Red Matter offers you the unique opportunity to become a spy for the Atlantic Union and infiltrate an abandoned Volgravian base on Rhea, one of Saturn’s moons. Your mission is to find and decipher top secret documents to discover the truth of what really happened in this research facility.
The fictional countries — both the Atlantic Union who you work for, and the perceived evil country Volgravia — help set up the story in this fictional Cold War sci-fi scenario. You play the role of Agent Epsilon and quickly find yourself wrapped up in the mystery behind this facility as you continue below and into its depths. While Red Matter has you solving many puzzles — of different types and complexities — you’ll find one of the largest enigmas is who you really are and what role you play in everything.
The entire base tends to serve as a very large, multi-layer escape room. You move from room to room using either teleportation and/or free locomotion — which slowly moves you forward in order to stave any potential motion sickness — and find pieces of puzzles such as clues or even physical pieces. Once you have a part of that room’s puzzle it’s a matter of figuring out how it fits into the big picture. Since everything inside the base is written out in the fictitious language of Volgravian, you’ll be spending a lot of time using your suit’s built-in scanner to translate.
Your scanner, along with the claw-like mechanical hands that serve to help you manipulate the objects in your environment, will assist you in decoding the many secrets you’ll find. Once you stumble upon a piece of text you want to translate, you simply point the device’s laser at it and the translation will show up on the screen that temporarily replaces your claw-hand. Most puzzles consist of figuring out how the mechanics of the various control panels work, so having a portable translator not only makes this job easier, but helps you feel grounded in this virtual world. Additionally, once you have found and scanned security credentials, your scanner will allow you to hack ID locks using their login, providing you access to new areas.
Other than the straight-forward gameplay of solving puzzles, there is a deeper story regarding chess that permeates the experience. Beginning as what seems like an underground resistance within your mission involving a red king and other chess-related symbolism eventually includes someone in an astronaut suit stalking you. This helps to bring a sense of dread to an otherwise peaceful perusal through the abandoned space outpost — that and the increasing danger of the ‘red matter’ that threatens to contaminate and spread during each step of your mission. Diving down this rabbit hole of insanity is the only way to get to the bottom of the true purpose of your mission and will keep you guessing until the very end.
Virtual Reality isn’t believable if it doesn’t succeed in immersiveness, but thankfully Red Matter has it in spades. Each of the detailed environments that are covered with propaganda posters and murals have a raytraced look to them, with lighting that feels real to the room you’re in. There’s also realtime raytracing effects used in reflections and refractions; fractal effects on materials like glass look so unique visually that it effectively tricks your brain into feeling like you’re really there. It’s easily the best looking game on the Oculus Quest, but given the static environments — it makes sense how they were able to deliver such a gorgeous game with relatively limited hardware.
Red Matter is not only a great puzzle game, but its visually impressive environments help carry these — while not terribly challenging — environmental puzzles further into a believable environment. The mixture of old technology with new makes an interesting settlement to romp around. The full freedom of movement allows you to inspect and interact with nearly every object which also makes this spy adventure fun to play around with, and a more grounded experience. I can easily recommend Red Matter to anyone looking for a unique twist on the spy thriller that harbors moderately difficult puzzles and ultimately feels like a top-notch escape room, worthy of award.