Virtual reality (VR) platforms have seen a growing trend towards charming puzzle adventures like The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets or Ghost Giant, offering miniature worlds to explore, almost like a virtual toy set. The latest in this genre comes from Cortopia Studios with Down the Rabbit Hole, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s famous novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. As the title suggests you now literally find yourself in the rabbit hole, in a perfectly enjoyable VR videogame.
As most people already know Carroll’s story the studio has made Down the Rabbit Hole as a sort of prequel, before Alice ever steps foot in Wonderland. Instead you play an unnamed girl who stumbles upon the magical world when she’s out looking for her pet Patches.
However, Down the Rabbit Hole doesn’t want to force a set storyline on you. Instead there are choices to be made along the way to help define each playthrough, as such combating one of the main issues these types of puzzle adventures suffer from, the replay factor. The core narrative takes you past some of the key figures you all know and love, like the grinning Cheshire Cat or the smoking caterpillar. But as you progress you can chose who this mysterious girl is, the pet she’s chasing after and more. Helping shape the story elements adds a nice personal touch which gives Down the Rabbit Hole a decent feeling of value, enticing you to play it again, and then there are the multiple endings.
As mentioned, Down the Rabbit Hole takes itself very literally. Progress through the levels and look up and you’ll see a dark tunnel littered with the levels you’ve completed. Each little area serves as a scene dug into the ground, a glowing diorama of colour and miniature details. As this is third-person there’s no need to worry about comfort as you run the girl through each interconnected level.
You’re given full control over the environment to manoeuvre it however you see fit thanks to tree roots growing from the walls. This is really superb for getting into the scenes and having a nosey around. Great to see the artwork close up, this also serves an important purpose, not only are there puzzles to solve but you’ll need to keep an eye out for invitation letters, finding them all affects what happens at the end. These are squirrelled away in all sorts of locations, and you generally have to knock them out of their perch for the girl to pick up. It’s another useful mechanic for getting you involved in the world so that you’re not just some voyeur into Wonderland.
Most of the puzzles themselves are fairly straight forward and self-explanatory. The trickiest tend to be the chests which have combination locks. Even so, these are solved by being aware of what’s in the environment. That does tend to mean Down the Rabbit Hole is a short experience like the others mentioned in the first paragraph, depending on whether you find all the invitations. Those along with the multiple endings form part of Down the Rabbit Hole’s clever trick to retain interest and fully commit to the experience.
Down the Rabbit Hole is quite the change for Cortopia Studios which is better known for magical combat title Wands. And it’s certainly a good change. Like many of these videogames, Down the Rabbit Hole is over way too quick mainly because it was so enjoyable. The title offers a new slant to this beloved children’s tale, feeling both familiar thanks to the characters yet different enough to be engaging throughout. Thanks to its mechanics and polished execution Down the Rabbit Hole offers a delightful VR experience.
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