale option – I played mainly in a roomscale setting but sat to better mimic being in a real kayak. No matter how you play you need to leave room for wildly flailing your arms, as you’ll end up doing that more often than planned, especially when attempting to navigate the hauntingly beautiful rain drenched seas of Norway.
You begin in a pool where the basics of paddling a kayak are taught to you. I highly recommend going through the tutorial, even if you are well-versed in steering a kayak in real life. While Kayak VR does a great job mimicking the real thing, there’s still a bit of a learning curve that stems from virtually plowing through water. Thankfully, the Sense controllers do a tremendous job helping bring the experience to life, providing varying degrees of resistance when paddling or when you accidently hit your paddle on a hard surface.
You paddle using both Sense controllers and can take the kayak on either a leisurely stroll or paddle your heart out to speed across the vivid landscapes. To speed up you merely push your paddle further into the water, creating longer and deeper strokes. A hard turn can be made by pushing one paddle down hard, causing your boat to break left or right. The kayak is surprisingly nimble and responds accurately to your Sense controller inputs, rarely taking you out of the virtual experience. During a particular rainy section your Sense controllers mimic the pitter patter of rain drops on your hands, a small, but impressive detail.
There are four beautiful locations to explore in Kayak VR: Mirage, including King’s Canyon in Australia, Cierva Cove in Antarctica, Papagayo in Costa Rica, and Bjørnøya in Norway. Each location has a day and night setting, with a few allowing you to begin in different locations in the map. You’ll float under the Aurora Borealis in Antarctica, through a steep canyon in Australia, past picturesque beaches in Costa Rica, and around a solitary lighthouse in Norway. Aside from the night and day settings, Bjørnøya has an additional option which was by far my favorite and the most exciting – a rough sea during a terrible storm.
In each location you will find tons of small details which help bring the gorgeous world to life. You’ll encounter penguins diving off cliffs, whales jumping, dolphins chasing you, sharks, a wide variety of fish, a sunken submarine, and even a dog enjoying the view. The most striking visuals occur during the storm, when you fight against choppy waters which will truly test the limits of your sea sickness while watching lighting crash around you and the light from the lighthouse cut across the heavy rain. It’s breathtaking to experience, but is not the option you want to choose if you came to Kayak VR to relax.
Speaking of relaxing, if that’s all you want to do then you can choose to take a tour through any location and any of the settings, without the use of the Sense controllers. Simply choose a location and a time of day and sit back. The system will take you on a long and beautiful tour of every aspect of the area. With the headphones in and a comfy seat, you’ll be surprised how quickly you begin to give into the experience and start to feel as if you are truly there. It’ll certainly make you eager to plan your next vacation.
Rounding out the experience is the sound, which is truly impressive, especially when using the included VR2 headphones. As you paddle, you’ll be surrounded by realistic nature sounds from all directions, blending together to create a truly immersive experience. Birds cry as they fly over you, the rain splashes across your boat during storms, and the water breaks gently as you paddle. It is all quite impressive.
But as I had previously mentioned, Kayak VR, while gorgeous, is essentially an interactive experience, rather than a game. That’s not to say that there is anything inherently wrong with using VR to offer up a relaxing experience, especially one which you’d be unable to find elsewhere aside from pursuing the actual activity. It’s just disappointing because with a few tweaks – such as the addition of level related goals or even the ability to toggle waypoints to landmarks and special events – Kayak VR could have felt more like a game while not abandoning its core mission of providing a realistic and relaxing experience. This is not a dealbreaker by any means, but just a warning for those who need to have a bit of guidance or end goals in their gaming.
The one part that does mimic a game is racing, which is not done in real time but rather allows you to race against players’ best times on a leaderboard. While I’ve never been too invested in racing, certainly not in a kayak which I can barely control correctly in the best of circumstances, I’m sure many players will find hours of entertainment attempting to best other players’times. Additionally, the game tracks the number of miles traveled and rewards you by allowing you to purchase new skins for your kayak, paddles, and headwear using points accumulated. A simple addition, but it is the closest thing to a goal for players to pursue during their time in Kayak VR. Otherwise just sit back, relax, and enjoy the view.
Kayak VR: Mirage
Kayak VR: Mirage is a testament to the power of the PlayStation VR2 and a showcase for those who want to show their friends and family what VR is all about. While more of an experience than a full-fledged game, Kayak VR manages to provide a gorgeous, realistic, memorable, and relaxing experience which accurately mimics real kayaking and is almost certain to make you begin plans for your next vacation.
- Realistic graphics and water physics
- Provides a relaxing experience
- Great sound design
- Not much to do aside from race and explore the same four locations