Viral is the best $5 you can spend in virtual reality right now

Viral is a “simple” virtual reality game that’s available now for $4.99 on Samsung’s Gear VR. The enemies are cute little robots, the game is set inside a rather basic computerized world and everything seems to be designed to keep the frame rate consistent while dealing with the rather brutal limitations of virtual reality on a phone.

It’s also one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played in the past few months.

It’s a physics-based game where you look around, try to find the little enemy robots and tap the touchpad on the Gear VR to fire at them. The balls you fire have weight and a set arc; you have to aim above the enemies to hit them at a distance. The longer the shot, the higher the points. The balls can also bounce off the walls and hit the enemies on the rebound, giving you more points. You’re likewise rewarded for headshots.

As the game progresses you’ll be introduced to different kinds of ammo, moving structures and even boss battles. You have a limited amount of ammo, and you can only be hit by the enemies twice before you “die” and have to try the level again. Each shot that may get you more points also brings up a bit closer to virtual death, so higher scoring attempts bring more risk than playing it safe and aiming for the body mass when you’re close.

It’s one thing to see the game in screenshots, but it’s quite another to be inside the environments in virtual reality. You need to look all around yourself, as well as above and below, to see the enemies. Aiming is as intuitive as moving your head. The act of learning how to line up shots and finding the best ways to take down each enemy while maximizing your score gives each level, complete with leaderboards, a long life.

The game almost resembles the classic Virtua Cop in how it deals with physics. You can knock the little guys down by aiming at their leg, and it’s fun to watch their little bodies fly this way and that when you use explosive rounds.

Then the game begins to throw larger environments at you as well as movement puzzles and spinning worlds … Fierce Kaiju designed a game that takes full advantage of virtual reality, and each level added a wrinkle to the formula that forced you to adjust some aspect of your strategy.

Movement itself becomes a resource, since you’re locked in place until you fire a round at the yellow nodes that allow you to fly from location to location. Want to move ahead in the level? You need at least one ball in your reserve to do so.

It helps that you look completely goofy when you play. I got lost in the game and began to whip around in a circle to get the enemies as quickly as I could, and the moving sections made it feel like I had to extend my hands for better balance. It took around three minutes for the world to be convincing enough that I had physical reactions to what was going on. It took five minutes to have so much fun I didn’t care.