Statik [Review]

Quarantine Your Hands

Developer & Publisher: Tarsier Studios

Dates Played: Nov-Dec 2019

Platform: Playstation VR

Duration: about five hours

Price: $14.99 on Playstation Store

REA Reaction

From the comfort of my living room, my hands have deftly escaped a series of excellently designed escape rooms… or rather, escape boxes that my hands were trapped inside, while a blurry-faced man analyzed my progress…

Through the ingenious use of Playstation’s Dualshock controller, Statik expertly captured the spirit of real-life escape rooms in a seated VR game. 

While I’d seen some of its elements before in real-life escape rooms, the box-on-my-hands mechanic made them feel fresh. Statik mixed in whimsical elements, an immersive environment, and unique puzzles that would only work in the virtual space. 

Everything about the puzzles felt tactile. For a virtual medium set in a realistic environment, this is essential. Proper sound design and accurate movement of the boxes’ mechanics worked together to complete the illusion.

I recommend this to anyone looking to slip into the PSVR puzzle world and escape their quarantine reality.

Who is this for?

Why play?

  • Solid, well-clued puzzles
  • A wholly unique concept
The first room of the game. The player examines the puzzle box around their hands as Dr. Ingen looks through a window.
The first room I woke up in. Dr. Ingen studied me from afar.

Story

In Statik, I played as an unnamed test subject of the Statik Institute of Retention. Every day I woke up with a new puzzle box strapped to my hands. My only guide was Dr. Ingen, who often sat in on my sessions, but he wasn’t there to give me hints. His official role was just to observe, make notes, and whistle tunelessly every so often. As his unofficial job, he saw fit to mock me.

In truth, my goal was not to free my hands. Just as each box had been solved and the feeling of satisfaction had washed over me, I looked down to see my permanent IV line inject me with a sleeping agent and the test was over.

Another puzzle room, darker, with four indistinct monitors in the distance. The IV line is seen on the left arm.
What does all this stuff do? Step one: push every button.

Setup

Statik cycled me through three different types of rooms: the main puzzle rooms where I solved the box locked to my wrists, an underwater room where I progressively assembled a puzzle cube each time I returned, and the psychological testing room where Dr. Ingen recorded my responses to various visual and auditory stimuli. 

This last kind of room simply displayed an image on a screen and asked me to respond “happy” or “sad.” A lie detector of sorts was bolted to my hands for this room and occasionally the needles flew all over the place. I later learned that these answers had no bearing on the game and this room was simply a fun moment of distraction.

The overall vibe of Statik borrowed from games like Portal and Bioshock. Think 1980s technology with the forced-smile aesthetic of Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe.

Yet another puzzle box, this time with a rotary dial on it. A computer monitor is on the table in front of me and Dr. Ingen sits in a chair, his face blurred out in my vision.
Phoning a friend did nothing. Dr. Ingen soon became bored of me.

Gameplay

Core gameplay centered around experimenting, observing, and making connections.

The puzzles were mostly linear with easy to moderate difficulty. Non-gamers can approach Statik without apprehension; there was only one room where I had to input commands quickly in order to be successful.

Analysis

➕ Given the limitations of PSVR, where movement was mostly limited to turning and leaning. Statik did an excellent job making the world feel large and giving me a lot to do.

➕ The VR interactions felt tactile. Boxes contained audio cassettes, robot arms, and laser beams. Switches and knobs were the most common components. Every element worked just as I expected it would have in real life.

➕ The character of Dr. Ingen was well written and professionally voiced. Like Portal’s GlaDOS before him, he was a master of subtle, funny digs at my intelligence, and they came infrequently enough that they didn’t get annoying.

➖There’s no hint system. It seemed like a missed opportunity to use Dr. Ingen as a hint device, marveling at my lack of aptitude and giving me some attitude along with three levels of hints.

➕ There was a non-standard use of blacklight! I had to leave myself a reminder note to mention it here.

➖ In between the box-on-hands levels, there were some underwater rooms (my “stasis chamber”?) where I was asked to manipulate holograms of shapes to make a cube. It was progressive — with each visit, I completed more of the cube. It simply wasn’t very fun compared to the clever boxes. While I came to learn there was a narrative reason for this series of puzzles, the break in the flow was unwelcome and felt like filler to me.

➕ There’s no way I could fail, and no way I could die. As strange as it sounds for someone who was imprisoned and tested upon by an unknown entity, it was actually pretty relaxing just to work through the puzzle knowing I wasn’t about to be killed by a deathtrap if I didn’t do it in time.

➖ Occasionally the PSVR system got confused about the position of my hands and placed them in a wrist-breaking upside-down orientation or extended my arms way out to the edge of the room. Tarsier Studios was apparently aware of this bug, because they suggested in-game that I shake the controller at the Playstation Eye camera if this happens.

My arms stretch impossibly out in front of me, demonstrating the bug mentioned just above.
Whoa! Stretchy arms! What did they give me…?

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: Best played seated, because your character is. You should be able to turn a bit and look around.
  • Required Gear: PSVR unit, PS4
  • Don’t forget that you can press in on the DualShock thumbsticks.
  • Feel free to look behind you, but there’s no reason to turn your body physically all the way around. The hand-orientation bug seems to happen when your body blocks the PSVR controller.
  • There’s no hint system but there are walkthroughs on YouTube if you’re seriously stuck. My favorite was by “Polish Paul VR”, who is hilariously self-deprecating.
  • There is a difficult meta puzzle throughout that leads to a secret ending.
    Spoiler: Meta Puzzle Hint

    Keep your eye out for clues that seem to belong to levels you’ve already completed.

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Buy your copy of Tarsier Studio’s Statik, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Buy Statik

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