Gloomy Eyes released a few months ago for PC VR, but has now made its way across to the Oculus Quest. The immersive story is split across three episodes, supports hand tracking and runs for somewhere around 30 minutes. Here’s our quick review.
Gloomy Eyes had a fair amount of buzz around it before release. Colin Farrell signed on to narrate and then the project won the Artistic Achievement and Audio Achievement awards at the 2019 Raindance Immersive Awards. The film was shown at distinguished film events such as the Sundance 2019 festival and the South by Southwest 2019 festival, among others. Now, Gloomy Eyes has made its standalone VR debut on the Oculus Quest.
The story is set in a world that has been overcome by darkness and follows a zombie boy named Gloomy as he falls in love with a mortal girl, Nena. In terms of animation and artistic direction, Gloomy Eyes is absolutely stunning. It feels very Tim Burton, but with even more fluid animations and intricate design. Every scene is a wonder to look at — everything is designed with care and such a high level of detail. At certain points in the story, the experience can feel quite magical.
Most of the scenes are presented almost like dioramas, floating in the darkness and only illuminated by a fireplace or other small sources of light. As the characters move around the environment and the scenes change, you’ll be naturally guided to turn to where the next diorama is about to appear. However, some of the scenes and set pieces are so stunning that you’ll wish you could pause the action and just spend a few minutes investigating everything up close.
It’s an immersive, 6DoF experience that works seamlessly most of the time. One scene in particular, involving theme park rides in episode two, makes excellent use of the VR medium and 3D space. It’s a dazzling presentation with beautiful trails of light and models moving fluidly all around you in a manner that you could only experience in VR.
In terms of story, I have mixed feelings. The world that the story is set in is intriguing and the characters are all very charming, but the actual narrative has a strange feel and pacing. While Colin Farrell has a fantastic voice for narration, sometimes his lines feel a bit redundant. Occasionally it feels warranted and used well, especially when world building and setting up necessary exposition. However many other lines fall into the classic writing trap of telling the audience something that is either already being demonstrated by the characters or could be, very easily.
The pacing of the narrative also feels off, mainly due to how the story is split across three episodes. The first episode is noticeably shorter and only really exists to set up the context and exposition for the other two episodes, where the story really begins. The second and third episodes are almost equal to each other in length, and feature more interesting set pieces, plot points and better narrative structure, since all of the boring groundwork was dumped in the first episode.
It’s a strange decision to compartmentalize the story into ‘episodes’, with each one taking you back to the main menu after it finishes. One large story, with several auto-save checkpoints, would probably have helped avoid the strange narrative pacing. Nonetheless, despite the minor gripes, it’s still an enjoyable narrative and the animation and visual design keep you enthralled throughout.
It’s also important to note while playing on the Oculus Quest, you may get some minor blur and ghosting when moving, which can be distracting. This is, sadly, an unavoidable result of displaying such dark content with pockets of light on the Quest’s OLED screen. Upon comparing the PC VR version of the title (via Oculus Link) and the native Quest version, there may also be some minor graphic downgrades on the latter to accommodate for the standalone system, but they’re not overly noticeable or important.
The Quest version also technically supports hand tracking, but the experience isn’t interactive at all. Using your hands amounts solely to selecting a language and an episode while in the menu, and nothing else. It’s definitely still a plus, but also not a game changer.
Overall, the few minor gripes shouldn’t take away from just how captivating Gloomy Eyes is. It masterfully commands a mysterious yet gorgeous art style and pairs it with brilliant animation. The level of detail is so high, and the world so beautiful, that I can see myself revisiting the experience more than once, just to get a better look at things. People of all ages, even with little VR experience, should enjoy Gloomy Eyes, and it’s short enough that they may as well give it a try.
Final Score: 4/5 Stars | Really Good
You can read more about our five-star scoring policy here.
Gloomy Eyes is available on Steam, Viveport and the Oculus Store for PC VR and on the Oculus Store for Quest. This review was conducted on the Oculus Quest primarily, supplemented by the Rift version using Oculus Link for comparison.