Do you ever wonder what it would feel like to experience being Spider-Man from a first-hand perspective and swing around cities? Well, if you take that idea, swap the web-slinging for plunger-firing grappling hooks, and replace the skyscrapers with a vast Russian space station that feels like it’s not really up to code on safety protocol, then it already exists and it’s called Yupitergrad. I recently took a swing through this VR puzzle platformer for the good of the country and immersed myself in the speed and physics of its fast-paced swinging adventure, although I might have a newfound respect for the iron stomachs of Peter Parker and Miles Morales.
Plunger grappling to a more efficient tomorrow
In Yupitergrad, you play the role of an astronaut set to travel to a titular fictional Soviet space station. Yupitergrad is your nation’s secret weapon in a race for better energy, using resources from Jupiter to craft a hyper efficient (or at least supposedly) fuel source known as PEKOL. Unfortunately, when you arrive, all of the staff have “gone on vacation” and the machinery of the station aren’t quite up to the task of creating said energy source. Using a grappling gun on each hand that fires a plunger attached to a retractable or extendable cord, you’ll grapple, swing, and yank yourself through the Yupitergrad station, solving its issues and helping it to prepare PEKOL for glorious scientific advancement.
Of course, it’s not easy being Yupitergrad’s sole mechanic. The station’s issues exist in areas most perilous to kosmonaut traversal, grappling or not. Whether it’s getting giant churners working on PEKOL fluid ingredients without being crushed by them, boosting efficiency of fan coolant systems without being sliced to bits, or just carefully making your way through areas dangerously open and unshielded to the crushing pressure of Jupiter below, Yupitergrad’s tasks will put your reflexes and mind to the test on the fly to survive everything it puts before you. That said, the game is laced with dark humor and jovial encouragement from both your Soviet commanding officer and an AI that remind you frequently that the dangers are worth the effort and your country thanks you. All of it together makes Yupitergrad a rather lighthearted affair even as your trying to frantically whip your way through giant heat sinks that will torch your tiny body instantly if you’re not fast enough.
The rigors of web-… Kosmostick-slinging
As should be obvious at this point, the main traversal mechanic and action tool of Yupitergrad is the plunger grappling gun affixed to each hand, known as Kosmosticks. Each gun can be used individually for a sort of Tarzan-style swinging, or you can fire both at a spot and yank backwards to slingshot yourself through an area. Each grappling line is also retractable or extendable, allowing you to carefully reel yourself towards a spot or give yourself more slack to swing. The only other mechanic you have is backjets on the sides of your grapplers for giving your swinging some momentum or directionally gliding through water segments.
Yes, you heard right. Water segments. Yupitergrad is sort of split between these long rappelling corridors and underwater areas that feature a blend of jet gliding and grappling to get through them. Some areas give you time to plot your moves carefully while others, like a warehouse section full of automated metal crates, require you to be pretty quick and nimble, lest you be squished (which thankfully just takes the screen to black albeit with a pretty nasty squish noise). If you fail, the checkpoints are pretty liberal so you won’t go back too far to have to try a segment over again, which is both alleviating to stress and nice for quitting the game and jumping back in where you left off with ease later.
The latter is especially good because the sheer speed and momentum of Yupitergrad can get queasy quickly. There are options to make this game more manageable to the senses, such as a comfort mode, snap and smooth turn rotation, and adjustments for each arm’s momentum. That said, it still requires you to move pretty fast and at some points, even turn quickly to catch another grappling point on the momentum you have. I consider myself pretty stalwart when it comes to motion sickness in VR and even I could only deal with some of the faster momentum for a limited time before I’d need a small break to alleviate queasiness. The game is so bent on speed that there’s even a Time Attack mode.
Even so, I can hardly fault Yupitergrad much for its design. The game is smooth as silk and the swinging and momentum mechanics make sense. The puzzles throughout and the way past various obstacles is also always perfectly conveyed. I never found myself guessing for too long at where I was supposed to go, what I was supposed to do, or how I was supposed to do it. It’s not that it wasn’t hard at some points, but Yupitergrad always feels very intuitive.
Making the Yupitergrade
By the time I was done with Yupitergrad, I may have been a sweaty mess, but I still feel its worth commending for its style and mechanics. Grappling as the main mechanic of movement feels smooth and the corridors and puzzles throughout the game are well-arranged. It’s also well-aided by the game’s jocular Soviet commonwealth humor, encouraging you forward despite the clear and blatant dangers of the well-crafted, cel-shaded environment. It’s also helpful that there are plenty of options to help with accessibility and comfort. That said, there are also plenty of intense parts that will test your stomach as you try to frantically fly through the dangers Yupitergrad has in store for you. I don’t know how Peter Parker and Miles Morales handle it so well without losing their lunch, but if you can get past that discomfort, Yupitergrad is a pretty exhilarating VR puzzle platform experience.
This review is based on an Oculus Quest 2 digital copy supplied by the publisher. Yupitergrad is available on various VR platforms through the Oculus store and SteamVR. A PSVR version is planned as well. For the latest information about videogames, visit http://www.shacknews.com.