The first reviews are in for Stephen Spielberg's next blockbuster Ready Player One, and critics are raving about the sci-fi's "rollicking" tone and "relentless nostalgia".

Based on the best-selling novel by Ernest Cline, Ready Player One stars Tye Sheridan as a young hero who enters into a virtual reality world called 'Oasis' and plays to win the fortune of its creator.

The sci-fi action film premiered at South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, and initial reviews have awarded it an 80 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a favourable 64 score on Metacritic.

Most critics are praising the film's epic scale and nostalgic pop culture references.

Advertisement

"An immersive sci-fi spectacle about a future overrun by virtual reality gaming... [Spielberg] has transformed it into a mesmerizing blockbuster steeped in callbacks to the best of them," says IndieWire's Eric Kohn.

"It's entrancingly cool," says Variety's Owen Gleiberman. "Ready Player One tells a breathless and relatively coherent story ... the movie, first and foremost, is a coruscating explosion of pop-culture eye candy."

The Verge's Tasha Robinson says the novel's countless pop culture references work better on screen. "The hardcore pop-culture crowd that is this movie's ultimate intended audience will have plenty to pore over and pick apart in this film," she says.

"But the story moves briskly enough, and with enough giant-sized, screen-friendly excitement that it doesn't feel like it's aimed solely and specifically at them."

Vanity Fair's Joanna Robinson argues that the film prioritises style over substance, saying: "The film ... is a wild ride—but may disappoint anyone looking for something deeper."

Ready Player One is due to hit New Zealand cinemas on March 29.