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Acron: Attack of the Squirrels Review: A Nutty Delight Of A VR Party Game

Acron: Attack of the Squirrels Review: A Nutty Delight Of A VR Party Game

Resolution Games might have cracked it here. The Swedish studio’s back catalogue, overwhelming in number, is filled with cheery games, all with a faint smack of commerce. Whether it’s freemium experiments or tie-ins with irritating animals, the studio (notably formed by Candy Crush developer Tommy Palm) has struggled to escape that cynical stigma.

Acron does just that. Moreso than any Resolution title before it, this plays like a game where fun is front and center. And what fun Acron can be; it’s a VR party game, best played in local multiplayer. One player puts on a headset to embody a tree. Between two to eight others jump in via a free smartphone app to become squirrels. Squirrels want the tree’s golden acorns, and the tree has to protect them in matches lasting no more than a few minutes.

What follows is a frantic and fantastical mix of party madness and, with time and coordination, cunning strategy. For the VR player, Acron is a fast-firing game of whack-a-mole sprinkled with a few tactics. You need to knock squirrels down by throwing projectiles which come in three varieties. There’s a fast-spawning standard seed, a larger one that explodes and sap to slow your enemies down. Better yet, if a squirrel dares get too close you can pick them up and toss them like a leafy King Kong. The controls are critically simple and the experience conveys the simple thrills of bringing virtual worlds to life with ease. This is a great place to introduce VR to friends and family. Wielding your giant tree hands, in particular, is a wonderfully surreal sensation.

Like RADtv and Puppet Fever before it, though, Acron does threaten to grow stale as soon as it starts. I’m yet to see a VR party game that doesn’t burn out eventually but, reassuringly, Acron keeps finding ways to amuse.  It’s kept me and different groups of friends laughing in anywhere between 20 – 60 minute play sessions in which we’ve been eager to pass the headset over and start yelling over the top of each other. When everyone’s past the short learning curve, it becomes a riotous romp.

Much of that comes from strategizing as the squirrels. Mobile play is initially something of a train wreck; everyone just sort of dashes towards the shiny golden prize in what looks like a woefully inaccurate recreation of D-Day. But as players start to grasp the game — which takes no more than a few rounds — plans start to develop.

Comfort

When in VR, Acron is an entirely stationary experience. You can play either seated or standing, but there’s no movement to worry about. It’s about as comfortable as VR can get. There are four different types of critter, each with a special power like sprinting, digging tunnels, generating shields or building bridges. A more seasoned team might work to provide cover with shields and bridges while one player burrows beneath them. In one particularly proud moment, I crept around the left side of the map while my teammates successfully distracted the enemy on the right.

It’s telling that, in one session I played, my friends initially complained that the squirrel side couldn’t possibly win. The tree’s ammunition comes thick and fast and, with a sturdy aim (which seems ever so slightly assisted), can seem overpowered. But, as we kept playing, the conversation changed to the point where tree players were losing more often than not.

In fact, the game’s balance is often dependent on level design. Some courses, like a multilayered set of ramps or one with a lake that rises and empties, are necessary additions to give VR players a leg up. When pitted against fields with barriers that pop up after the push of a button, the odds are stacked the other way. Overall the mix is pretty even-handed.

A shame, then, that there are only a handful of levels, all of which you can see through pretty quickly. Acron’s undeniably light on content and I feel like it could benefit from more character classes and ammunition types too. Having said that, I’ve rarely felt ‘done’ when enjoying the game with others, although also not especially compelled to revisit it with the same group. That is, at least, not without any new content to see or a long stretch between play sessions. True that’s a negative in some respects, but it’s also the kind of existence popular games like Jackbox and Mario Party enjoy.

Crucially, though, the game doesn’t have to be played locally. Yes, Acron was designed with couch play in mind, but players from across the world can join you too. Playing with my colleagues on the other side of the globe over voice chat was the perfect workaround when I couldn’t arrange a local session. The only obvious downside is being unable to switch the headset over. I’d welcome some sort of in-VR phone emulation so that people that have paid for the game can replicate the couch experience on the fly, too.

Acron is something of a delight, then. Certainly not an epiphanic bastion of VR immersion, but a hectic hassle of shouts and screams that exposes the platform’s more playful side. Played with friends, it’s a wickedly entertaining package that will have you passing the headset in rapid succession. There’s a slickness to the production and design here, one that removes much of the baggage of other VR party games. Even as VR headsets start to become more accessible, Acron is remarkably light to the touch.

Acron: Attack of the Squirrels is available from today on Oculus Rift, Quest and HTC Vive. This review specifically focuses on the PC version using an Oculus Rift S. For more on how we arrived at this score, read our review guidelines.

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