Bonelab Review: Relentless intensity meets mainstream VR on Quest 2

bonelab stress level zero
Written by admin

Boneworks introduced a novel approach to interactions in VR, giving real weight to all items and openly inviting the player to role-play along with the game. The game advised players, “If you physically imagine yourself holding the heavy object, you will find it easier to move it.”

This is the core philosophy behind Stress Level Zero’s Marrow1 Interaction Engine, developed for Boneworks and now used in Bonelab. Everything you loved (and maybe hated) about Boneworks’ interactions has been carried over to Bonelab. That means you’ll need to pantomime while lifting objects for the best results, but it also means there’s the same level of playfulness, unpredictability, and experimentation.

A new structure

However, Stress Level Zero takes a slightly different approach to the game’s overall structure this time. When you first open the game, you start with the main campaign. After about 15 minutes, you’ll be introduced to a new hub area called The Lab. This is where you will begin to see the full scope of Stress Level Zero’s vision – the campaign is just one facet of the offer.

The lab features a variety of mini-games, game modes, and activities to explore. There are sandbox environments, wave shooters, time trials, and parkour tracks to name a few. After playing around in The Lab for a bit, you can continue with the campaign, but you can return at any time during or after – it will become a permanent option in the main menu, accessible at any time. More modes and levels will be added as the campaign progresses, and leaderboards allow you to compete globally or with your friends.

After a detour through The Lab, the longest and richest leg of the Bonelab campaign begins. Similar to Boneworks, Bonelab’s campaign is a mix of puzzle-platformer and shooter gameplay that encourages you to find creative and unique solutions using the various tools provided. There’s a mix of enemies – including faceless digital zombies and headcrab-inspired robots – but they rarely present a real challenge.

bone lab

The game constantly offers you new and varied weapon types to experiment with. Most of the campaign’s fun comes from these experiments, which allow you to carve for leather in dramatic ways as you progress through each area. The more creative you are, the more fun you will have. The sandbox system is so open that I’ve done a task at several points and was unsure if I’d done it the way I intended or if I’d invented some other solution that happened to work. The more likely answer is that it doesn’t matter: Bonelab often doesn’t care how you get from A to B, it just wants you to do it any way it can.

The downside to this is that the physics system can also be incredibly frustrating at times. Climbing a ladder or jumping onto a ledge is always more difficult than necessary, for example because body parts get caught or slip. Likewise, I would often grab an object on my body, such as my pistol, and end up with something else in my hand, such as ammunition. This occasional inaccuracy in interactions can be frustrating and gets worse when attacked by enemies at close range.

All of this will look fairly familiar to Boneworks players who share the same premise and problems. Aside from that, Stress Level Zero introduces some new mechanics to shake things up. The most well-known is the game’s avatar system, where you embody a variety of characters with different physical attributes and stats (speed, weight, strength, etc.). You will unlock these avatars in a series of worlds with mini-games and obstacles designed around an avatar’s given strengths or weaknesses. For example, there’s a parkour course for the fast avatar or a retro-inspired punch ’em up mini-game for the super strong.

Bonelab avatar

Once all the avatars are unlocked, you can switch between them at will with a unit on your arm. For the remainder of the campaign, switching between avatars becomes a new tool for solving environmental puzzles or getting creative with encounters. There are situations where you need to use a specific avatar to get a result, and others where you can switch just because you feel like it. It’s certainly an interesting new mechanic in theory, but in practice the campaign doesn’t always use it in many interesting ways. You can also freely switch between avatars in The Lab, where players will likely find more interesting uses for them.

Narration, post-game sandbox and mod support

In terms of narrative, Bonelab’s story is pretty thin and freehand. The campaign is definitely a continuation of the Boneworks universe and threads, but don’t expect many concrete answers or many narrative closures. You’ll explore a range of soulless, abandoned corporate environments and research facilities, as well as a mix of more creative MythOS worlds developed by the former Monogon Industries employees. The campaign probably lasted around six or seven hours in total, but your mileage may vary depending on how fast or slow you play.

Much like Boneworks, it sometimes feels like the campaign and narrative play second fiddle to the broader sandbox toolset that creates Stress Level Zero in Bonelab. Improvements to post-game offerings and game modes could make that more acceptable this time around, though. As mentioned, The Lab is a fantastic hub with a wide variety of mini-games and game modes to explore. That in itself offers players a decent amount to come back to after the campaign, but there’s another important addition: mods.

At launch, Bonelab’s mod section supports importing custom avatars for use in-game and automatically assigns stats (strength, speed, etc.) to the avatar based on its silhouette. Stress Level Zero developer Brandon Laatsch says mod support will expand over time, and there are plans to include support for custom items, vehicles, and more.

performance issues

While all of this provides a solid foundation, Bonelab has some rougher edges on Quest 2.

It’s a feat that Stress Level Zero managed to get such an ambitious release running on standalone hardware, but it also has some notable and consistent performance issues on Quest 2. During my playthrough, I encountered frequent stuttering, frame drops and encountered many moments where it was clear the headset was struggling to keep up. The game also crashed a few times and there were several instances where I had to manually quit and restart the game to continue. It’s certainly playable, but not a completely smooth experience.

Bone Lab Quest 2

Aside from the performance hits, it’s also clear that significant compromises have been made to get the game running on Quest 2. Many environments have a heavy gray fog nearby, presumably to obscure short view distances, and the game uses heavy and flashy fixed-foveat rendering. The textures are quite poor in detail and often look garbled from a distance, only resolving to high detail when the player is at a very close range.

That said, given the circumstances, the game still looks decent on standalone hardware. It remains an impressive feat, but performance is definitely on the low end for Quest 2.

Bonelab Review – Comfort

In terms of comfort, Bonelab is an incredibly intense experience. All movements are handled by smooth locomotion on the thumbstick. Comfort options are incredibly limited, with some snapping and smooth turning settings, but no option for vignettes or teleport moves. You will also frequently come across sequences that involve other forms of rapid artificial movement, such as B. launching from a hydraulic jump pad, falling down a long hole or riding on a fast-moving mine cart.

As we addressed at Boneworks, the unpredictability of the physics system (and the pantomime that comes with it) can be exhausting and nauseating in and of itself. Likewise, the mixed performance at Quest 2 can add to the intensity.

All of these elements mean that Bonelab has a high potential to induce nausea and motion sickness, even in those with a lot of VR experience. Gamers prone to motion sickness should exercise caution when playing Bonelab, and it’s not recommended for those brand new to VR.

#Bonelab #Review #Relentless #intensity #meets #mainstream #Quest

About the author


Leave a Comment