Carly and the Reaperman’s winning central mechanic is bolstered by great level design and versatile options, helping you overlook its scrappier side. More in our Carly and the Reaperman review!
Even when it originally released in 2018, Carly and the Reaperman’s ideas weren’t especially new. We’ve seen a lot of takes on asymmetrical co-op in VR, but it’s also true that many of those other attempts were purely experimental and didn’t offer much past their novel core mechanics. Odd Raven’s VR debut was the first to really flesh the concept out into a full game and, even three years on, it’s still quite capably the best of the bunch.
Now launching on Oculus Quest, Carly and the Reaperman is essentially a third-person platformer in which one player controls Carly — a young girl taking a trip to the Underworld — while the other embodies her newfound and decidedly much more morbid friend, the Reaperman. The latter helps the former by picking up blocks, torches or using switches to make or reveal new paths Carly can navigate to reach higher areas or cross chasms as you delve deeper into this strangely melancholic take on the afterlife.
Again, it’s an instantly likable concept that we’ve often seen pitched in Kickstarter campaigns or sampled in SteamVR demos, but the strength of the idea often outpaces the given game’s design. That’s not the case here – Carly and the Reaperman’s core campaign is spread out across eight sets of levels that steadily alternate between introducing new ideas and iterating on older ones to challenge you in new ways. The expectedly gentle opening that has the Reaperman stacking blocks soon gives way to much more fiendish concepts like platforms that only activate when the Reaperman’s hand is over them, blocks that disappear after a short amount of time, or pitch black passages that the Reaperman illuminates with a torch.
Variety keeps the campaign on its toes – along with traditional brick-building you’re sometimes racing to the finish against an ever-approaching wall of death and you’re sometimes solving puzzles together. Odd Raven has plenty of twists to keep the concept going, and Carly and the Reaperman never really outstays its welcome in the main campaign, which will take a determined player around four or five hours to see through. This being a platformer, though, levels are stacked with hidden challenges and extra collectibles that unlock hidden areas, meaning this could easily take completionists up to the seven or eight hour mark and beyond.
Sometimes the game can ask a little too much from you with the limited precision VR affords. Stacking blocks several storeys high is less enjoyable when an enemy pushes them out of the way on their set path. But it’s testament to how much freedom Carly and the Reaperman gives you that, in almost any given challenge, you can brute force your way through if you want. At one point the game hints that Carly needs to fall through a laser grid at the same time as a block to prevent the beams hitting her. The timing is ludicrously tight, so instead I just build a longer path over the top of the beams and have her jump over to the other side safely.
When it all works, then, the game is brilliantly collaborative and a real treat to tackle with a friend. Kudos, too, to how many options it gives you; while the Reaperman has to be controlled in VR, Carly can be operated either from another Oculus Quest or with a free game client to play on PC. You can even play the entire game in single-player should you so choose, moving the hands on the Reaperman but controlling Carly with the Touch’s analog sticks. It can be complicated in tense moments but I actually played three of the worlds like this and was surprised at how well it worked.
These mounting positives really help you to overlook the game’s scrappier side, which includes a cluster of rougher edges. When playing in co-op as the Reaperman, for example, I often saw Carly glide across surfaces when she was meant to be standing still or even stutter in her movement, while I didn’t detect anything like that when roles were reversed. She can feel a little sluggish to control too, though playing in VR certainly helps when it comes to depth perception with jumps etc.
The VR aspect does require constant, irritating admin, though. No matter where you play as Carly, it’s easy for the VR player’s big head to block the camera view, and navigating your camera around levels is done by grabbing the air and pulling yourself forward. It’s comfortable, yes, but also sluggish and fatiguing; it’d be great if there were options to navigate with the analog sticks instead.
Carly and the Reaperman Review Final Impressions
I went into Carly and the Reaperman expecting a novel take on VR co-op that would stretch thin fast. It was a huge relief, then, to discover a wonderfully inventive campaign with plenty of fresh ideas peppered across several hours of thoroughly entertaining co-op. The game is unquestionably on the scrappier side, with some difficulty spikes, bugs and administration issues that could do with cleaning up but, when it comes to asymmetrical VR multiplayer, this is easily the best of the bunch.
For more on how we arrived at this score, read our review guidelines. What did you make of our Carly and the Reaperman review? Let us know in the comments below!