VR shooter Dream Tango Ascension has two important messages: being Doctor Strange is pretty fantastic, and people are just the worst.
Uncloudy & Co has gone to a lot of trouble crafting Dream Tango Ascension’s mythos; there are hidden lore dumps on the website, there’s plans for animated works, a comic, a whole extended universe. And while it seems like a very lofty goal given the company is only on its second game (the first being a non-promoted Early Access Dream Tango VR puzzler), I appreciate the effort.
However, the plot for this Meta Quest and Meta Quest 2 game can be summed up like this: the gods have locked humanity away for being awful, and just to prove them right you’re going to rob them. To that end, your amnesiac protagonist is tasked with blasting their way through several arenas worth of spectral figures. And you know what? It’s rather a lot of fun.
It helps that the powers you wield aren’t a million miles away from those of Doctor Strange. Yes, you’ll be flinging a lot of fireballs but you also get to conjure up some very cool shields which, materialising round your wrists, will put paid to incoming projectiles. At least, they do until they shatter which means you can’t stay permanently on the defensive.
Because, while Uncloudy & Co has dubbed Dream Tango Ascension a wave-based shooter, it’s a little more strategic than that. Having fast reflexes will help a little, but your own ranged attacks are reminiscent of Street Fighter II’s fireballs in that your foe needs to be there when they land. It’s challenging but if you’re looking for a pure VR bullet-hell game, you won’t find it here, even though later levels do get much trickier. Difficulty levels are apparently in the works, too.
To master Dream Tango Ascension, you need to think about the foes you’re facing. Are you going to risk going for that melee spear when you’re facing down a tall, polygon-faced creature who can teleport right up to you?
Flailing away at walking foes will see them off, but I wanted that satisfying moment of watching them expire with my spear through their torso. “Think you can just magic yourself into my face, you gangly git? Let’s see how much flitting about you do now, eh?” And then I’d get murdered by the foe I hadn’t seen and sent back to the beginning of that arena, crushing my hopes of topping Dream Tango Ascension‘s online high score board.
It may lack glory kills, but it’s still a treat for the eyes. Its astral plane is faintly reminiscent of the Doctor Strange movies’ Dark Dimension , but for the most part it’s got a a major Mesoamerican vibe. Combined with a range of relatively subdued colour schemes, it works a treat. The voices that pop up stay just the right side of hammy, reminding you that you’re most definitely not welcome.
If you’re looking for something a little different, more otherworldly and more thought-provoking than your average shooter, Dream Tango: Ascension fits the bill nicely. Once you get used to the fact you’re not flailing around a with a machine gun, and that you have to think before you fire, it’s a lot of fun. And if you want to pretend you’re Benedict Cumberbatch, there’s that too.
Dream Tango Ascension is available here, through the Oculus/Meta Quest Store App Lab, priced at £7.99.