Hands-on with Truffle Pig

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Hands-on with Truffle Pig

Explore an utterly magical animated world on your Oculus Rift.

There’s a moment during Truffle Pig that’s totally magic. It happens after the opening animation that introduces the story of the game, which sets the scene in a beautifully animated way with hand-drawn 2D characters. Moments later, you’re floating above a forest filled with ethereal purple light — your pet pig floating beside you with its legs wiggling in the air — when the flower petals below spring open as you pass by, illuminating nearby trees with a soft blue glow. Combined with the music (The Light, by The Album Leaf) the scene is utterly mesmerizing, magical, and beautiful to look at.

Perhaps that’s in part to the talent behind Truffle Pig. Created by Gentleman Scholar, a production company which typically creates adverts, animation and print, the team has together and fully scripted, animated and produced a part-film, part-game experience for the Oculus Rift.

After loading the game you’ll find yourself in a 3D menu with two options for playing the game. The first takes you along a scripted journey, guiding you through a forest, field and house as you collect floating gems along the way. It’s definitely the best way to play the game the first time around, enabling you to check out the scenery and soak in the atmosphere. The second option is a free-roam mode of sorts, letting you explore the game’s environments at will while collecting gems. In this latter mode you can really get up-close with the world to see its fine details and animation, or fly to the tree tops to soak in the atmosphere.

It’s the attention to detail that really brings Truffle Pig to life. Flower petals open as you pass by, while bizarre plants unleash tiny flecks of light that illuminates the dark corners of the forest. It really is a wonderful experience, and it’s thanks to the Unreal Engine 4 that such a visual treat is possible in real-time. However, all of this attention to detail comes at a cost: framerate. Even on a GeForce Titan-powered PC we struggled to achive a smooth experience while using the Oculus Rift. The sheer number of grass blades, animated elements and real-time lighting all take a massive toll on the GPU. Thankfully it’s possible to instantly lower the graphics detail by pressing H on the keyboard. This lowers the lighting detail which in return doubles the framerate, but the interior of the house at the end of the game suffers visually, with a flat, stark look.

Controlling the game is slightly tricky during the free-roam mode. Moving forward and backward is done via the left thumbstick of a controller, but rotating requires you to tilt your head to one side (instead of just turning the right thumbstick). Similarly, to fly up or down you’ll need to tilt your head while holding forward. It’s a nice use of head-tracking, but button mappings for rotation and height would have been appreciated, if only to lessen the time needed to master the controls.

If you think your PC is up to the task, then Truffle Pig is definitely worth checking out. It’s a captivating experience that can be played over and over without losing its charm, and the attention to detail and animation is great to see in VR.