The Under Presents is the most unusual VR experience I’ve had in a long time. It’s partly a game, and partly a social environment where you can interact with other people in VR. The primary setting is “The Under”, a cabaret-style nightclub where various musical and entertainment acts perform on a rotating basis. The host, or “MC,” is a strange creature with a large metallic face and misshapen eyes, who guides you through the world of The Under.
Besides the nightclub itself, there is also a story side of the game, comprised of three Acts and and Epilogue. The story mode is accessible from a corner of the nightclub, via a photobooth-like portal called the “Time Boat”. The story takes place on The Aickman, a passenger ship with multiple characters engaged in a mysterious encounter at sea. You are able to navigate almost anywhere on the ship, following various passengers as you watch the story unfold. You can also manipulate time by rewinding or fast-forwarding to any moment within each act.
Although it defies description, the best way to categorize The Under Presents would be to call it “immersive VR theater.” Similar to other games such as The Invisible Hours or Eleven Eleven, this game (if you can call it that) invites you in as an observer, with little if any ability to affect the story. (At least as far as I can tell.) The intriguing nature of the game is that it gives you no instructions or hand-holding, encouraging you to discover the mechanics of interacting and navigating on your own.
This makes it all the more compelling to come back and discover more. Each time you launch the game, you may discover something new by yourself, or be introduced to something surprising by another player.
Which brings me to the most interesting aspect of the game. For the first four months after launch, you may encounter live actors performing on the stage, or interacting with you directly in the nightclub setting. Developer Tender Claws has partnered with immersive theater company Piehole to bring live actors into the game. As far as I know, this is the first time this has been done in a VR game, and adds an intriguing and entertaining aspect to The Under which really makes it come alive.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Under Presents, and will keep coming back to uncover more of the mystery of this amazing VR experience.
Roy Kachur is a Media Technologist, IT Architect, and VR Evangelist. He has worked in the information technology field since the 1990’s, and in the media industry since 2014. He believes that VR will play a significant role in the future of media.