"I don't know, I don't really worry about it," said Cameron Christian. This was in response to potential concerns that people may take issue with perceivable cultural appropriation in Insomniac Games' new Oculus Rift exclusive, Feral Rites. I asked this because the first thing that hit me upon seeing the character selection screen was, “wow, these characters look like white people dressed in tribal garb." I will concede that screenshots I saw after the fact made the character look less white than I initially thought.
Aside from that, what I played seemed like a serviceable game with combat that is reminiscent of the Arkham series. Players can easily take on multiple enemies at the same time, bouncing between them. With a quick attack, strong attack, and the ability to throw enemies into either each other or deadly needle plants, similar to the ones in Insomniac's recent Rift exclusive Edge of Nowhere. I jokingly asked if this game takes place in the same universe, and Cameron confirmed that it does not. That still won't stop me from making it my headcanon, though.
I chose to play as a female character and quickly found an artifact that turned me into a buff, humanoid cat that would feel at home in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' universe. In cat form I was able to hit a bit harder while performing different moves, but things felt similar otherwise. The game world is vibrant and wonderfully colourful, though I'd imagine that is to make up for the graphics not being top of the line due to the resolution and frame rates required for virtual reality. That isn't to say the game is ugly, as it isn't by any means. It also sports a soundtrack that sounds a bit like hip-hop beats, which felt like a nice fit to the action on screen.
My main contention most of Insomniac Games' Rift titles is that most of them don't feel like they require or benefit from VR. This especially rings true in the cases of Edge of Nowhere and Feral Rites. Cameron said that the studio "treats (VR) more like an advanced 3DTV,” though he also said that puzzle mechanics which utilize the tech pop up later in the game. The only puzzle I found in my brief time with the game, though, just had me looking around for a rune to reveal it on screen. This felt more like a tacked-on feature to justify being a VR exclusive rather than something that actually benefited the gameplay.
As an old-school beat'em up fan, I will say there’s plenty of potential here for a great game. The combat feels nice, moves can be unlocked throughout the game, and the setting seems interesting. I look forward to taking the full game for a spin when it releases, which should be in around four months, though no specific date has been set just yet.