Review: Space Pirate Trainer


See why VR is so special

Last year, when the arrival of retail VR headsets was still a pipe dream of the distant future, one of my biggest questions for the tech is how it would impact game design going forward. Would games have to fundamentally change how they are designed and played to work with the new tech. Space Pirate Trainer demonstrates that in many key regards games do have to change for VR, particularly when room tracking and motion controllers are involved.

The ability to move your head to look around, while independently moving two separate objects within the world based on location rather than sight, fundamentally changes how first person shooters arrrrrrrr played. Pirate is one of the most interesting first person shooters I have played in a long time mechanically, and yes that is because it's taking advantage of being played in VR.

Space Pirate Trainer (HTC Vive)
Developer: I-Illusions
Publisher: I-Illusions
Release: April 5, 2016
MSRP: £10.99 ($14.99)

Space Pirate Trainer is a simple game in concept. Stand on a docking platform on some fancy space skyscraper, defend the ship behind you, avoid being shot while blowing up space robots. It's nothing thematically complex, but it doesn't need to be, it's a basic excuse for first person shooting gameplay.

Each of your motion controllers is used as a motion tracked gun, with the trigger used for shooting, the track pad used to select bullet types and the side grips and motion used to switch guns out for projectile deflecting shields. You can swap between different numbers of shots per trigger pull, lasers with recharge times, you can bank shots off the front of your shield and you can independently set either hand to offensive or defensive tools on the fly.

While the game would ultimately be pretty simple if not played on the Vive, having both hands and my head motion tracked made a huge difference to the way I played this game. I was able to aim and fire at enemies in two separate positions, protect myself from shots from the left while aiming and firing to the right, dual wield rather than using a shield and evade shots with body movements without losing track of targets and much more easily swap between aiming two weapons at one target, ortargetting shots at multiple enemies.

For someone who isn't terribly great at first person shooters, Pirate's VR solution for controls felt infinitely more natural to me as a player. I felt like a badass from moment one.

While the Steam Page lists it as requiring a room scale VR setup, I found it perfectly playable in a standing room only setup.

For reference, the above video of the game was recorded in a standing room only setup. If you have room to outstretch your arm and turn in a circle on the spot, the game should be playable for you. While Room Scale definitely helps with being able to dodge incoming shots when not using a shield, it's certainly playable with limited space.

A lot of you reading this review are probably wondering if Space Pirate Trainer would be a good game if it were not in VR, and honestly it would be a far less interesting game. That's not a slight on the game, it's praise for just how well SPT takes advantage of this new way of presenting games.

I know one thing for sure, I wish I could play every FPS game like this.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Space Pirate Trainer reviewed by Laura Kate Dale


Laura Kate Dale
Laura Kate DaleFormer Queen of England   gamer profile

Laura's gaming journey began in the 90′s when she was given a SNES by her older brother with Mario paint. From that day video games were all she thought about day or night, be it playing them, ... more + disclosures



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