A Brief Overview of ESCAPE CODE for VR; ‘We are here to help’

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A fan of awesome mid-80’s/90’s science fiction? Techy-savvy enough to own a VR headset (cheap cardboard’s fine if that’s your thing!)? If so, jack into the net and follow me through the ephemeral wiring, it’s time to watch ESCAPE CODE.

Developed by Josh Hassin, Director/Animator of San Diego studio, Look Mister, his latest film is, as he describes, ‘a neon-soaked descent into a cyberpunk, retro future’. Developed entirely using Unity, the viewer follows a variety of characters, admires lovingly depicted landscapes (all in beautiful 3D! Woah!), spies on unusual alien creatures whilst uncovering a vast corporate conspiracy, all in roughly, four minutes.

ESCAPE CODE is difficult to critique due to the fact that there are only four minutes to criticise, but what I was presented with was something that left me grinning. When I hear the scary words “developed in Unity”, I’m usually left worrying, but Hassin has skilfully developed a world in which has used the engine to the fullest. For the uninitiated, it may appear gaudy, and even a bit outmoded, but for us, the cyberpunks, it is a beautifully designed world that recalls imagery from War Games, Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell and even Akira. It is a smart, nigh on ingenious concept to design a cyberpunky short film using Unity; Hassin utilising even the graphical downsides of the engine to his advantage.

The synthwave score itself is composed by Emmy award-winning composer RAD LAZER, and you can tell that there is love put into the composition. RAD LAZER understands the genre and has composed a fitting score for this explosive short. It does, however, feel a little repetitive and may ward off those new to the genre. But then again, this film is designed for us, the niche cyberpunks, and I’m quite fine with repetitive synthwavey tunes.

Though there is much to praise, it was a little tricky to follow the story. After multiple viewings, I’m afraid that I still don’t understand what was going on completely. Having said that, I don’t think that was the point of this project; this was meant to be a voyage into the neon world of the cyberpunk world of yore. And Hassin does this well. Very well.

As a film designed for VR, I feel Hassin has accomplished something special. Though I’m quite new to this VR world, I did enjoy following the hacker through the matrix whilst also scanning the dystopic world Hassin and his crew created. Now, you can watch this on YouTube in 2D, but it would be a shame to not fully immerse yourself in this world. It’s a real treat.

Whether you rock a cardboard rig, or bulky-ass Samsung VR set like me, ESCAPE CODE is an unusual gem that is worth keeping an eye on.

You can follow Hassin here on Facebook, Instagram and Vimeo. You can also visit his site for more information.

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