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Review: The Climb 2 lets you channel your inner Alex Honnold or Spider-Man

Fling yourself up mountains and skyscrapers like you've got nothing to lose.

When Crytek's original mountain climbing simulator came out in 2016, it and Richie's Plank Experience were talked up as tests for the acrophobic or basophobic among us to face our fears. I couldn't afford a VR-ready PC at the time, but I remember trying out The Climb on a friend's Rift CV1 and getting weak at the knees the first time I looked down.

I'm still not keen on heights and am about the furthest thing from Alex Honnold, but The Climb 2 affected me very differently now that I'm more familiar with VR. Basically, it's hard to feel afraid of heights when the game gives you the ability to crawl or leap freely from one handhold to the next, with no need to worry about supporting your body weight or finding proper footholds. You're not quite Spider-Man, but you certainly will feel a little superhuman.

So long as you're clear that The Climb 2 is more an arcade experience than a heart-racing simulator, there's plenty to love about this sequel! It gives your deltoid muscles a serious workout, has a ton of replayable content, and benefits (as much as the Oculus Quest 2's hardware will allow) from Crytek's graphical prowess to make you feel like you're dangerously high up.

Bottom line: The Climb 2 refines the popular original game, adding better graphics, more realistic gravity effects, new climbable objects, and a fifth City map while keeping the same core climbing controls and stamina system. Climb up mountains to climb up the leaderboards.

The Good

  • Stamina mechanics provide a fun challenge
  • New City climbing maps
  • Immersive graphics
  • Highly replayable for speedruns and achievements

The Bad

  • Similar mechanics, levels as original
  • Gripping objects can be finicky

$30 at Oculus Store

The Climb 2: Price and availability

The Climb 2 is available now on the Oculus Store for $30 on the Oculus Quest or Quest 2. While the original was sold on the Rift as well, Crytek hasn't announced a PC VR version of The Climb 2 yet. Since Oculus is the official publisher, the game will not come to SteamVR.

Also, if you're interested in playing the original as well as the sequel, Crytek has a limited-time bundle for purchasing both games for $40. After March 12, both games will be full price for $60 total.

Revamped routes, classic gameplay

The Climb 2: What I like

There are five locations in The Climb 2 — named Alps, Bay, Canyon, City, and North — each with three different climbing paths of varying difficulty levels. Every location apart from City was also in The Climb. Still, they have different paths and new climbing objects that'll make them feel familiar but not repetitive to fans of the original.

Compared to the original game, only City is a "new" location, but the other four have completely distinct routes from the old game.

Out of the five, my immediate favorite was the new City map. The other four have distinct aesthetics, but beyond the surface, they're all just rock climbing with palette swaps and different distractions. In City, you climb up various buildings using suction cups, window-washing platforms, crumbling bricks, and even rotating panel billboards where you must scramble to new handholds in a split second.

Different difficulty levels aren't just the same paths with some handholds and grips removed. City goes from a bright, Mirror's Edge-esque daytime level to a nighttime excursion on a different building and finally onto a towering skyscraper amidst fog and clouds. Even the beginner City level felt a bit maze-like, making it challenging to find the right path to progress.

Each level can be played on Casual or Professional. The latter uses the original game's stamina system, in which the hand holding you up loses stamina while you're seeking out a new grip with the other; spend too much time held up by one hand, and you'll eventually drop. You can recover stamina with two-handed grips, extend your stamina potential by chalking up your hands or avoid losing stamina by holding down the grip triggers halfway in the sweet spot.

Limited stamina is all that'll keep you from scaling and bounding up walls like an action hero with jet boots. It adds a necessary touch of realism.

The Oculus rep who gave me early access recommended I stick with Casual mode for a while, but I immediately preferred the harder mode. The stamina mechanic made it feel more like real climbing, and I had a visceral reaction every time I climbed for too long without chalking up, only to see my hands raw and bloodied from the climb. Likewise, gripping just lightly enough to keep my virtual hands fresh while not accidentally letting go entirely gave the gameplay more of a challenge.

I like that your character — which has customizable gender and skin tones — starts to groan if your hand is losing stamina. The stamina meter is visible on the wrist of each disembodied hand, but you can't waste time looking at your grip hand when you're looking for your path upward. So the game gives you a clear warning that you need to grab something now.

Since the original had similar gameplay, owners of the first game will wonder what changes The Climb 2 has apart from City. The differences are primarily about immersion and variety. They added new climbable objects like ropes, ladders, containers, balcony ledges, awnings, poles, and 45ยบ-angled slopes you must slide down and jump off. Objects also react audibly or visibly to your virtual weight now, whereas, in the original, the world felt static.

Plus, it takes full advantage of the Quest 2's superior hardware and looks excellent for a mobile port. It's frankly astonishing how they managed to render whole cities and huge stretches of nature, and they even added cute touches like moths flying near light sources, perched birds flying away if your hands get too close, or rattlesnakes hissing at you to take another route.

The game has 15 levels (plus the tutorial) with two difficulty options, 70 achievements at launch, and a ton of unlockable accessories. You can beat the easier levels in just five minutes or so if you move fast, but tougher levels can take at least 15 minutes. If you're like me, you'll then want to replay those levels, either to climb up the leaderboard or to unlock achievements like beating it in X minutes or beating it without using chalk or dying. Altogether, there's enough content and replayability to make The Climb 2 a great buy for most VR fans.

More like The Climb Remastered?

