Video games have always been one step removed from most other consumed media because they are interactive. Movie watchers and book readers have a hard time understanding why one can be “too tired to game” or just not be ready for an active experience such as gaming rather than a passive experience. Couple that with the glut of mobile games that are almost solely relaxing passive experiences – whether you like them or not – and it’s easy to understand why people are confused when I talk about being prepared to play games. The Collider 2 is a perfect example of this circumstance because you will not be able to play this game without giving it your full 100 percent attention. It is a series of super fast suicide missions (think the Millenium Falcon escape at the end of Return of the Jedi) where making the wrong split second choice can end your run. The Collider 2 is intense, unforgiving, and with the introduction of virtual reality, potentially one of the most pulse pounding arcade titles on Steam.
I remember picking up The Collider about a year ago when I got a discount code with a Steam badge. It was already value priced and with the discount it was less than a trading card. The original is this psychedelic game where you sprint through tubes of light and navigate a ship in a first-person cockpit view through openings in walls. It was very fast paced but that also made it quite difficult. In fact, despite it having 360 controller support, I could never find that delicate balance in the joystick sensitivity to navigate my ship effectively so I moved over to using a mouse on a desktop. The Collider 2 is a clear update to this formula but much more fleshed out. Instead of endless light tunnels over the course of 10 levels there are now 50+ missions, different types of ships, and a campaign mode in addition to the endless rush mode. You move at a slower pace with the option to shoot a boost for a limited time, which is akin to the turbo button in the NES classic Excitebike that penalizes you if you run too hot. You can now zoom out of the cockpit view to see your ship from a third-person perspective. There are even shooting missions now that auto-lock onto items if you get them in the crosshair and shoots them down.
All of these new ideas are plagued by the fact that they aren’t well implemented and in the end I found myself just playing in the same perspective as the previous game. The Collider 2 promised the same type of gameplay with VR support (both headsets), so I naturally assumed that it would be more tweaked for gamepads. I still can’t get the ship to navigate well enough with a joypad to tackle even some of the earlier levels, so I was forced to move back to the mouse. Well this can be problematic for VR – I assume because I have yet to receive mine – and not explained in any of the game’s descriptions, so those planning to play this thing in a living room or even away from a traditional desk will struggle more than those with a mouse handy. The option to zoom out of cockpit view and into third person seems to introduce more precise timing on top of the already tight timing requirements so by the time I was about a third complete with the missions I couldn’t use the mode anymore and had to go back to cockpit. The lock-on shooting is at best on par with some of the weaker mobile VR games I’ve played and I can’t fathom why there isn’t a shoot button when so many gamepad buttons are free. Put it all together and you start to see that this game was built on the concept of the original, which pretty much wanted you in a first-person cockpit view with a mouse, and then forced it into VR with a quick conversion to gamepad controls. There’s even a quick launch button on the game’s main menu to switch between VR output and traditional video output, suggesting that the developer implemented VR visuals just because it could rather than because the game should. While it’s in no way a bad game, The Collider 2 doesn’t seem like a game designed for gamepads and I suspect that it’s not a great experience in a VR environment (I’ll give you an update this summer when my VR headset arrives).
On the other hand if you are a fan of The Collider or a fan of those types of high speed games where you have to make instant decisions with pinpoint accuracy, this is totally for you. I get a crazy rush when I’m playing a racing game or a game like this and go for a long stretch of perfect moves. It’s like flying. It frees you. Then you hit the wall and it all falls apart. I like this mechanic and gameplay, despite the fact that it’s not compatible with long stretches of gameplay. You may also get stuck on a level as the difficulty ramps steeply by the third level of the game and again in the third set of missions (out of five). There is no way to skip a mission and move on so you have to literally replay the same mission for minutes, potentially hours, before moving on. It reminds me of a time back in the arcade days and a game that in today’s space is more focused on skill than an overall rack of tens or hundreds of hours to dedicate in a short time period. The Collider 2 is perfect for people who can develop a skill for it and show it off on YouTube or just challenging one’s self. It’s also priced perfectly, if not a bit on the low side, for an experience like this. Normally I like to complete a game I review, but my skills just aren’t up to snuff to fully complete The Collider 2 just yet, but I feel confident that someday I may see the end of that final tunnel (although I’ve yet to see the end of the last three levels of the original). This sequel is a great iteration to the previous title and demonstrates an evolution of everything the first one got right, but I feel the integration of VR support and all that comes with it is a misstep. If you want the refined and robust version of the original, pick this up without fear, but if you are looking for that next VR experience or even something for playing with a gamepad on your television you may want to look elsewhere.
Final Score: 3 out of 5
A review code was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review. The Collider 2 is currently available on Steam for $9.99 and is currently only compatible with Windows platforms of Vista or newer. This title has native VR support for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, although at time of writing we were unable to confirm whether or not it was on the Oculus store.