Putting on the Google Daydream View and walking through the new Fantastic Beasts VR app was so magical. Overall the app was an amazing experience. There was enough to wet my appetite for the movie, but not enough to give the whole plot line away. It was a solid intro to the Google Daydream ecosystem. And I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t want to wave a wand around in VR?!
When you first get into the app the movie logo shows up and then fades to black. In fact every time you move to a different area it fades to black. This is a simple trick (and easy to do) and definitely helps curb motion sickness.
You then have a quick tutorial on how the wand works. And by quick I mean one button, because the app walks you through the rest of the uses in context of the situation. This is nice because some apps overload on tutorials at the beginning and it is “fantastic” to learn in context rather than everything up front.
The reticle is a yellow particle light that is constantly in motion. It’s not too noticeable that is it annoying, but just enough touch of magic in it to make it feel like your wand is alive and responding to your every move.
After the short tutorial you are thrown into Newt’s hotel room (or wherever he is staying in NYC). You immediately see his suitcase and his voiceover gently tells you to open it.
After you enter the suitcase, you journey into his small workstation (think tiny cabin). In the trailer, if you remember, you see him climbing down into his suitcase. Below is the ladder he uses to do so (presuming my theory is correct). You can immediately interact with glass bottles, paper, and the scroll that is directly in front of you. It’s a very interactive environment. The whole time Newt is talking to you about some of his journeys as well as walking you through what to do next if you get lost. If you like exploring a little more, like I do, he keeps repeating the instructions. This got annoying only once throughout the app, but overall was pleasant and not too obtrusive.
The interaction of elements like the spells, scrolls, potions was great. The feedback was immediate, and I knew exactly where I was pointing my wand even if I couldn’t see in view at the bottom of the screen. Once you open the scroll (2) you choose which animal you want to find first. I chose the Thunderbird (3). You have to use your wand to unlock the next step (4) where you build a box which calls the Thunderbird (6). This is interesting because you actually have to call him one more time once you get in the environment. Once you are done Newt tells you to head outside — but what is “outside” when you’re actually inside a suitcase??
The interaction of elements, in the context of transporting, was ok at best. The best one throughout the experience was the door (below).
The worst one was when I was transporting in and out of the animals’ environments. The reticle was hard to find (1) and didn’t interact very well with the elements (2). After you find the animal in the environment and come back out, the sign does light up letting you know you have completed that portion, but the reticle still doesn’t interact with it. This was the biggest flaw in the app from the UX side of things.
Once you get outside you see three habitats. One to your left (above), one in front of you (Thunderbird), and one to your right. Newt informs you know that the Thunderbird is waiting and you move into a desert once you click inside. After you cast the spell (2) from the box you made inside the cabin – BEHOLD, THE THUNDERBIRD(3)!! He was pretty cool. You can then have him pose for the camera (4+5) or feed him some goodies (6). All the interactions were smooth, and the UI was easy to understand.
Once I was done hanging out with him I visited the other environments, and Newt said that no one was there so I had to come back later. Basically meaning, “Go back inside the cabin and make more spells.” So I headed back inside…
This is where I leave you to explore on your own! The other creatures are awesome, and each one has their own personality. The app was very easy to use and the simple interactions were easy to figure out on my own even without Newt’s gentle prodding. The biggest flaw was the reticle not interacting very well with the environments. And being a huge HP fan it was simply fantastic getting back into the world.
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