Originally published on Trevor Trove on January 27, 2016
TL; DR(eview) – Volume is an enjoyable stealth puzzle game inspired by the old Metal Gear Solid VR Missions, with the same cheeky humor as Mike Bithell’s previous outing Thomas Was Alone delivered through a cyber-Robin Hood tale.
When Volume launched last year on PlayStation 4, I picked it up and started playing. Mike Bithell’s last game Thomas Was Alone, is one of my favorite little platformers of the past few years so I was happy to support his new project, even if stealth action isn’t my forte. After spending a couple of days playing the first 30 or so of the game’s 100 core levels, I determined that it felt like a game that would me much more enjoyable on my Vita so I put it away to wait until the Vita version launched.
And sure enough, when it finally launched on Vita January 5th, I picked it up and enjoyed the hell out of the rest of the game. The game does not feature Cross-Save functionality yet (but Bithell is aiming to add it in a future update) so I wasn’t able to just pick up where I left off. But that was probably for the best anyway as replaying those early levels reintroduced me to the games mechanics.
You play as Rob Locksley in a cyber-dystopian future England where Guy Gisborne (voiced suavely/menacingly by Andy Serkis) has effectively become used his AI Volumes to seize power and install his allies to various positions of power and enforce a class-based rule. As his namesake would suggest, Rob hatches a plot to rob from the rich and give to the poor. Each level is designed to simulate a location important to Gisborne or his allies and Rob is broadcasting these simulations across the country, effectively teaching the masses how to break in and steal their wealth back.
The level design of the stages progressed nicely, occasionally doling out new tools to use as you navigate around the increasingly harder varieties of simulated guards. In the early levels, you’ll start out with noisemakers that can distract guards, allowing Rob to pass by unnoticed. Eventually, you’re given tools that will disguise you as an ally or allow you to disappear altogether (because it’s a simulation it doesn’t have to make sense), or even temporarily stun your enemies (I personally enjoyed these the most as I tend to go into a game guns-a-blazing rather than actually using “tactics” and “stealth”).
The beautiful visual design of each simulation being constructed at the start of a level and the game’s wry humor (or rather, humour) are just icing on an already delicious cake.
The game also features a Level Editor to create your own puzzles and Bithell and company curate some of their favorite user-generated levels in a Staff Picks playlist. I didn’t really try either so I won’t speak to them but it’s great that they were included for those who enjoy that sort of thing, even in the Vita version of the game.Additionally, Volume: Coda has been announced as a free PlayStation VR expansion for the game, likely a launch title (whenever that may be). Putting myself in the virtual shoes of Rob actually might be the thing (aside from my prediction of No Man’s Sky) that has me most excited for PlayStation VR.
Volume is available now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, PC, and Mac. For more information, visit volumegame.net.