Obviously, a huge part of the appeal of videogames is the escapism they offer from the crushing, relentless misery that is our lives. Just because you find entertainment in launching cars off roofs or terrorising pedestrians in Grand Theft Auto, it doesn’t carry over to real life. I’m into Pokémon Go too, but I’m yet to throw tennis balls at pigeons, no matter how close they fly to my head on the High Street. These things are fun for the exact reason that it gives you the chance to do what you’d never consider doing, or even want to do (hopefully), in reality. GTA is the obvious, extreme example of this, but it’s great to see this launch title for the PSVR, Job Simulator, taking this idea to a much smaller scale.
Game: Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives
Developer: Owlchemy Labs
Publisher: Owlchemy Labs
Reviewed on: PSVR/PS4 (Review code provided)
Job Simulator could easily be renamed Twat Simulator, if it weren’t for trifling issues as censorship. Upon starting the game, you’re given the choice of several occupations. You can be a mechanic, an office worker, a chef or a store clerk. In the context of the game being a simulator, you’re then dropped into the relevant environment to get on with whichever job you’ve chosen. Sounds quite dull, but these are cartoony, exaggerated settings. For example, as the store assistant you’re able to supersize foodstuffs like burgers by zapping them with a machine that apparently doesn’t exist in the real world (I know, I checked. Many times).
Graphically, Job Simulator is not one of the most capable titles you’ll come across; all gaudy colours, occasionally jagged edges and broad textures. What it is, though, is enormous fun. Showing how VR is largely focusing on playability and new experiences rather than mind-blowing advances in aesthetics, although some of this is probably through necessity at this early stage, and at this price-point. Nevertheless, I probably had more belly-laugh fun with this game than any other VR title I’ve had my hands on so far; it’s a great demonstration of how this technology can make you feel like possibilities are limitless in any given environment, even though they’re definitely not. You are essentially dropped into your chosen role and left to get on with it as customers and tasks present themselves.
Control wise, you take one Move controller in each hand, and these represent your hands, obviously. You use the trigger buttons on each controller to grab various items around you… and that’s it. That is all you need to start wreaking havoc on whichever poor sod dares to venture into your virtual establishment. To look around, you move your head, because that’s basically how most VR works isn’t it?
In the restaurant stage, orders appear on notes pinned to one of those spinny order-holder things you see in American diners in TV shows. Pick an order from the spinny-thing and see what you need to make. Usually these are fairly self-explanatory, such as a bacon sandwich or a cup of tea, and then you use the various equipment located around you to fulfil the order; microwave, fridge, sink, kettle and all the various cutlery and implements you’d expect. Make the meal, throw it on a plate and ring the bell to summon a waiter. Simple stuff. On occasion you’re given the opportunity to go freestyle and make a special of your choosing. Combine whatever you like; apple and steak in the blender? Fine. Coffee sandwich? Sounds good, Heston. You can even pick insects from the floor and throw those in, too, and throw plates at ungrateful customers. Or throw anything at anyone, really.
Things continue similarly in the shop area. Behind the checkout of a general convenience store, you ring up purchases, bag things up and serve occasional food or drink items such as those beverages that are just 99% ice and some syrup. Following helpful prompts, you’re directed towards the proper part of your checkout to do what needs to be done and move the customers on their way. Cue the latest sequel to Kevin Smith’s Clerks, as you (well, I) throw slushies at small children, see how large you can make the hotdogs and try to sell someone the clock from the wall and fireworks when all they wanted was a pack of chewing gum.
There is indeed a way to play this properly, and to be honest doing that is quite a lot of fun; the tasks are varied enough and the interaction so perfectly simple that it constantly brought a smile to my face as I worked out how to use the environment to get to where I needed to be. In fact, I’m sure it is entirely possible to play Job Simulator and be sensible for more than ten minutes without becoming a disillusioned teenager in an American TV movie and putting money in burgers. I’m sure the developers may not even appreciate me playing their game in this way, and that they had every intention of making a true simulation of various possible tasks to educate people, or perhaps even to show difficult customers how hard it can be to work in a public-facing, solitary environment on a daily basis.
But I’m not the sort of person to throw cold drinks at small children, and I don’t imagine you are either. I would never see how many parts of someone’s car I could remove before sending them on their way or photocopy my bum in the real world, but here you have it; a game that finally gives you the chance to do all this and more without serious repercussions. Aside from all the silliness there is indeed a great game here too; I’d wager if you had an attention span better than most of the NGB writers you could spend hours doing the tasks as they were meant to be performed and enjoy it enormously. But VR is about offering new ways to play, and new opportunities and possibilities to the player. And Job Simulator is a bright, cheerful and great way to remind us all of that.