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Anne Frank House VR Review (PC)



Anne Frank House VR Promotional Art

It was just shy of a decade ago that I had the chance to enter Anne Frank’s former residence in Amsterdam. Well, technically, it wasn’t the full residence; the attic was inaccessible, and understandably so. Instead, the curators made it visibly clear that, whilst a good portion of old trinkets, letters, and diaries were viewable to the public, a thick sheet of glass would prevent anyone from overstepping their boundaries and staining the memories of a rather somber period — similar to Stonehenge, in the case that, whilst certain architectural evidence is viewable from the naked eye, a chain prevents you from tampering with its structural integrity. It isn’t an uncommon thing — to prevent travelers from getting their hands on some form of relic; the Mona Lisa speaks volumes for that alone. With that said, what is uncommon, is a VR adaptation of the Anne Frank House. But, fair enough.

Given the fact that you’ve wound up here, it seems awfully unnecessary to lumber war-time spiel and jargon on you, for this is, in all honesty, a rather self-explanatory piece of art that requires no formal introduction. This is, unmistakably, a love letter to a horrific time, and one that makes little attempt to spoon-feed you the “sunshine and rainbow” iteration of the same story that you’ll likely find embedded in just about any war-centric encyclopedia. The only difference here, of course, is that it’s painted through the power of virtual reality—a platform that allows you to go one step further, and in turn, beyond the double-glazed glass barrier of its Amsterdam-based experience. Needless to say that, if you’re even the slightest bit interested in taking a peek behind the curtain, then you’ll want to read on.

Dear Diary…

Board game on kitchen table (Anne Frank House VR)

Anne Frank House VR is exactly what it sounds like: a relatively short virtual reality tour around the former Amsterdam residence—the staging grounds for what would eventually become a museum for the general public. Anne Frank, who was of course a torchbearer for the Jewish community during World War II, occupied several crevices of this townhouse; specifically, an attic, in which both herself and several other residents and heirlooms took shelter from the ever-alluring Nazi regime that shrouded the boroughs of the Netherlands capital. The game, which serves as an interactive experience that operates in tandem with the real-life tour, is more or less designed to expand on this tale, for better or for worse.

To make it absolutely clear, Anne Frank House VR isn’t so much a game as it is a thought-provoking art installation; it doesn’t contain any major gameplay elements, nor does it cough up a myriad of puzzles or interweaving endings for you to sift through and unlock. This is, for the record, a twenty-five minute experience that allows you to slip into the shoes of those who came before, and bear witness to several of their keystone moments from within the home. Suffice it to say that, as far as games travel, this isn’t one that’ll get your blood pumping and your trigger fingers itching for more. That’s not what this is — like, at all, and therefore you should definitely consider your position before taking the dive and sporting the headset.

Word for Word

Small bedroom in hidden annex (Anne Frank House VR)

Anne Frank House VR takes place between 1942 and 1944, and therefore, aside from an introductory lesson on how Anne Frank and the other Jewish occupants arrived at their hidden annex in Amsterdam, the game naturally takes you through several of the passages as written by none other than Anne Frank, the thirteen-year-old who, prior to her capture, wrote several in-depth entries into a diary depicting the events of the ongoing war. For the most part, this is where you find yourself in the game: sewn into the tapestry of the iconic messages, and within the fragile mind of not only Anne, but several other Jewish captives, as they progressed through the day-to-day world whilst under the watchful gaze of the Nazis.

As far as storylines go, Anne Frank House VR does manage to follow the source to the letter, so much, in fact, that several of the descriptions and transcripts stem directly from the original materials. Sure enough, a lot of these same messages can indeed be found in the museum itself, though the game does at least make an attempt to elevate its perspective and embellish the original illustration by including additional information and voiceover work. For this reason alone, it’s easy to recommend Anne Frank House VR; it doesn’t make a mockery of the source, but rather, it further expands its scope and offers a genuine insight into the events that once took place during the war. And honestly, I think Vertigo Games did it justice, all things considered.

A Fitting Tribute

Small bedroom (Anne Frank House VR)

To make it absolutely clear, Anne Frank House VR isn’t a long “game”—it clocks out at around the twenty-five minute marker, after which it leaves out a free roam mode in which you can experience the same elements as featured in the story, only with slightly less hand-holding and a little more control over the narrative. Granted, it doesn’t add a huge amount to the overall experience, but it does allow you to make numerous returns for the sake of brushing up on vital points that you may or may not have missed during the initial run. In my experience, though, one step through the time capsule was enough.

It is worth pointing out that, as this is a game that hails from the 2018 catalog, the visuals of Anne Frank House VR aren’t quite picture-perfect. With that said, they are of a high enough quality to bring out the true colors of the official residence and its characters. Its dialogue, too, isn’t half bad, and it captures the emotional turmoil of the time period remarkably well, thus making it a fitting tribute to what can only be described as a dismal era of unwarranted violence and motives.

Thankfully, the game didn’t stutter for me, either — at least not on a mechanical level, anyway. Again, it’s a short experience, and so, I can’t say that I was ever expecting to encounter my fair share of technical issues or drastic dips in frame rates along the way. To that end, both Vertigo Games and Knucklehead Studios signed, sealed, and delivered a worthy letter that, while emotionally charged, captured the beating heart of its chosen subject.


Stairs leading into the attic (Anne Frank House VR)

Anne Frank House VR is a reminder, if anything, that we, as a species, are still drawn to macabre events that continue to etch themselves into our minds. Again, it isn’t so much a game as it is a disturbingly complex art piece that bears the power to instill certain emotions without having to lay all of the cards on the table. Sure enough, there are several moments that allow you to interact with the environment, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a game — at least not in the traditional sense, anyway. But that isn’t an issue, because at the end of the day, Vertigo Games makes it abundantly clear right from the get-go that it isn’t quite that; it’s an interactive lecture, and its sole purpose is to solidify the gaps between the prolific literature and the physical experience.

Suffice it to say that, if you do ever happen to find yourself in Amsterdam, then you ought to pay a visit to the former residence — if only to compliment the virtual reality counterpart that Vertigo Games and Knucklehead Studios have conceived for PC. Failing that, then the Anne Frank House VR experience should suffice, as it more or less captures the same emotions, events, and voiced diary entries as the official tour. If, however, you want an interactive art piece that lets you go a little further, then you honestly needn’t search any deeper than the four walls of Frank’s virtual headspace.

Anne Frank House VR Review (PC)

A Harrowing Time Capsule

Anne Frank House VR serves as a translucent reminder that, while we, as a species, have fought tooth and nail to revolutionize benevolence, an incredibly dark history is still merely a stone’s throw away from our front door. It’s powerful, thought-provoking, and a fitting tribute to the verses of Frank’s acclaimed diary.

Jord is acting Team Leader at If he isn't blabbering on in his daily listicles, then he's probably out writing fantasy novels or scraping Game Pass of all its slept on indies.