When I first visited the idyllic island city of La Kalma, I was impressed with how busy and alive it felt. The townsfolk, who look more like cute Fisher Price figurines than actual people, hopped along sidewalks and parks to their various destinations. Cars and buses sped through tiny roads, honking at each other whenever there was a traffic jam. I couldn’t help but stare at this quaint and colorful diorama.
But the moment quickly passed. Next thing I knew, I was using my giant purple tentacles to smash everything around me, inciting panic across the city.
Despite starring a monstrous being, Tentacular (available for the Quest and Rift Platforms) isn’t a game about how much destruction you can cause—it’s actually about helping your friends and neighbors.
Those first few minutes of chaos had me smiling from ear to ear. There’s just something about Tentacular’s physics-based gameplay and cartoonish world that makes me feel all giddy inside, as if I’m a kid banging my toys together and throwing them around with reckless abandon. The story had barely begun, but I already knew this was going to be a really fun VR game.
Getting into wacky situations is a big part of Tentacular, but it also has a funny and heartfelt story about what it’s like to find your place in the world. As far as you know, you’re the only gargantuan creature in La Kalma, and while some people have grown to accept you, others are completely horrified by your presence. Luckily, you have your human sister to confide in. In the beginning of the game, she explains that she was the one who found the egg you hatched from and has raised you ever since.
But now that you’re 16 years old, the town expects you to help them out via jobs and missions. You start off with some menial work, like sorting through the town dump or moving heavy shipping containers. These early levels teach you how to use your powerful yet laughably unwieldy pair of tentacles. While they’re the perfect size for lifting huge objects, your appendages aren’t great at picking up smaller items or completing tasks that require more finesse, like rearranging furniture in a tiny dining room (yes, that’s a real objective in the game).
Half the fun of Tentacular is just trying not to break things or knock stuff down—thankfully, there’s a handy “reset” lever in every level that you can pull if you need to start over. You’ll eventually move on to more complicated gigs, like using ball-shaped magnets to attach objects together to create new tools and structures. More of this strange technology is unlocked as you progress through the story and discover spaceships and other artifacts scattered around the archipelago.
One of my favorite moments so far was when I got to a series of missions that had me launching space shuttles by throwing them into the sky. It gave me an idea: What if I used the magnets to glue people and vehicles to the rockets, too? There’s no bonus points or achievements for doing this, so it was purely for my own enjoyment. I was giggling as my devious creations took flight (most of them didn’t end well).
That’s what I love about Tentacular: I feel empowered to try these silly ideas, and it’s always a delight when they actually work out. There are multiple ways to tackle each mission, and the game isn’t picky about how you do it. As long as you meet the basic requirements—like building a tower to a certain height, or tossing rockets through rings in the air—you can be as creative as you want to be.
Tentacular has a fun role-playing element as well. The more time I spent in the game, the more I started imagining myself as the creature, and I tried to react in ways that would seem natural in certain situations, like slapping my tentacles together if I got a bit of good news, or lashing out and hitting things if someone was trying to provoke me. The tentacles help create this immersion: They have a good sense of weight to them, as if they’re actually attached to a huge, lumbering body.
And unless you take your headset off or use the home button to exit the game, you’re in control of the tentacles the entire time. Developer Firepunch’d designed the full user interface as physical buttons and switches, like the levers used for resetting a mission or for starting the game from the main menu. If you try to pause, an airship magically appears in front of you with two other levers (one for quitting and the other for adjusting different settings). So you’re effectively in character as long as the game is running.
This makes Tentacular one of the most immersive VR games I’ve ever played, something I didn’t expect when I first tried it out. And thanks to the hilarious writing and the fun possibilities of its physics-based gameplay, I always find something new to laugh or smile about whenever I return to La Kalma.