It seems to me that nothing good ever comes from being in outer space. Whether you’re on a ship or a space station, some bad stuff is going to go down at some point. It could be aliens blasting first and asking questions later, it could be asteroids just shredding your hull to pieces, or maybe you just forgot to bring extra fuel and now you’re stranded. No matter what the issue, space is like one big bad luck charm.
Things are no different in HOMEBOUND, a virtual reality title from Swedish studio Quixel. You fill the shoes (or space suit) of an astronaut on a space station orbiting Earth. An on-board AI guides you through a few tasks on the ship, familiarizing yourself with the controls and mechanics of the game. You’ve got two hands for grabbin’ and a flashlight for shinin’ and that’s it! After you complete a couple of mundane tasks things get real. An unknown object strikes the station! Before you know it you’re blasted out of the room and fighting to get back.
Now, here’s where things got a little confusing for me. During my playthrough, I could hear the HAL like companion talking, but I couldn’t make out anything being said over the noise of the station going down. There are objectives to complete, even once all hell breaks loose, but they made no sense. I got back into the ship after being blasted into space and my objective was to find a book. Well screw that, I’m finding the escape pod! So that’s what I did. I got myself in the escape pod and left, and that was that. You are treated to a nauseating ride back to Earth and boom, end of game.
HOMEBOUND is a visual treat. The space station looks excellent, with lighting effects that make the area feel realistic. It looks like something NASA would have put together. The sound also helps sell the realism factor, when it’s not fighting over itself for your attention. Audio levels seem to be a bit of an issue, as well as audio cues that might play at the wrong time, depending on how much you explored the ship.
Moving around the ship takes some getting used to, however. Because you are in zero gravity, you can move up, down, strafe left and right, forward and backwards, and turn left and right. The way these movement controls are mapped to the controller make it a little confusing. I found myself blasting upwards when I meant to go forwards, or strafing instead of turning, and since you are using both sticks at the same time to get around, I found myself having to stop, reset, and move forward, then up, then turn, until I got my bearings again. It proved to be rather frustrating, and since you are in a hurry, it’s even more so. All that moving around, especially while turning, can lend to a bit of VR sickness, even for someone like me who doesn’t suffer from it as much as some people.
Overall, I’m baffled by HOMEBOUND. What seems like it could be an interesting experience turns out to just sort of be confusing. One minute you’re gathering floppy disks, and the next you are scrambling to survive. It all seems very disconnected as an experience, almost feeling more like a theme park ride than a space-faring mission, and since the space station is limited in scope and lacks character, I couldn’t find a reason to return to the game. HOMEBOUND displays some promise from a technical standpoint, but as little more than a tech demo, the value of the game is diminished significantly. With other space adventures to have on VR platforms, I can’t recommend HOMEBOUND to anyone but the most space-experience hungry of gamers.
HOMEBOUND is available now on Steam. HOMEBOUND was reviewed using a Steam code provided by the publisher. You can read additional information about PSVG’s review policy on our disclaimer page here.
HOMEBOUND is not much more than a space themed tech demo with little replayability, but it sure is pretty to look at!