There are some experiences that have to be lived to be understood. Details, feelings, or other sensations are sometimes too abstract to be confined to words, much less fully communicated to others. Some things just can’t be done justice by a written description – no matter how hard you may try, you just can’t seem to tell somebody what it was like.
Such is the experience of Technolust, but I’ll do my best to put it into words.
With all of the anticipation surrounding the (eventually/probably) upcoming release of Cyberpunk 2077, it’s easy to overlook other cyberpunk gems of recent gaming memory. Technolust is a treasure that might have slipped through the cracks for too many, partly because it’s a virtual reality title that launched around a time when there were far fewer adopters of the platform than now. I picked it up when I first got my Oculus Rift and it was probably the first genuine (i.e., non-demo) VR experience I played through. The lack of mainstream fanfare around the title almost made me miss it. But when I finally tried it, it absolutely blew my mind.
Technolust is made for anybody who ever watched Blade Runner, Johnny Mnemonic, or Akira and thought, “I wanna live in that world!” It’s a beautiful balance of nostalgic retro-futurism and forward-thinking cyberpunk evolution. There are easter eggs referring back to the Max Headroom Incident displayed on a CRT monitor right alongside a Guy Fawkes mask so famously adopted by Anonymous. The contextual awareness and respect this title has for cyberpunk as both a fictional genre and a subculture is to a degree you’d expect to see in a museum. For this reason, it’s a little bit unfair to call it a “game.” It’s really much closer to a piece of art in a relatively new medium.
The experience starts out with the player jacked into an all-green matrix/metaverse/whatever that serves to visually represent a routine hack/heist with a latent twist. When you disconnect, you’re at a computer terminal in a dark, grimy, but cleverly futuristic apartment overlooking a city bustling with traffic noise, light pollution, and ominous adverts on digital billboards. From there, every step through this world is exquisitely accented with nods to foundational cyberpunk fiction and culture throughout. You’ll find cups of ramen noodles, smashed Jolt cans, street robot vendors, and all manner of dystopian future hallmarks.
The level of attention to detail cannot be overstated. I don’t want to ruin it for you if you plan on playing it, but you’ll find throwbacks like classic video game consoles, laser discs that actually play movies in-game, and cassette boomboxes peppered across the rain-slick streets of this gritty, neon-lit, corporate-ruled megacity.
Now, that’s not to say this game is without its bugs. While I didn’t encounter anything game-breaking, there are a few instances of clip glitches, some pixelated graphics, and some wooden animation, but none of it’s so outrageous or unfamiliar to VR users that it ruins the immersion. I mean, if you’re the kind of person who likes to point out the weld seams on theme park animatronics, you’re probably not gonna be able to get past those flaws. However, if you’re someone who can suspend disbelief of some slightly-less-than-photorealistic details long enough to have a little fun, you’re in for a great ride.
The soundtrack is comprised of all of the right songs at all of the perfect times. The music is pensive and brooding at times, but punchy and driving at others, making it feel incredibly cinematic and engrossing. The tracks range from catchy, retro-style synth pop to laid back chillwave-ish sounds, to borderline industrial-techno influenced material, and so much more. It’s perfectly suited to the aesthetic the experience creates, further pulling you into the world inside the game.
The narrative is generally linear, but it doesn’t rush you forward. The result of this approach to pacing is a more open-world experience, but it’s by no means a huge game. I may be in the minority in saying this, but I don’t really need endless content in a video game to be satisfied. In fact, I much prefer an experience with a limited scope of content that is highly polished. If you’re looking for an experience as open-ended as what triple-A developers are cranking out these days, this is not it. On the other hand, if you want a few hours of lovingly assembled art that feels as real as the most vivid dream, look no further.
Technolust – 8/10
You get you cyborg hands on a copy of Technolust here.