Imagine the delight of a 360-degree dollhouse/diorama come to life. That’s only the first of many awe-inspiring aspects of playing “Down the Rabbit Hole” on the Oculus Quest. You begin the gameplay as an unnamed (for a while, at least) girl who’s fallen down the rabbit hole while looking for her lost pet. However, this isn’t the story of Alice, but someone who traveled to Wonderland on a prior adventure. Already a fan of “American McGee’s Alice” PC game circa 2000 (Rogue Entertainment/EA), plus a lover of basically any incarnation of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (complete with my own “Easter egg” of the Caterpillar hidden in one of my tattoos), I was instantly intrigued by the notion of fully immersing myself into a VR Wonderland.
Exploring the seemingly infinite levels farther and farther down, the main objective is for the girl to find all the invitations to the Queen of Heart’s party that were disrupted and dispersed as she landed in the White Rabbit’s den. In true White Rabbit fashion, he starts panicking that the Queen will go after his 57(!) baby bunnies as punishment—or that she’d even decry, “Off with his head!”
On the search for all the invitations—and her pet—various puzzles and mind-benders must be solved to move through the levels. To navigate, the player can either use the Quest controller joysticks to pivot and go up-and-down, but much more fun is using the related vines underground for a more seamless experience. This is also more useful to essentially pull the rooms towards you—a relative giant compared to the girl—and also a better way to search for hidden invitations. Your progress can be tracked to see if perhaps you’ve missed an invite somewhere before completing a level as well.
Regarding the aforementioned dollhouse feel, one can essentially immerse their whole face into a room–much as I wished I could as a kid to see what the dolls were “seeing.” The levels are rich with creativity—as well as some fairly challenging puzzles along the way. The POV also switches between the gamer as a third-person observer/navigator to putting themselves directly in the girl’s shoes to get up-close-and-personal for certain tasks and conversations with other characters. The environment of the hookah-smoking Caterpillar prompted an audible “Oh, wow!” moment for my favorite character from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass.” The game developers (Cortopia) even pay tribute to the original Sir John Tenniel illustrations at moments where the gamer has to make choices related to shaping the girl’s identity.
Previously, I’ve mostly played Oculus Games that get me up and moving such as “Beat Saber,” “Sports Scramble,” and the hilarious/stress-relieving “Drunkn Bar Fight.” While I’ve also started another puzzle game, the creepy “Last Labyrinth,” “Down the Rabbit Hole” is the first story-based game on Quest that instantly drew me in and was eager to uncover all the surprises and challenges, thus I completed the game in only a few sessions. However, the environment is so mesmerizing—and with three possible endings—it’s one to share with friends and watch the amazement on their faces as well.