Bolverk Games needs to learn some lessons about the internet. Sure, it can be a harsh place, but if there’s one thing that social feeds love, it’s animals. How the studio arrived at the conclusion that blowing up adorable kittens would be a laugh remains a mystery to me, but last year’s Kittypocalypse was still a mechanically enjoyable if unremarkable VR game. The same is true of its latest effort, Dick Wilde.
In this polished VR wave shooter you tear into crocodiles, fish, seagulls, sharks, and dragonflies with fast-firing nail guns, razor sharp saw blades, and grenade launchers. The game takes great pride in this premise, thinking it’s as ridiculous as a Goat Simulator or as hilariously violent as a Surgeon Simulator, but it lacks the outlandish setups of either. It feels as if the game is aimed at an audience that takes joy in drowning puppies or stepping on hamsters.
“I don’t always kill animals, sometimes I just sedate them and take them home to experiment on them,” Dick often quips between the game’s rounds. If that’s Bolverk’s idea of a joke then I wish it would stop trying to be so funny.
I don’t think the tone’s malicious, though, I think it’s just misjudged. And even though I struggle to picture anyone howling with laughter, Dick Wilde is still one of the more polished and enjoyable wave shooters I’ve played in VR, with a welcome touch of challenge and a smart focus on pass-the-headset multiplayer.
There are 9 levels in total, taking you from swamps and oceans to lakes, with the difficulty ratcheting up each time. You’ll pick from a long list of weapons, some boasting secondary fire modes and other special abilities, and face off against 10 waves of critters per level, with a tough boss fight rubbing salt in the wounds you’ll have accumulated by the time you reach them.
At first you might find Dick Wilde a little too tough. In my first few tries I could only make it to the third or fourth wave before succumbing to crocodile bites and bird poo, but once you’ve found the weapon that suits you best (mine was the nail guns set to burst fire) and learned to dodge incoming attacks you’ll tip the scales a little. It’s still by no means a push over, and it was perhaps a mistake to lock out two of the three levels in each area until you’ve beaten their first challenges, but it’s refreshing to play a VR game that actually pushes you for a change.
Bolverk also includes a party mode that encourages players to alternate goes and try to get high scores. Sure, it’s just the same as playing in single-player, but this social aspect is an appreciated extra, as VR has really come into its own as an experience that people take turns with.
What I welcomed most about Dicke Wilde, though, was the unexpected workout it gave me. While not quite as intense as Paulo’s Wing, here you’ll need to dodge regular incoming projectiles, and weaving out of their way will work up a sweat quite quickly. In fact the day after my first two-hour play session I could barely move the lower half of my back or my legs, and I’ll keep playing after this review goes like both to try and better better scores and as an additional tool in my VR fitness regime.
Dick Wilde is lucky that it’s a polished and enjoyable wave shooter, because it’s subject matter confuses animal cruelty with comedy resulting in a flat, bizarrely morbid tone. On a strictly mechanical level it’s an enjoyable but unspectacular shooter that I appreciated more for the workout it gave me than anything else. Bolverk Games continues to prove that it can make rock-solid VR experiences from a gameplay perspective, I just wish the team could wrap it in a more agreeable context.
Dick Wilde is available now for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive with a PlayStation VR (PSVR) release scheduled soon, along with support for the PS Aim controller. Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.