You know, it’s not easy being a teenager. That’s what the protagonist, your character, in the VR-only game Tentacular has recently figured out. Not only do people expect more from you, but now you have to deal with these unwanted responsibilities. Indeed, you learn that life is harsh in the world of Tentacular. It is your birthday, though, and your sister made you a cake. However, every citizen on the small island of La Kalma is required to enter a vocation at the age of 16. That’s rough. Also, the folks on the island are mad at you. And it’s likely because you’re a gigantic, eldritch monster with tentacles instead of arms. Oh, and you’re adopted. Tough break, kid.
That’s how you start your young life in Tentacular, a game by developer Firepunchd Games and publisher Devolver Digital. As a game made for Steam VR, you use the controllers to move two bulky tentacles to grab and place various objects. It’s a rather rudimentary physics-based puzzle/construction game. The people of the island need you to use your staggering, nightmarish strength to move things around. And what else can a giant monstrosity do for a living?
I played the preview for some time, stacking crates and petting dogs. And you’d think that’d be your lot, but that’s not quite it. Soon, you get swept up in some wacky sci-fi hijinks involving a possibly mad scientist, alien technology, and, well, more stacking. But with magnets. It’s an intriguing concept, if you have the attention span for it.
Time to move stuff
The crux of the game isn’t mind-blowing, as expected with most VR puzzlers. Stacking objects is part of the job, but you also help the scientist with experiments here and there. You use objects, like metal beams, shipping containers, and more, to create something in a required shape. It is a blend of construction and puzzle-solving, and it wasn’t hard to figure out in my short time with the game. You can even ask for a hint, if you want it. But even with hints, the entertainment value had a time limit.
The implied joke in Tentacular is that you’re a monster with two tentacles that are hilariously cumbersome to use. Hold the trigger to grab, release it to drop. It takes some time to get acclimated, but I was able to use them more effectively with practice. It was fun and often humorous at first to wield these giant, blue sausages around and construct things, accidentally smacking little people into the water when turning around.
Heard it once
The same joke told over and over can get tiring to hear. Precision is key, but you can’t be precise with two sticky tentacles. Get it? There is variety to break things up, like the aforementioned experiments and using electrical lines as a makeshift slingshot to fire objects. Those are fun, and I can probably play them all day. But the construction, with me trying to fenagle my grabby tentacles to line things up properly, or sometimes knocking it all down because I wasn’t paying enough attention to my other limb, got a bit tedious faster than I thought. I can imagine the joy of playing this game with a group of onlookers, guffawing my attempt at balancing a fishing trawler onto beams stuck with magnets.
But on my own, in my chair, cursing my awkward flailing? No. Unfortunately, I got a little bored (and frustrated) after a while. To be frank, however, it’s likely a me thing. I can see fans of construction games having a blast with Tentacular. However, I found it to get rather tiring, rather fast.
Yes, you can “pet” the dogs — and you should
That’s not to say the game doesn’t appeal completely to me. I love its charming, colorful world. Graphically, it reminds me of a cleaned-up game from the GameCube era. Tapping people on the head to get them to talk faster never fails to amuse. And the citizens themselves are cute, especially when you drop one into the water and they immediately equip a life preserver with a satisfying foomph. I also liked the occasional moments with your human sister, whose affection for her titanic sibling is unmistakable.
The construction gameplay, though, didn’t quite, well, grab me as I hoped it would. Still, Tentacular does have an affective motif, with an appealing world and citizens. With tweaks to make the construction elements a bit more engaging, I can see the game grabbing VR players’ attention.