Exit VR – Huxley [Review]

This made me believe in VR.

Location: Berlin, Germany

Date played: September 3, 2017

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 2-6 (but if you go over 3, choose an even number)

Duration: 44 minutes

Price: from 69€ per team of two on weekdays or 79€ on evenings and weekends to 129€ per group of 3 vs 3 on weekdays or 139€ on evenings and weekends (detailed breakdown)

Story & setting

We strapped a computer to our backs, put on an HTC Vive and entered the year 3007. We were among the last human survivors living on a space station above an Earth that was devoid of life. Our crew had received a message from the barren planet below: “My name is HUXLEY and I need your help!”

In-game: three beams of light shooting down towards a wrecked Earth.
Image via Exit VR

Huxley’s virtual Earth was a magnificently rendered WALL-E-esque wasteland where we met a WALL-E-esque robot who was a bit angrier than Pixar’s cute creation. No detail was overlooked… and I looked.

In-game: a disabled Huxley hanging from the ceiling of a strange cathedral to him.
Image via Exit VR

Huxley was a 2- or 3-player game. It was also setup so that a pair of teams could race. We each wore an HTC Vive and a computer mounted to an XMG Walker harness that hung comfortably like a backpack. We each played in an isolated 4 x 6 meter space with dedicated motion tracking.

Puzzles

Huxley was a fantastic puzzle game. It had unusual puzzles that took advantage of the virtual world and allowed us to do, see, and solve things that are impossible in meat space.

Additionally, these puzzles required teamwork.

Standouts

It really worked. The motion tracking was perfect. Lisa did not get even slightly motion-sick. Every other time she has ever put on a VR visor, she has become queazy within minutes. She spent 45 minutes in this world without the slightest issue.

The puzzles were smart. There was one puzzle in particular that I desperately want to spoil because I want to talk about it. I won’t spoil it… but I want to. It involved something that is physically not possible in real life.

Huxley was a truly collaborative escape room. Whereas our past VR escape room experiences were either solo games or didn’t include satisfying group interaction, Huxley required teamwork and made it feel natural.

In-game: a pair of avatars with a head and hands on a dead Earth.
Image via Exit VR

We each selected a cute avatar. These were initially a little off-putting, but successfully eliminated the issues that usually arise in VR from having false, non-representative, and non-reactive bodies.

The gamespace was gorgeous. This wasn’t some homebrew virtual world made of purchased and slightly tweaked renderings. Huxley was professionally designed.

Huxley used the substantial physical space in the virtual one. The world was big and open and the mechanism for traversing it was brilliant.

Because we wore all of the gear – including the computer – on our persons, there weren’t wires in the way.

Shortcomings

There was a little too much exposition from Huxley’s title character. He spoke a lot, but observing the game’s world was simply more interesting… so we tuned him out.

One late-game puzzle revolved around a task that felt strange in a virtual world where nothing had weight. We eventually got the hang of it, but it seemed like there could be a better interaction that would downplay some of the idiosyncrasies of VR.

There are a few things about the current generation of VR technology that were simply out of Exit VR’s control, but affected Huxley nonetheless:

  • The weight of the Vive put some strain on the neck over a 45-minute play session.
  • While the laptops on our backs were surprisingly comfortable, we started noticing them more as the game progressed.
  • We needed a battery swap mid-game (Update – per comments, this does not happen in every game).

While the battery swap was handled swiftly and efficiently, I think it could have been possible to work this into the game itself such that it didn’t feel like we’d paused.

Should I play Exit VR’s Huxley?

Absolutely. If you can play Huxley, you should go play it.

We’ve played a number of VR experiences over the past few years and they have been a mixed bag. Until I entered the world of Huxley, I never believed that I would truly want to play VR… not in the current generation anyway.

Huxley was a virtual escape room done right: it limited the impact of the weaknesses of VR, while creating gameplay that wouldn’t be possible in the physical world. It was a great escape game.

In-game: Lisa in her dedicated space wearing the VR rig.

Huxley is available for licensing. I know nothing about their pricing, but I would love to see this game proliferate. That said, please do not license it unless you have the space and will to do it right. Don’t cut corners. This game is too much fun for a hobbled experience.

Go play Huxley and join Lisa and me among the other converts who now believe in the power of VR.

Book your hour with Exit VR’s Huxley, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

For a local perspective, see Escape Maniac (in German).

Full disclosure: Exit VR comped our tickets for this game.

2 thoughts on “Exit VR – Huxley [Review]

  1. Excellent review, I totally agree.

    When I played (last week) no battery swap was needed. Maybe you didn’t start your session with a full battery, or maybe they’ve improved things.

    (My headphone cable did fall out once, but I got it put back in right away.)

    1. I’m glad to hear it. In our case, the battery swap may have been a fluke of timing.

      I’m also happy to hear that they were just as swift with plugging headphones back in as they were with battery swaps.

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