One of the fascinating things about virtual reality is that it opens doors for new kinds of gameplay, but in the case of Labcoat Studios, its game is a new twist on an old concept. At PAX West, the developers showed off LazerType, a typing game that features, obviously, lasers.
Fight Against Words
The objective of the game is simple: You have to stay “alive” for as long as you can by “shooting," or typing out, the many letters and words that slowly move towards you. At first, you’ll get single letters such as “a” or “i” or “x.” By looking at them and typing the letter you see, you blow them up with lasers and gain points. As you succeed, longer and more complicated words appear, and they come more frequently. You’ll need to type out as many words as you can before they reach you and blow up. Unlike the Brookhaven Experiment, where the monsters could appear behind you or to your side, most of the words for LazerType appear in your immediate field of view. However, the fact that I had to look at words to destroy them meant that some would appear outside of my peripheral view, so I had to be alert at all times.
The demo has two modes: Arcade and Multiplayer (more on the latter later). As the multiplayer function wasn’t available at the time, I opted for the Arcade demo, where I would try to beat the high score. The game had asked about my typing proficiency before I started. Considering the fact that I write for a living, I was fairly confident that I could easily excel at the game. My fingers flew across the mechanical keyboard as I zapped letters and small words well before they got close. This went on for a few more minutes, and I felt like I was exceeding the developers’ expectations.
Then, the five- and six-letter words appeared. I took out the first few words (I remember words like “about” or “zebra”), but there were still some two- and three-letter words around, so I dispensed of those first to keep the scene from becoming too overwhelming. There were also some words that gave me a bomb when they exploded, which was useful when I felt overwhelmed. I used it twice to clear the area, but alas, it was all for naught. At some point, I messed up the spelling of two words in a row. Frustrated, I completely forgot that a small legion of words had crept up on my left. I frantically tried to spell out the words that were coming closer and closer, but they were too long, and my hands weren’t fast enough to type out all the letters. When the game ended, I had to type my name to register my high-score. Surprisingly, I fought off enough words to get the second place spot at the booth. Not too bad, if I do say so myself.
A Potential Learning Tool And Multiplayer Support
Aside from an exciting typing game, LazerType could excel in the educational field. I remember taking many typing classes in elementary school, and they all had a video game-like foundation to make it appealing to children. Producer Dave Oshry echoed my sentiments and said that it’s a possibility. However, the developers would need to create an extra “Learning” mode to teach people how to type gradually. Currently, the arcade and multiplayer areas spew out random words.
Oshry also talked about the game’s multiplayer, which uses a heavily modified version of Pong to create competition between the two players. Like in the Arcade mode, you’ll look at a word and type it out, but it doesn’t disappear. The word is placed on a ball, which you then “hit” (if you typed it correctly) and send it to the other player across from you. They will get another word on the same ball, and if they get it right, then they hit the ball back to you. The words get longer and more complicated as the ball goes back and forth between you and your rival. The game ends when one of you spells a word incorrectly.
Simple, Yet Fun
I didn’t think that I could get excited about a typing game in this day and age, but LazerType easily impressed me with one playthrough. I guess the fact that it was in virtual reality piqued my interest. As great as it is to see virtual reality games use a variety of peripherals to let its mechanics shine in VR, it’s also good to know that some VR titles still use the ol’ mouse and keyboard combo (although in this case, it’s just the keyboard).
However, I do hope that LazerType becomes more than just a VR game. Now, more than ever, one of the best ways for children to learn is to mask lessons behind a video game. In the past, we got away with using Mavis Beacon for typing lessons, and today’s children can benefit from the same teachings as the ancient software program. But, this time around, they’ll be strapping Rifts and Vives onto their heads and learning how to type words by shooting at them with lasers.
|Type||Virtual Reality, Typing|
|Publisher||New Blood Interactive|
|Platforms||Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Samsung GearVR|
|Where To Buy||N/A|
|Release Date||Q4 2016|