The Red Flute (or the strange tale of Billy Wu) is an episodic virtual reality story (Rift and Gear VR).

Experience a mind-bending journey into a fantastical land inspired by ancient Chinese history. (Think Asian version of Alice in Wonderland.) Puzzles and combat are embedded in what is, essentially, a piece of theatre.

The inciting incident is the capture of Billy Wu – a Chinese Kung Fu fighter who was found roaming barefoot through the mayor’s mansion in New York City. Dr. Matthew Truman (better known as Doc Truman) narrates the story of the madman Wu, who insists that he has slipped through a wormhole from 220 AD. Wu must return to China and prevent a civil war – a mission given to him when emerging from the Land of the Dead. Not only is Billy a time traveler, he is a reincarnation.

The experience consists of seven chapters in which each chapter involves five to 15 minutes of play.

In the first chapter, the conditions of Wu’s reincarnation are set forth in eight scrolls delivered by an ancient spirit. The Middle Kingdom (China) is on the verge of collapse. A corrupt general has put a bastard child on the Dragon Throne while the true heir, Jaw-Long (Dragon mouth), has gone underground after surviving an assassination attempt. The capitol of the Middle Kingdom has been burned to the ground, and the Imperial Seal lost. Wu’s mission: find the Seal and put Jaw-Long on the Throne.

The user follows in the footsteps of Billy Wu and Doc Truman as they confront various challenges, such as battling demon monkeys in a bamboo forest, meeting a secret society of monks on a mountain-top temple, and tricking a bat demon to obtain a key to the Imperial Seal. The experience incorporates elements from a classic RPG format. In Chapter One, the user begins to accumulate special objects (coins, Dragon bow, mystery box) which he/she can use in adventures. Some objects, such as the Dragon bow-and-arrow (range) and the Bo staff (melee), are designed for combat.

SCENES FROM CHAPTER I: LAND OF THE DEAD

The seven chapters are as follows: 1) Emerging from the Land of the Dead; 2) Battling Monkey Demons in the Bamboo Forest; 3) Engaging with Monks; 4) Destroying the Serpent; 5) Finding Jaw-Long; 6) Tricking the Bat-Demon; and, 7) Retrieving the Seal.

As in most stories based on the cycle of myth, the user/Hero/Wu realizes that shifts in power – in this case, who sits on a Throne for whatever reason – are transient. At journey’s end, the all-consuming goal is but a futile dance. A delusion. The greater and more humane truth is revealed in the existence of the “red flute,” a 9000-year-old instrument made from the wing-bone of a red-crowned crane.