Virtual Reality is pure power fantasy. It can put you closer to the action than any other gameplay system, making every shooter feel more visceral, every city builder more tactile, and all the puzzles that much more engaging. It can even make you a giant suction-cupped kaiju just trying to find work in his little coastal town. With giant wobbly tentacles at the ready, it was time to see if Tentacular is spectacular!
The funny thing about being funny is that more often than not, games billed as comedy rarely are. Oh, they try, but that’s the worst tragedy of all – to try that hard and come up short. Well, Tentacular isn’t one of those games. Tentacular is charming, effortlessly so, and on more than one occasion, genuinely laugh out loud funny. From the opening moments when the tiny little human about the size of a single one of your suction cups reveals…and sorry for the spoilers here…that you are adopted. I know, it’s a blow, but it’s true. Worse still, the mayor would like to speak with you immediately. That’s never a good sign.
Upon arrival at City Hall, you head in for your conversation with CIty Council. Or more accurately, you unhinge the entire top of the building with your noodly arms and suction cups, opening it to the surprise of the people underneath. They unfortunately provide the worst possible news you could receive while you are still reeling from the shocking news of your adoption – you’ll need to get a job. Could this day get any worse? Well, after the A-M-T, (the local people who somehow get to decide job roles) decides that the best role you could possibly have is that of a garbage collector. Oh for crying out loud…what do you mean I’m adopted?!
The fun part…well, there’s actually no shortage of those, really, but one of the most fun parts of Tentacular is that there’s no shortage of it. Yes, you can follow instructions and do what you are told. You can stop touching the human who doesn’t want to be patted on the head. You can stack the containers like they want. You can also fling them out into the ocean. Yes, the containers and the humans. Actually, there’s very little you can’t hurl into the ocean, and somehow nobody judges you for it. Everyone brought their floaties and nobody bats an eye – I guess that’s what you do when you have a totally-not-adopted octopus-kid next door prone to throwing things for fun. There are challenges, but the game is in no hurry to make you do those. Well, that’s not entirely true.
Each area has a clock marking time that tells you how long you’ve spent on a task. Whether you choose to care or not is entirely on you, really, but it’s still there. Ticking. Marking the passage of time. Inevitable…inexorable…immutable time. Spreading into the infinite…ticking. Anyway, you have tasks you’ll need to perform to move to the next area, some more complex than others, but all self-contained. For example, one job asks you to simply stack some containers floating in the water into a T-shape and then take a picture. Easy. Well, it would have been if I wasn’t overly excited about my handiwork, scattering them to the wind with a swipe of my noodly appendage. Embarrassed (can not-adopted octopi blush?), I casually rebuilt my simple structure and took a picture, being careful to not put my tentacles in front of the lens. Job completed, a man flying a hot air balloon floated down with the switch labeled “Next”. I grabbed the switch, flipped it to the down position, and I was on to my next job.
Speaking of switches, one of the best examples of the quirky writing in Tentacular is Mr. Reseto. I’m not sure if he’s related to Mr. Resetti in Animal Crossing, but Mr. Reseto lives in a little house on a stick. Cracking open his house you’ll find a reset button that lets you reset the level to try again. It’s his only job, and he does it extraordinarily well. He’s worth getting to know though, so make sure you seek him out and have a conversation or two.
Tentacular takes place in the island town of La Kalma, and with you around, that name hardly fits. Each job asks you to do increasingly complex and minute tasks, and the fact is that your arms are absolutely massive and often ill-suited to the job at hand. Lifting heavy crates, moving shipping containers, retrieving small objects, and manipulating machines can mean unlimited mayhem and damage, no matter your intention. Just like other physics-based games, that’s half the fun.
The PlayStation VR2 really shines in Tentacular. The fact of the matter is that Tentacular is already out on Steam and Meta Quest 2, but neither of those platforms have the haptics present on Sony’s new HMD. Every time you stack a crate, crank on a machine, yank on a shipping container, or otherwise engage with the world you’ll feel it. Grabbing with the tip of your tentacle is often a shaky endeavor – you’ll want to use the meatier portion of your grippy-noodles, but you’ll feel the struggle when you don’t. It’s all very subtle, but it’s the sort of thing that advanced haptics are made to showcase.
As you help the citizens of La Kalma (and their shockingly-advanced science and extraterrestrial research division – seriously, how much of their municipal government budget is going to this?!) you’ll learn new concepts. One moment you’re lobbing containers, the next you are using the power lines to launch them like a slingshot. Next you’ll be using magnets, testing missiles, and helping research aliens. Now it’s time to redecorate the Mayor’s office space. Tentacular is all over the place, and that’s half the fun.
While you are totally not adopted, there are a few hiccups to wrangle with Tentacular. I’ve had a handful of issues where the scene will freeze. That sort of jarring freeze isn’t great for nausea. The fact that the game only supports smooth movements can also be rough for some, but thankfully that wasn’t the case for me. I’ve also had a number of tracking hiccups where my noodly arms would flail about as the game struggled to position them, thrashing the scene. During Tentacular’s more precise moments it might also mean a retry or two. The game is about as casual as it gets, so it hardly feels like a penalty.
While Tentacular is made up of bite-sized missions, the game is surprisingly long – about 7 hours to so, in fact. I don’t recommend powering through the whole game in a single sitting. One of the only nitpicks I have with Tentacular beyond the occasional tracking hiccup is the exposition. Every mission is punctuated by a lot of explanation by your fellow La Kalma citizens. While you can pap the talkers on the top of the head to speed them up (with a satisfying bit of feedback), or you can hit the O button, it’s still a lot of waiting to get started while that clock ticks away in the background.
Tentacular is a fun little sandbox game that manages to be as genuinely fun as it is funny. Filled to the brim with moments, it’s great for VR newcomers, or those who just want a break from all the super-serious shooters and world-saving simulations.
- Charming audio and visuals
- Genuinely funny writing
- Wonderful string of nonsensical jobs
- Absurd bull-in-a-china-shop moments
- Some of the 6 hour story beats are downright bizarre
- Some overlong expositional moments
- Occasional controller tracking issues
- A handful of full-stop nausea moments that can add up