Statik Institute of Retention begins and continues to impart a sense of bewilderment on what exactly is happening and why are you here. At most times, your time is spent strapped to a chair with little or no directions on what exactly you are supposed to accomplish, with your only clue being the box that is stuck to your hands.
Unlike most VR games, Statik doesn’t use your controller in a traditional sense. You won’t be able to look around with it, you won’t be able to move, and even the controls (with the exception of two buttons) change during each puzzle. This is how Statik presents its puzzles, through the discovery of your surroundings. You are in a room you are unfamiliar with, and a puzzle box stuck on your hands and it’s up to the player to figure out how they all come together.
Each button on your controller dictates a different part of the box stuck on your hands, and in rare cases, a part of the room around you. The d-pad’s left and right buttons may control an interchangeable number that you need to discover the correct answer to advance. In other puzzles, it may move something attached to the box left or right. While at the same time, your right trigger may power something or click a button. For the most part, each puzzle makes use of every single button before the puzzle is over; if you can’t use a certain button, you usually haven’t progressed far enough to use it. It’s understanding the various elements and how they interact that make it possible to solve the puzzle, if you fail to realize that a button performs a certain function, it will be impossible to complete the task in front of you.
It’s here where Statik takes the most advantage from VR; interaction. You may initially think that because you have a puzzle box stuck to your hands that it isn’t much you are able to do in the environment. Luckily, this isn’t the case. The environment that you are in holds a host of information that is essential to discovering to completing the puzzle. Take for example one of the puzzle boxes that require you to make a complex amalgamation of shapes based on the shapes around you. In order to save the different shapes, you need to create, project, and match them to shapes in the environment. The first three shapes are more obvious, as they are right in front of you and are displayed in such a way that makes them look as part of the test. After completing the first three, you realize there are not enough shapes for you to form the one complex one and need to find another way to add more shapes to your puzzle box to form the answer. After looking around the room for a little, there is a poster of a moon and a pyramid, two shapes you can produce and project, and thus add to the repository of shapes you have; finally enabling the ability to complete the puzzle.
This is what makes Statik such a strong puzzle game. You are not trying to understand the logic of the developers to solve puzzles, you are simply exploring the environment from the confines of your chair and this box by putting all the pieces together. If you understand how all the pieces work then you simply need to apply it to the environment around you to progress. This makes the game feel more like a picture puzzle rather than puzzle games like the Professor Layton series which deals more with logic and brain teasers. The goal is to understand your environment as opposed to understanding how whoever created it is thinking, like how so many other puzzle games fail.
What pushes Statik over the top isn’t just its puzzles, it’s the setting it crafts. Here you are, strapped to a chair with a puzzle box affixed to your hands. Across from you is a doctor whose face you can’t see, calmly judging you and providing feedback on your tests. The music instills a sense of unease to further the feeling that you are a test subject, and that it’s not best for you to be stuck in this situation. Periodically throughout the tests, you will be taken to a room to gauge your feelings when looking at certain pictures or hearing certain stories. These questions have no bearing on the game itself with no right or wrong answers, but they serve as both a great break from the traditional puzzles and reinforce the idea that you are just a test subject and the value of these tests are questionable at best.
Statik manages to capture some of the best puzzle designs while combining it with the sense and feeling of being a test subject. The puzzles are interesting and inventive, but never out of grasp as long as you take the time to understand what each action does. It’s not scary being a test subject of Statik, but it is eerie and concerning, managing to keep you constantly a little on edge as you discover the true purpose of the Statik Institute of Retention.