Last month when I reviewed the first chapter of The Exorcist: Legion VR, I walked away cautiously optimistic for what the episodic horror title had in store. Sure, it was a bit too short for my liking, taking a mere twenty minutes to complete. And, brevity aside, there was very little to actually do. However, despite these issues, the game showed flashes of promise. I thought the tense atmosphere did the iconic franchise justice. And the scares, while not especially plentiful, stuck with me for some time after I plunked my Rift back on the shelf. That said, I was eager to dive back in and see what terrors were in store for the game’s second chapter.
The Exorcist: Legion VR – Chapter 2: Idle Hands continues where the previous episode left off. After a terrifying encounter with the ancient evil Pazuzu in Boston’s St. Vincent de Paul Cathedral, you’re now tasked with confronting a tormented teacher who’s been committed to an insane asylum following an attempt to poison and burn alive an entire bus full of schoolchildren. And my parents tell me getting whacked on the backside with a ruler was bad! Man, how times have changed.
They’re Coming to Take me Away, ha-haaa…
The setting for this chapter is a far cry from the grand chapel showcased in the previous episode, First Rites. It takes place in the sterile confines of a mental hospital where you’ll attempt to perform your first good, old-fashioned exorcism on the demon-possessed teacher. That’s right, you’ll finally get a chance to put that dead priest’s bag of ghost-busting goodies you found in the previous chapter to use this time around.
Well, you get to use a couple of them, anyway. We’ll get into that in a bit.
Before you perform your first act as a newly-minted detective-turned-exorcist, you’ll explore the grand expanse of…a single security room. Yep, That’s right. I didn’t think it was possible, but Idle Hands somehow manages to feel even more restricted than the original episode. There are no real puzzles to overcome. Instead, you’ll have the chance to pore over a few fire-singed documents and books on the occult. Additionally, you’ll also get a glimpse of some photographs of the terrible teach’s spooky tattoos. You’re free to rummage through the office fridge if you want, too. Or, if you’re feeling especially sneaky, you can pull a Solid Snake and play the world’s loneliest game of hide-and-seek in a locker. But apart from that, there’s not much else to do here.
When you’re done perusing the evidence littering the room the action picks up as you’re buzzed in and sent to go face-to-face with the latest supernatural threat. As a fan of the Exorcist movies and books, this is what I was most looking forward to. After all, who can forget Linda Blair’s unnerving performance as the Pazuzu-possessed Regan as she tormented Jason Miller’s Father Damien Karras in the 1973 film? The prospect of experiencing that kind of terror through the power of VR is impossible for any horror fan worth their salt to pass up. Unfortunately, at least in this chapter, The Exorcist: Legion VR misses the mark, bungling what should be the highlight of the entire experience thanks to some underdeveloped mechanics.
Black Magic Woman
Once I stepped into the room with the Worst Teacher of 2017 nominee, I was promptly transported to a corridor of padded walls that changed and closed in around me. The entire scene was reminiscent of the asylum portion of last year’s Batman: Arkham VR. However, rather than dodging barbs hurled by the silver-tongued Mark Hamill’s Joker, instead, in this distorted version of the asylum, I had to avoid bloody hands that lazily emerged from the walls in an attempt to caress me to death. Oh, and twice I had the opportunity to bust out my bag of tricks to douse supernatural flames that blocked my path with ampules of holy water.
Having carefully read through the priest’s journal in the previous chapter, I expected the tools the game gives you to be used in more creative ways. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case so far. It doesn’t take a certified demonologist to figure out that holy water can purge hellfire.
The lazy implementation of your exorcist gear is perhaps the most disappointing part of Idle Hands. Considering a few grabby hands and easily-dispelled pits of flame are the only obstacles that stand between the player and the episode’s conclusion. Nothing required much thought, and that persistent sense of dread found in the first chapter was dialed back considerably. Instead, the entire experience left me feeling the same way I did when visiting the DayGlo-painted haunted houses on Ocean City, Maryland’s boardwalk as a kid. Here’s hoping the roadblocks the game puts before us in later chapters are a bit more exciting.
After about five minutes of proceeding down a padded corridor, It was time to finish the fight. I drew my crucifix, held it to the evil educator’s head, and then, after what felt like an eternity of awkward convulsions and looping sounds, the demon was purged from its host.
Honestly, I’m not sure which one of us felt more relieved when the experience was finally over.
Hell in the Cell
I had high hopes that developer Wolf & Wood would turn things around with Idle Hands. Unfortunately, this episode is a considerable step backward for the series. Lacking much of the atmosphere and scares that made First Rites stand out, there’s little here to keep horror fans engaged. And though we finally got to use the exorcist’s bag of tricks, the uninspired way in which they’re implemented adds very little to the experience. Add to this the fact that you can see everything the episode has to offer in the time it takes to say your Hail Marys, it’s pretty hard to recommend The Exorcist: Legion VR – Chapter 2: Idle Hands to all but the most horror-starved players out there.
Final Verdict: 2/5
Available on: Oculus Rift (Reviewed), Vive ; Publisher: LegionVR ; Developer: Wolf & Wood Interactive Ltd ; Players: 1 ; Released: November 22, 2017 ; ESRB: N/A ; MSRP: $4.99 (per episode)
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of The Exorcist: Legion VR provided by the publisher.