We launched App Lab in February as a way for developers to share their apps and games with the community without needing Oculus Store approval—and it’s been a wild ride. In the months since, developers have added over 300 games and apps to App Lab, spanning everything from “Cake-Stealing Mice” to “Ocean Survival” to “Cricket Simulator.”
With so many games to choose from—and more hitting App Lab all the time—we wanted to take a moment to show you some highlights. Some are near-finished. Others are earlier in development, or smaller and more experimental. App Lab has a bit of everything.
So read on for our first-ever App Lab Spotlight—hopefully the first of many—and let us know if there are any others you’ve enjoyed! And remember: Apps from App Lab haven’t gone through our full Oculus review process, and may include unknown issues relating to comfort, performance, or other factors.
Imagine if someone handed you an incredibly intricate paper model—that had been destroyed with a pair of scissors. That’s Puzzling Places, a game where you reassemble diorama-scale versions of real-world locations, from Devil’s Slide Bunker (south of San Francisco) to a Polish market square. Piece a wall back together by matching scraps of graffiti, or assemble a Japanese castle layer by layer, or reconstruct a colorful fire escape. As you progress, the sounds of the city or the beach bring the scene to life around you. And when you’re done you’ve got a little photorealistic model-building to admire.
Part jigsaw puzzle, part diorama, Puzzling Places is one of the most relaxing VR games to-date—up there with Cubism. And while it’s set to launch on the Oculus Store later this year, you can still grab Puzzling Places through App Lab now if you want to get your hands on the beta early.
Google open-sourced its celebrated VR painting program Tilt Brush in January, opening the doors for the community to add new features. MultiBrush was one of the first of those efforts, adding—as you might’ve guessed from the name—multiplayer support. It also includes new experimental brushes like “Rain,” “Muscle,” “Leaky Pen,” and “Feather,” and you can layer on camera filters to see what your creation looks like in neon or with cel shading. Host a room, gather your friends (or make new friends!), and sketch the night away. Tilt Brush is still one of the most intuitive and effortless VR art programs, and MultiBrush makes it easier than ever for you to share that experience with others.
One of my favorite genres is “Retro Game Remade As VR Game.” And I’m clearly not the only one! Duck Season, Pixel Ripped, Path of the Warrior—quite a few games have taken this concept and run with it.
Add 1976 - Back to Midway to the list. Released on the Rift Platform late last year, this VR take on Capcom’s classic shoot ‘em up 1943: The Battle of Midway has now made its way to App Lab as well. You’ll spend half your time playing 1976 - Back to Midway as a traditional top-down arcade game and the other half in “Immersive Zones,” which put you right in the plane’s cockpit. It’s a cool gimmick that will give you a new perspective on those old bullet hell games. There’s also a free demo if you want to try before you buy.
And if you’re looking for more airplane action, be sure to check out fellow App Lab game Warplanes: WW1 Fighters as well.
Forget racing games. What VR needed was a game where you circle the block five times trying to find parking.
Enter Car Parking Simulator. And yes, that is accurate. There is no twist waiting, no hidden Frog Fractions-esque prank to be played. You’re put behind the wheel, you put the car in drive, you press down on the gas—and then you gently guide the car into a parking spot, making sure the wheels and bumpers are all properly aligned.
If you’d prefer something a little faster, the unlockable City Mode lets you roam the streets and operate an ad-hoc taxi service, or even drive off the roof as part of a Skyscraper Challenge. But it’s the parking challenges I keep coming back to. Despite loathing the time I spend circling the block looking for parking in real life, I find Car Parking Simulator oddly satisfying and can’t stop playing it. Now if only I could honk the horn, adjust the mirrors, throw fast food wrappers on the floor, and dig a binder of CDs out from under the passenger seat at a stop sign.
You’ve undoubtedly seen George Seurat’s painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte at some point—if not the real thing, then a reproduction. But do you know the story behind it? History of a Painting is a charming short film about Seurat and the creation of La Grande Jatte. You’ll learn some color theory, hear about the feud between Paris’s Académie Royale and the Impressionists, and take in the sights and sounds of a stylized Seine. The App Lab offering gives you a taste of the upcoming series, with the first episode made on a limited budget (from the UK's Creative XR programme). Here’s hoping the full series includes a suitably surreal episode on Dalí.
That’s it for the first edition of App Lab Spotlight! Hopefully you’ve come away with one or two games to try—and don’t worry, we’ll be back soon with even more recommendations.