Whether or not you know the name Theseus, it’s likely almost everyone has a passing familiarity with his myth. Theseus is famous for having entered the legendary labyrinth, guarded by the minotaur, and being the one and only person to face it, defeat it, and escape the twisting halls. There’s something slightly different at work at the game which shares his name. In Theseus, by developer Forge Reply, the hero and minotaur are both trapped physically and metaphysically within the labyrinth’s walls. Whenever Theseus dies, he’s brought back to try again, and the minotaur gains some strength. It’s time to end that cycle.

Despite the labyrinth serving as host to Theseus and his tormentor, there’s very little chance of ever getting lost. Over the years, almost all side chambers have been blocked by fallen pillars, crumbling walls, or great crevices. You’ll be led down a single path for most of the game, really taking out any sense of an exploration-based adventure. Adding to that, the game never really stops holding your hand, insisting on alerting you as to what buttons are used to climb, climb down, and activate levers from start to finish.

Setting spiders on fire, one of my few joys

Setting spiders on fire, one of my few joys

Apparently the minotaur has been busy creating its own spawn to flood the chambers when it can’t be around to personally attack. These spawn take the form of gigantic spiders, sometimes scrabbling along the rock faces and other times rising up from pits of dark ooze that can be found all over the place. Whether these are legitimate spawn from some other demonic creature within the structure or simply manifestations of the minotaur’s own evil is never explained. Frankly, that’s fine with me. One of the few great uses of the VR camera was when introducing these creepy-crawlies down a long, dark tunnel armed with nothing but a torch.

Encounters with the spiders account for most of the actual combat in Theseus. There’s not a lot to the actual fighting, though – Theseus can swing a sword, swing a torch, and dodge. That’s about it. The sword doesn’t seem to do much on its own, though the torch is incredibly important as it pushes the spiders back and occasionally sets them on fire, which leaves them open for a finishing blow. I never quite figured out what the trick was, if any, to setting a spider alight, so really for most fights I would blindly swing the flame around until a spider caught fire, then deliver the finisher. Fun the first few times, but it quickly grows tedious when it becomes clear this is the only type of encounter you’ll face.

That is, of course, except for the minotaur. While the spiders are tiny, annoying pests, the minotaur is an absolutely massive beast, towering above Theseus every time he makes an appearance. Unfortunately, the terror is mitigated by a few factors. First, the VR camera nearly always zooms out to give a side view of the two, rather than letting you directly experience the height difference from a first-person or even low-angled third-person shot.  Second, rather than actually fighting him, Theseus resorts to playing games of cat and mouse. Like the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, the giant beast can’t see things that aren’t moving. So the game results to sections where you simply tiptoe past the monster and stand still after making a noise. Ho-hum.

All bark, no real bite.

All bark, no real bite.

From start to finish, the game won’t take up more than a few hours of your time. There were hints of alternate ways for the story to end, but frankly after a single playthrough I couldn’t muster up enough interest to start a new one. There were a few bright spots, but so many wasted opportunities that the scale is tipped heavily towards the latter. Hopefully the team can make some progress with their next title.

 

KAIJU VERDICT

1/4 Pops:  Weak  One pop games may be functional, and enjoyable to some, but not the reviewer. Mechanical or conceptual failings make them impossible to recommend.

Review based on a digital copy of the game played on PS VR

Review code supplied by the developer

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