Considering PlayStation VR released after both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, it was inevitable that games would slowly make their way onto the only virtual reality platform for console owners. The Bellows on PlayStation VR is based on the recently reimagined version of the game, designed for HTC Vive. The Bellows was developed to scare you, your family and anyone that you share the experience with, however, it comes at a price. Although it is broken into two separate parts, The Bellows can be completed in a matter of minutes; literally, you’ll have seen everything the game has to offer in 15-20 minutes. Although the term experience has become overused in the industry, The Bellows is certainly more of an experience than a game, having more in common with a Haunted House ride at an amusement park than anything else.
On the PlayStation VR, The Bellows gives you the option of playing the game with a DualShock 4, or dual PlayStation Move controllers. Arguably you’ll have a much better time when using the Move controllers to move your in-game floating hands independently. In the first area of the game, we find our protagonist alone in a haunted house of sorts. The lights go out soon after venturing into the hallway, presenting a handheld lantern to guide your way through the darkened corridors. Books may suddenly shoot out in front of you; furniture rearranges itself; paintings fall from walls, all of the cliche things you can think of while making your way through a haunted house will occur. Without using any teleportation for movement, you utilize buttons on the controllers to move forward, as well as turn in set increments. The Bellows defaults to adding blacked out areas around your centered view when moving to help alleviate any motion sickness, but I felt fine with the option turned off. I found it make the game almost impossible to navigate through when turned on, as it makes an already dark game even darker, and not in a good way. The game certainly preys on psychological fears, but there are moments that climax with unholy imagery flashing before your eyes.
The second area in the game takes you from an abandoned mansion to a decrepit hospital, which such so happens to be one of my favorite places for horror movies/games to take place. There is just something about the paint peeling corridors and rusted medical equipment that frightens me. The Bellow disappoints in that regard, as I felt more like I was on an amusement park ride than anything else. The interaction between yourself and the environment is non-existent, outside of things that you must do to progress through the narrative. I never had the exhalation or fear to explore either location. Objects can’t be picked up and examined, but there are no hidden audio logs, diary entries, etc. or anything meaningful of that nature. It’s a neat concept that the developers need to expand upon in the future.
For the price of a cup of coffee, Castle Steps provides a 15-minute amusement park quality ride through two separate haunted locations. I enjoyed the ghost-filled manor much more than the abandoned hospital, but both desperately need more player interaction. The candle-burning lantern provides you with minimal light in the darkened corridors, but outside of opening some doors or pulling a lever, you’ll spend your time watching.
Note: The Bellows was reviewed based on a digital PlayStation VR copy of the game, provided by the publisher.