The Climb 2: What I don't like

Just look at how gorgeous The Climb 2 gameplay looks running off of PC VR tech in that trailer. Now get ready for a bit of a letdown because the Quest 2 just can't render the kind of graphical fidelity we're used to with Crytek games.

To be clear, the Quest 2 port doesn't look "bad"! I'd even say it's one of the best-looking Quest 2 games I've played. It just doesn't quite live up to all the marketing material Crytek put out, and certain maps look blurrier than others. The foveated rendering can be particularly noticeable on the edges of your vision.

I don't mind that the sequel doesn't change much with the mechanics: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. But someone who just bought The Climb Quest port may be disappointed that Alps, Bay, Canyon, and North return for the sequel. Even if Crytek rebuilt these levels from the ground up, the devs could have come up with a new natural rock climbing scenario, like an underground cave or a Yosemite-like forest. If you can get past that, though, these maps are absolutely different from before, so it's more of a remake than a simple remaster.

Anyone who just bought The Climb may feel disappointed that the sequel takes you right back to the same locations.

Generally speaking, the game controls well. But it runs into the problem of other climbing games: objects that look like they should be climbable but aren't. You'll reach for a ledge, flail ineffectively at it, and then look around desperately for a new handhold while your grip hand goes numb. Or, you try to heave yourself onto a ledge, only for the game to shove you right back off with an invisible barrier. You end up having to rely on the guide button to figure out where to go instead of trusting your gut.

My last point may not apply to everyone, but this game gave me some significant motion sickness, to the point that I had to break out some ginger supplements. It really shouldn't have because it's a game where you propel motion by moving your arms. Maybe all of the falls and leaps did a number on my inner ear, but I had to stop after just a couple of climbs per session. I'm susceptible to VR nausea, so I've asked for a second opinion from another Quest 2 owner to find out if the issue is widespread or if it's just my inner ears being divas.

The Climb 2: Competition

I'd argue that there aren't any other rock climbing VR games in the same ballpark as The Climb 2, fun or quality-wise. The only exception would be The Climb, which has the same mechanics, but its sequel is certainly more polished in several areas. You can buy both, but I certainly wouldn't only buy the first one — they don't need to be played in order.

If you're less interested in climbing as a game and more in exploring real-world locations, your best bet is National Geographic Explore VR. You'll climb an Antarctic ice shelf in search of a lost penguin colony and Machu Picchu, Peru, to discover ancient Incan structures. It's shorter and less replayable, but also cheaper and more realistic.

In terms of other games that will give you a better workout, I'd argue that no other game will work out your shoulders so well and so naturally. But for a full-body workout, it has a lot of competitors. FitXR isn't much of a "game" per se, but it'll get you sore and sweating after every boxing or dancing workout. You can also toughen up your arms with boxing titles like The Thrill of the Fight or Creed: Rise to Glory.

The Climb 2: Should you buy?

You should buy this if ...

You enjoyed The Climb

This game is a revamped version of the original. It keeps its climbing mechanics but adds more complicated paths and more varied objects, making the world feel more dynamic. It also lets you race your friends' ghosts in asynchronous multiplayer, which ramps up the excitement for what was a solitary experience.

You love speedrunning

In real life, climbing is a methodical endurance test. In The Climb 2, you're encouraged to complete each level under a certain time limit to get achievements and unlock new gear. That means playing and replaying each level to memorize the best paths and leaping like a primate from one object to the next instead of choosing a path carefully. People who obsess over leaderboard rankings will have plenty of competition in this game.

You want some hardcore shoulder muscles

I'm typing this review with my shoulders still sore from pretend-mountaineering. You'll start to feel the burn in your deltoid muscles fairly quickly, as this game will have you stretching and lifting to reach the proper handholds. If you're someone who prefers seated play, you'll have more trouble reaching far-away holds and may have to rely more on wild, inaccurate leaping.

You should not buy this if ...

You're here for a full-body or aerobic workout

Aside from your arms and deltoids, the rest of your body doesn't get much work in The Climb 2. That's not a negative in my book, but if you're specifically looking for a game that requires harder effort, check out our list of the best Oculus Quest 2 workout games instead.

You're actually scared of heights

I didn't find this game that frightening, but if the thought of standing over a cliff edge makes you queasy, there's no need to push yourself and play this. You actually spend more time looking up or facing a solid wall than looking down, but seeing how high you climbed should be part of the fun, not a stressor.

You want a story

In The Climb 2, you're a solo climber scaling different dangerous paths. That's it! There's no lore or character motivations driving you to conquer these routes. Many gamers care more about gameplay, but others will be bored replaying levels without a story to keep their attention.

A lot of VR games nowadays tend to be very niche and genre-specific, but The Climb 2 is the kind of exploration arcade simulator that has broad appeal for almost anyone who owns a Quest 2. It has plenty of content but can be enjoyed in short bursts. It will challenge VR veterans, but the easier levels on Casual difficulty are perfect for VR beginners.

4 out of 5

After you finish climbing all fifteen paths throughout the virtual world, take on your friends' ghost times and the leaderboard, and complete achievement objectives, you'll have gotten more hours than most VR games offer. The world itself looks vibrant, and outside of a few hiccups, the controls and stamina system work very well. I could easily see The Climb 2 making our list of the best Oculus Quest 2 games.

Bottom line: The Climb 2 offers a ton of nature and urban ascents to complete. Try to find something to hold onto before you plummet to your death, or if not, just reach out and jump for it. It's as much a puzzle and action game as it is a cinematic experience.

$30 at Oculus Store



Source: androidcentral

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