As a launch title for PSVR, Job Simulator was a bit of a strange one to get my head around. On the one hand I wanted anything and everything to try out the new tech, on the other I didn’t want to spend my downtime pretending I was back in the office. Holding off for 4 weeks, I eventually caved after playing the demo for the umpteenth time and bought Owlchemy Labs interesting take on what’s going to happen when our robot overlords take control. Was it worth taking the extra step and learning some new employment skills in my living room?
Job Simulator is the first title that I’ve had to really push for space to operate the PSVR in, it needs at least 7 feet from the camera to the play area, and a decent amount of space for you to reach all around with the Move controllers (essential here) – so just backing up against a wall isn’t going to cut it. After a quick shuffle of furniture the requisite space was created and it was job time. Set in 2050, the world is run by floating CRT monitors hell bent on providing the squishy human population with a view of what life used to be like before they were subjugated by the PC master race. You’re visiting a museum that lets you choose from Office Worker, Gourmet Chef, Store Clerk or Car Mechanic roles and experience what it’s like to do that job… or at least what the weird interpretation from the robots is. You might have guessed that this isn’t a serious game, and after spending time wading through gaming and movie references which seem to be how most of the jobs are “remembered”, you’ll not be feeling serious either.
Select a job and jump into an interactive environment where virtually everything around you can be manipulated and messed with, most of the time for no reason at all. As each job progresses you’re told what to do by your levitating boss and you move on if you complete the task successfully. There’s no failure state, so if you want to spend hours throwing books at the robots floating around the office, have at it! This is both the joy and the curse of Job Simulator. With so much freedom to use your disembodied hands to fidget with and tinker, you expect some slightly more challenging tasks to come your way, and whilst they’ll put a smile on your face they really don’t last long at all. It’s almost as if the developers have understood the fundamental aspect of work – you have to do the mundane stuff to get the rewards, but any opportunity to dick around with the gadgets should be taken up when no one’s looking.
Each of the jobs is very different, and crucially, so are each of the environments. Effective use of space is the key to the construction of the workplaces because it allows the maximum amount of variety. In the office it’s pretty much just a cubicle with a computer, coffee machine and printer to contend with; any ancillary kit arrives at your desk when needed. For all the others you find dials and switches that rotate and transform the counters and cupboards into multifunctional items. Pantries swap for fridges, tyres slide away to reveal batteries, or sinks disappear to come back as microwaves. It’s a lovely piece of design that recognises that you need a lot of tools because you are fixed in place, and by hiding away what’s not in use, there’s the opportunity to keep everything at a decent size for handling. Collision detection is pretty good, especially when you realise you can just knock doors closed instead of fiddling with grabbing the handle; and the hand tracking is excellent as long as you’re not reaching behind you and blocking the controller light from the camera. If you can see it and reach it, you can interact with it seems to be the rule.
What Job Simulator focusses on is ease of operation with a simple style that compliments the capabilities of the tech, and it all comes together to provide a really smooth VR experience that genuinely delights when you inhabit the world. More than any other title so far I’ve felt immersed in what I was doing, to a degree that I almost expected to feel weight and feedback from the objects being handled. It’s not overly long, there’s not much replay value once you’ve completed each level, and it’s on the pricey side as well given the length, but it’s a great conceptual showcase with a huge amount of humour and style and should been an essential part of anyone’s induction to what VR is all about.
Job Simulator is out now on PS4 and PC.