With it still being early days it can be extremely tricky navigating the titles available for VR right now, especially with the launch of PSVR looming. Which of them are "real" games, and which are just glorified tech demos that struggle to justify your expensive hardware purchase? One of the most proliferated VR titles around is Job Simulator from Owlchemy Labs, which first saw release on HTC Vive earlier in the year, and which now releases as part of the PlayStation VR launch line-up. The game has a heavy burden to carry, as it must both service as a technical proof of concept for virtual reality, and also work as a funny, easy to understand introduction to the basic mechanical foundations of VR gaming.
Job Simulator is all about physics, and about having a ton of fun performing otherwise mundane tasks, which are now hilariously funny due to them taking place in a digital dimension. It's exploring the possibilities of VR that makes Job Simulator entertaining, but what exactly do you do?
Job Simulator is in fact four small games; each of them designed around a specific day job. Mechanic, cook, store clerk and office worker, all four place you in a particular context, and then ask you to perform a series of tasks. As a cook you'll make sandwiches, boil potatoes and blend juice, whereas as the office worker you'll make coffee, print documents and arrange files. It doesn't sound very interesting at all now, does it? Owlchemy is perfectly aware of that, but they also know that offering these tasks in a VR context changes the nature of them completely. Dropping your coffee mug on the floor, to then instinctively bend down to pick it up, and then just for a second believing that this action is real, is quite magical, and Job Simulator is filled to the brim with these kinds of experiences.
However, you're not just on the job, and luckily, Job Simulator doesn't take itself very seriously. It's all wonderfully caricatured, and the tasks quickly evolve from the mundane to the quite obscure and strange, and this really benefits the overall experience. The best parts of Job Simulator are when the player creates the comedy, when you go completely off the rails when the next task simply is a bit too boring. The best way to describe this is to quickly paint a picture of an intersting sequence in the Gamereactor office, where a number of people from the editorial staff watched on as we performed the role as a store clerk. Instead of completing the various tasks that were given to us, we started mixing strange cocktails made with ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise, to then throw it in the face of an angered robotic customer. After that, we managed to create a tower of various objects, and that's when our customers started to become really annoyed.
This is the form of VR playfulness that is at the heart of Job Simulator. It's very simple and elegant, and facilitates the comical joy of putting on a VR headset for the very first time. Though it must be said, Job Simulator is not the kind of game you'd want to play with for long periods at a time, and those who expect any kind of story or narrative will find none of that here. Job Simulator's comedic effects last for about ten minutes per session, and then you'll start longing for something else to play, or to take the headset off entirely. That's of course a shame, but you never get the sense that it's trying to be more than an entertaining distraction, so it is what it is.
It must be said, however, that Job Simulator is among the most absorbing VR experiences we've had so far, and that's mostly because of the game's physical representation of your body, your hands in the form of the two Move controllers, as well as the game's way of making you a physical part of a space. All of these aspects help to suck you into the experience. It may be a caricature, almost a pantomime-eqsue exaggeration, but it still feels like a "real" place to an extent, and that's what virtual reality is all about; about creating greater immersion.
If you're thinking about investing a ton of cash in a VR headset, then Job Simulator is a simple but quite elegant game to try it out with, and certainly amongst the most immersive experiences out there right now. Just don't expect the sweeping, awe-inspiring adventure that you may have expected out of VR. You could argue that all three major headsets are still waiting for the "killer app", and while this isn't that, it's still a fun way to spend some time in virtual reality.
For the purpose of this review, we've played Job Simulator with both the HTC Vive and PlayStation Move.
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