There’ve been plenty of games and experiences I’ve encountered on PlayStation VR where the extra level of immersion offered by virtual reality completely changes things up. I’ve played a lot of boxing games in my time for example, but doing tn in Creed: Rise to Glory made it feel like I was genuinely there smashing up my opponents in a ring. The same goes with shooters too, with titles like Blood & Truth making you feel like you’re really taking part in frantic non-stop shoot outs. It’s brilliant really and has completely changed how gamers can experience their favourite genres.
You know what I didn’t expect to try in virtual reality, though? Virtual reality. That’s the concept of Virtual Virtual Reality, the bizarre first-person puzzle experience from the team at Tender Claws that sees you taking part in a range of silly scenarios in virtual reality…. in virtual reality.
In Virtual Virtual Reality you take on the role of a new employee at Activitude: a virtual reality company that allows its clients to escape the real world in specially crafted scenarios created just for them. It’s up to you to make sure everything runs smoothly though and that all of the client’s needs are met, which can make for some pretty interesting scenarios. However, there’s something strange going on behind the scenes at Activitude and to uncover its secrets you’ll have to venture deeper through the boundaries of virtual reality and delve into the company’s history.
I was a big fan of the premise behind Virtual Virtual Reality and some of the strange situations I found myself in had me genuinely laughing out loud – it’s really got that whole Portal vibe going on, which is something that’s especially apparent with your ‘manager’ Chaz and his attempts to lead you on the right path. However, whilst encounters with Chaz, the Butter, and the Spinwheel (more on them later) made for some genuinely fun moments, there were some parts of the game that just really dragged out and missed the mark as far as the humour was concerned. I actually found myself feeling a little bored a few times too, which was pretty unusual given how anarchic the whole experience is.
Gameplay-wise, you’ll typically explore small environments by teleporting around and then interact with objects to keep your clients happy. THIS is where the game can get particularly weird, but in a good way of course. One of your clients is a slab of butter for example and all he wants is to have pieces of toast flung at him. Strange, right? Then there’s the tumbleweed, who just wants to be blown down a moving path as a tumbleweed should… yeah, it’s totally strange, but there’s something about it that just feels so silly and fitting that you can’t help to have fun. My personal favourite was the Spinwheel who needs help with their gardening – I won’t go into detail about what happens, but let’s just say it doesn’t end well.
Whilst you’re given a job to do, you do get some freedom in how you approach it. Take the butter for example: he may want toast thrown at him, but there’re other stuff you could try too. He may not like it, but what’s stopping you throwing a welly, a cup, or a carrot about instead? Alternatively, you can use your vacuum tool (aptly named the Activitude Brand Poly Cleanup Tool) to suck up the environment, which opens your path to a lot of background activity. However you approach it, there’s a lot of potential to be creative in Virtual Virtual Reality and it makes for some fun moments. There’s a deep message behind all the silliness too which doesn’t only delve into the impact of virtual reality as a whole but on the world itself, which could actually be quite touching. There’s definitely a whole lot more going on than you might initially think and it just helps the game stand out that little bit more.
Again though, like the humour, some aspects of Virtual Virtual Reality’s gameplay could be a little boring. Some tasks feel a little too menial in design and with little to keep you entertained as far as humour is concerned during these moments, it’s easy to find yourself feel a bit fed up. You’re not always fully directed as to what you need to do either and at one point I found myself stuck in a loop of throwing toast at the Butter and exploring behind the scenes just trying to progress, with Chaz catching me during each attempt and having me start over again. It got annoying and it left me craving those moments where the game nails the humour and gameplay perfectly. Thankfully, it ends with a bang, but do expect some moments that don’t hit the mark in between.
One thing I’ve got to give a quick shout out to is the game’s visuals, with the simple yet vibrant aesthetic making for some wonderful sights in-game. Don’t get me wrong, the graphics themselves aren’t as detailed as some of those you’d see in other PlayStation VR titles, but the world itself is so creative and pretty in design that you’ll just love being a part of it. All the zany stuff you come across is equally charming too, with the whole experience simply jam-packed with personality. It’s nice.
I had a fun time playing through Virtual Virtual Reality with its silly antics and sometimes deep narrative making for some enjoyable situations, but there were also plenty of moments where I just found myself feeling a little bit bored. Encountering characters like the pervy slab of Butter and the flower-loving Pinwheel was a joy, but some of the others? Both your interactions with them and their humour fell short of the mark. It probably didn’t help that there could be a lack of direction at times though and at one point I found myself repeating actions over and over again as I tried to figure out what to do.
Still, there’s something about Virtual Virtual Reality that is undeniably charming, whilst its similarity to the likes of Portal will certainly tick a few boxes for some players. It might not be the perfect way to encounter virtual reality in virtual reality, but it’s still a worthwhile and undeniably unique experience.
Developer: Tender Claws
Publisher: Tender Claws
Platform(s): PlayStation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest