Red Matter was a surprise for me when I first played it. It mostly flew under my radar until I stumbled across it after getting my Meta Quest 2. It contained escape room style puzzles, light horror elements, and a mystery that was able to carry me through the more tedious moments—and the motion sickness inducing parts. Red Matter 2 has more of the same, but with a larger scope, and even some combat thrown in.
Red Matter 2 is a virtual reality adventure game. It takes place shortly after the first game, and you take control of Sasha Riss who is looking for an old friend. This search will bring you back to Cold War era style Soviet space stations, controlled by the fictional alternate reality Volgravia. Red Matter 2 is chock-full of Cold War retro future technology just like its predecessor.
You manipulate this retro future technology with mechanical claw hands that also work a bit like the gravity gloves do in Half-Life: Alyx—just with a less satisfying whip back to your hand, and more of a slow grab. There is also the translator, which returns from the first game, which is the way you interact with most of the text in the world of Red Matter 2, since it’s all in Russian, er, Volgravian. While I don’t hate this mechanic, I find having to translate everything ends up being tedious as hell—though it does add some suspense. It’s something I would hate to see go, but literally suffer through for its effect. The flashlight also returns, but now with the ability to shoot flares. There is also the addition of a cool little hacking tool that you plug into stations to get more information. But I absolutely hate the graphics-based hacking mini-game, and think I’ve only succeeded at it through sheer luck and determination.
Red Matter 2 is full of items to manipulate in VR, and an immersive environment. But its draw is its puzzles. Like the first game, Red Matter 2’s puzzles tend to skew on the easier end of the spectrum. I know puzzle difficulty really depends on the person, but too many puzzles in Red Matter 2 involve fiddling with dials to get the settings just right. There are a few puzzles that require environmental clues, deduction, and piecing together information—and that’s when Red Matter 2 is at its best.
And then there’s combat.
Yeah, for some reason developer Vertical Robot decided to throw combat into their puzzle-centric VR game. It was as just as shocking to me as if a game like The Room added a shooting section, but surprisingly, I don’t hate Red Matter 2’s combat sequences, especially if getting through them means I can find out the answers to Red Matter 2’s mysteries. Like, what the hell even is Red Matter?
The first game leaves a lot of questions that Red Matter 2 attempts to answer, and in so doing, seemingly retcons motivations and actions from the previous game. Of course, the first game was so sparse on information, it never even really got into the mystery of what the eponymous Red Matter is—and that’s even something Red Matter 2 doesn’t address until the very end. But while the story between the two games may be a bit convoluted, the gameplay is the real draw—and Red Matter 2 delivers more of the same tactile puzzle solving of the first game.
A lot of the tedious things from the first game return. Travelling is tedious, and it feels like a lot of the game is traveling between puzzles. There are also sections where you have to sneak past turrets. These sections, as well as most of the combat, is actually trivialized by Red Matter 2’s comfort settings.
Thankfully, Red Matter 2 did a bit more in regards to amping up the available comfort settings. Red Matter would make me borderline motion sick with all of its floating from point a to point b, but Red Matter 2 gives you the option to teleport instead of float. Unfortunately, teleporting doesn’t seem balanced to some parts of the game—especially those involving sneaking past the automated turrets. Luckily, it doesn’t completely break the game, as you still have to do some planning—but it makes it a whole lot easier.
But the comfort settings don’t do enough to alleviate potential motion sickness. In fact, I had to duck out of VR a few times while playing Red Matter 2, lest I find myself bed bound for the day. There are sections that require you to free move, and while you can give yourself blinders to alleviate some of the motion sickness, blocking my peripheral view does little to help.
Red Matter 2 is really more of the same, and that’s not a bad thing. Red Matter 2 definitely feels more like a full-fledged game than an extended escape room. But it does little to challenge, either in its puzzles or its combat sequences. And for a series that switched identities from a narrative-driven puzzle game to an adventure game with puzzles and combat, Red Matter 2 surprisingly doesn’t feel like much of a departure from the first, but if you liked that game, you’ll find plenty to like with Red Matter 2.
A Meta Quest 2 key was provided to us for the purpose of this review