Pop-Up Pilgrims is a side-scrolling virtual reality adventure platformer available for download from the PlayStation Store for PlayStation VR. Pop-Up Pilgrims is a virtual reality reinvention of Floating Cloud God Saves the Pilgrims which originated in 2012 as one of the most popular games from the PSP Minis range before an enhanced Vita native version named Floating Cloud God Saves the Pilgrims in HD released in 2013 featuring various gameplay improvements. Elsewhere, Dakko Dakko has also created side-scrolling action in 2D and HD Adventures of Rotating Octopus Character on PSP Minis in 2011 and natively on Vita in 2013 respectively, while side-scrolling action shooter Scram Kitty DX released on Vita and PS4 in 2015. Can Pop-Up Pilgrims capture the quality of Floating Cloud God Saves the Pilgrims in HD’s side-scrolling adventure within virtual reality?
Pop-Up Pilgrims’ concept sees the player controlling a God that floats on a cloud as you attempt to protect pilgrims from various enemies and hazards as you guide them to the end of each level. Important gameplay mechanics include devotion hearts that are utilised to position cloud commands in order to move pilgrims in certain directions, while pilgrim coins can be collected by pilgrims and carried to houses to unlock the door for one pilgrim per coin to join the pilgrims some of which are even skilled as archers or warriors, alongside direction stones to move pilgrims back and forth on the same layer or near and far guide leafs to move pilgrims between layers.
There are 61 levels spread throughout six worlds set amongst backdrops such as a clear bright blue sky, the night sky, hills with trees, snow capped mountains and various other beautiful environments. Every level has a bronze, silver and gold performance rating in which the player must earn 400 points for a bronze rating, 600 points for a silver rating and 800 points for a gold rating with 50 points on offer per pilgrim saved and octopus statue collected. There are two gameplay mechanics that every one of the six worlds has in common as all of the enemies will be trying to kill or capture the pilgrims, while there is an enemy boss at the end of each world. End world bosses range in their size and frame, but they all fire projectiles or make it rain from the sky to attempt to kill you and the pilgrims you are attempting to protect, so the end world bosses can be quite hard, despite actually remaining very enjoyable to play.
There is a strong assortment of enemies to encounter including various types of demons that fire different projectiles such as flames and some demons even attempt to capture the pilgrims; various enemies that roll along the ground that the pilgrims are walking on that will kill any of the pilgrims they come into contact with; vultures that attempt to peck at the pilgrims; plants that fire projectiles into the air; a woman’s face with white make-up and red lips that blows fatal kisses; and many more besides.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme consisting of pressing L2 to jump; pressing R2 and the corresponding direction on the left analogue stick to perform a cloud command; pressing X to cancel a cloud command; holding triangle to speed up every pilgrim’s movements; moving the left analogue stick up or down or alternatively pressing up or down on the d-pad to switch the cloud cursor between layers; changing the direction of the right analogue stick for the cloud cursor to highlight a different pilgrim to guide; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu, while holding the options button to reset head tracking. Head tracking between the PlayStation Camera and PlayStation VR allows the player to control the positioning of the cloud cursor within the chosen layer. However, even more impressively; head tracking enables full immersion in Pop-Up Pilgrims’ environments as the player can look around from side to side, move closer towards and even move horizontally to gain a new view of the environments and pilgrims which works very effectively in a way that certain levels obscure an octopus statue behind an object to a point that the player can only discover everything within particular levels by experimenting with their viewpoint. Vibration occurs when switching between platforms or layers, while the light bar produces a light shade of blue, although there is no touch pad implementation which could have been an alternative to controlling the cloud cursor or Borb the Pig’s dashing. Borb the Pig’s social screen controls consist of pressing left or right on the d-pad to move in that direction; pressing up or down on the d-pad to switch between layers; pressing O to jump; and holding X or alternatively left or right on the d-pad to dash to move faster.
Graphically, Pop-Up Pilgrims looks as beautiful as it did when Floating Cloud God Saves the Pilgrims received a HD makeover on Vita, although the real standout has to be Dakko Dakko’s custom built 2D VR engine that allows everything to be layered in 3D in a fashion reminiscent of the illustrations in a pop-up book at a consistent pace of 120 frames per second, while retaining all of the vibrancy and colourful tones of the almost psychedelic nature of the graphical art style.
Pop-Up Pilgrims’ presentation is immersive throughout the menus as it is as layered as each of the levels in which three pilgrims walk back and forth on a platform with a house, trees, bushes and clouds surrounding them, while the Pop-Up Pilgrims logo is positioned perfectly between the luscious trees and swirling clouds. Each menu is produced by utilising head tracking to move the cloud cursor over an option to highlight it before pressing X to change the option or select a level.
Sound effects include the amusing sounds made by the pilgrims as they cheer your protection of them when you guide them past their enemies, enemies bouncing back and forth, collecting octopus statues, floating cloud God celebrating when completing a level and more besides; complimented by oriental music which suits the graphical art style and premise. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation which could have produced sounds made by the pilgrims you are protecting during gameplay.
The trophy list includes 25 trophies with 6 bronze trophies, 12 silver trophies, 6 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include 6 Onwards bronze trophies for guiding at least one pilgrim to safety in each world and 6 Scroll Saver silver trophies for reclaiming one of Cloud God’s sacred scrolls in each world. Harder trophies include 6 OctoOcto silver trophies for collecting all 8 sacred octopus statues in each world and 6 Perfect gold trophies for guiding every pilgrim to safety in each world. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take 10 to 20 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are no difficulty levels, but the difficulty curve gradually increases as more platforms, layers, obstacles and enemies are introduced into the gameplay as the player progresses through more levels which is an interesting approach to ramping up the difficulty curve as you need at least one pilgrim to survive throughout the level or you will have to restart the current level from the beginning.
For family and friends situated in the same room; the TV presents what the player is experiencing with a noticeable layering of the platforms, albeit without the ability to lean in towards the layers. The VR player guides the pilgrims, while the TV focuses on the platform were an exclusive character is situated in social screen multiplayer named Borb the Pig which can assist in collecting octopus statues, while helping pilgrims leap between platforms by dashing at them or if the social screen player it feeling mischievous; Borb the Pig’s dash can be utilised to deliberately knock the VR player’s pilgrims off the platform. No matter how the social screen player decides to play; Pop-Up Pilgrims’ social screen multiplayer is extremely entertaining in co-operative or a form of competitive gameplay.
There are no online leaderboards which could have produced further competitive gameplay by having an online leaderboard displaying the fastest times set by every player who had completed each level and the best overall times set for the entire game, alongside the highest amount of pilgrims saved and points scored across each level and throughout the game.
Pop-Up Pilgrims’ replayability is clear from the charm it possesses from its virtual reality immersion, audio and gameplay, alongside the introduction of social screen multiplayer. The premise of protecting pilgrims throughout every level spanning 61 levels across six worlds provides danger through every step of the way and supplies significant importance to every instruction the player provides to the pilgrims that will definitely have players coming back to save the pilgrims that you were previously unable to save. Further replay value includes improving your performance rating from bronze or silver up to gold by earning more points, collecting floating cloud God’s octopus statues and sacred scrolls.
- Title: Pop-Up Pilgrims
- Developer: Dakko Dakko
- Publisher: Dakko Dakko
- System: PlayStation VR
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross-Buy: No
- Cross-Play: No
- Players: 1-2 (Social Screen Multiplayer)
- Hard Drive Space Required: 1.49GB (Version 1.05)