Developer: Owlchemy Labs
Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Platform: Windows PC, requires Oculus Touch or HTC Vive
Release Date: Apr. 20, 2017
ESRB Rating: M for Mature
Price: $30 / £23
Links: Official website
Roughly one year into commercial VR’s lifetime, two of its games have emerged as the funniest: Job Simulator and Accounting. The former, made by Owlchemy Labs, is an elaborate toy playset set in a dystopian future, while the latter is an off-the-wall humor experiment that hinges on its VR characters shouting ridiculous things. The first is funny because of how it lets you play around; the other is funny because of its endless stream of spoken jokes (helmed largely by Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland).
Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality, then, is VR comedy’s chocolate and peanut butter—because it really does squish the aforementioned games together. The bonkers designers at Owlchemy teamed up with the writing and production staff at Rick and Morty, including Roiland, to give the Adult Swim animated series its first VR game (and, arguably, its most full-blown video game altogether). True to its source material, Virtual Rickality is hilarious and weird, and series fans will want to experience it. But it’s also a reminder of VR’s limits as an entertainment medium, a fact that the series’ fans will more easily forgive than anybody who lands on this game as a newcomer.
How many clones can he kill?
In short, if you don’t like Rick and Morty, then your time playing this game will seem like little more than a drunken scientist-inventor burping at you, calling you vulgar names, and murdering you against your will.
And if you’re a fan of the series, well… that last sentence probably reads like the poster pull-quote of your dreams. All of that stuff happens.
The game opens with you as a freshly generated clone of Rick’s grandson Morty, and you wake in the same garage that Rick experiments in on the TV series. Rick has whipped you up because he and Real Morty need help with yet another one of their crazy schemes, and it requires steps that they either think are too dangerous or just don’t want to bother doing. He also kills you pretty much immediately… at which point you come back to life as another Morty clone. (How many clones can he create? Turns out, a lot.)
“Beating” the game involves completing simple tasks in order, as opposed to loose, free-form silliness. If you look at the game in a cold and mechanical fashion, the “gameplay” on offer is quite pedestrian. You’ll need a motion-tracked VR system, either Oculus Touch or HTC Vive, as everything you do revolves around using hands to pick up and manipulate the virtual objects in your vicinity. (Like other recent VR games, you can “teleport” around, just not very far in any given room.)
Many of Rick’s requests include steps that are telegraphed to players, sometimes with diagrams showing exactly what needs to be done. Most of these revolve around a “combinator” device that you can use to combine any two items laying around Rick’s garage. In a simpler example, put down an apple and something metal, and you’ll get a metal apple.
Sometimes, you’ll just have to figure out what to combine (or combine exactly what the game tells you to), at which point Rick will name your next task. Other times, you’ll warp into other rooms and use your hands to pick up, reassemble, or take objects as per Rick’s bidding. (Sometimes, you’ll need the help of the show’s “Meeseeks” characters, which you can generate and toss to places that you yourself cannot reach to toggle or carry distant items.) There are a few classic “puzzles” and one gun-powered action sequence, but otherwise, R&MVR mostly plays out like Job Simulator Adventure—you mostly just pick up and toss stuff around with a “plot” loosely attached.
There is difference here: Job Simulator simply had more playsets to goof off within. Rick’s garage lives and dies by the combinator. As you might expect, you can get creative and generate some very weird items with it, which can also be fun to toss around or use. Wanna pop open a can of gasoline, then hold it to your virtual mouth? Go ahead; you’ll make your Morty clone puke his guts out. That sort of thing. But Job Simulator had those kinds of silly VR surprises in spades, and R&MVR’s very small number of rooms include far fewer ways to combine and play around with items. You can’t chop up food, you can’t break other people’s cars, and you can’t terrorize your virtual cubicle neighbors. While I don’t need to redo those same tasks again, I do wish there were an equivalent number of new actions in this game.
The funniest VR game yet
Adult Swim Games
The kicker, of course, is that this is Rick and Morty we’re talking about—and that means every major voice actor from the series is on board with vocal performances as main characters. Anybody who grew up playing half-assed licensed cartoon video games in the ’90s can breathe easy that they’re getting their money’s worth here.
I would clock this three-hour VR game’s comedy value at an amount just shy of two full Rick and Morty episodes. Between the amount of uncensored, hilarious dialogue in the default mission path and the sight and sound gags hidden around the characters’ virtual environs, you’ll have plenty to laugh at—and very little is boring regurgitation of prior episodes. The series’ showrunners could have built the VR experience on old jokes or copy-pasted dialogue, so the TV team and Owlchemy Labs should be commended for striking a very, very lovely balance between fan-service throwbacks and fresh material.
Not an April Fool: Rick and Morty third season premiere surprise-launched online [Updated]If I had any nitpick to offer, it’d be that TV’s Rick and Morty is at its best when episodes jump back and forth between an A plot and a B plot, with all five nuclear family members playing off and interrupting each other to strike the right balance between sci-fi insanity and surprisingly tender family stuff. This game leans a lot more to the silly sci-fi and vulgarity of the series. But that doesn’t stink, by any stretch.
It’s also worth noting that VR fluency is crucial to finding some of the best gags. I mentioned a gas-can example, and VR novices may not think that something will happen when you pop the lid off and pantomime drinking a harmful fluid. The same can be said for other very memorable R&MVR gags, which are not hinted at in any overt way in the game. Yet the game’s designers clearly built them to be found, as evidenced by vague in-game “achievements” given out for finding the weirdest and most scatological ones. (I’m not going to spoil them here, but they’re definitely weirder than “pick up a gas can.”)
Which is to say, this game was made for perhaps the smallest gaming niche I’ve ever heard of: VR headset veterans who also love Rick and Morty. I think more people owned HD-DVD players. To be fair, I love that the game’s “hidden” content emerges when you flex your creative muscles, and it’s not like they’re the most brain-crushingly tough things to find.
Vive or Oculus?
I reviewed the game primarily on HTC Vive, but it also works with Oculus Touch pretty much identically. (Oculus users must use the Touch hand controllers.) On either system, the game is a little better with a larger “standing-VR” space, so that you can easily pick up anything you’ve dropped or thrown. If your play space is smaller, you’ll probably rely more on the “Meeseeks helper” feature to pick up distant objects.
It’s just a reminder that the number of people who are going to encounter and get the most out of this game is crazy-small by default. As a result, most Rick and Morty fans have a very weird choice here. They can get their hands on a high-end VR kit—maybe by going to a friend’s house or buying a full PC-and-headset package—or they can hop on a platform like Twitch and watch someone else play. Neither of those is ideal. Virtual Rickality, funny and memorable as it is, is certainly not worth spending upwards of $1,000 on its own. And yet while there’s a lot of non-interactive stuff to laugh at, particularly Rick and Morty’s own dialogue, the humor certainly loses something in 2D translation when you’re no longer the second-person mover of the comedy.
Fast forward a few years, of course, and R&MVR will still be there, with enough comedic moments and genuinely silly gameplay to be worth strapping into on your cheaper Oculus 3 or whatever. There’s more to this experience thin VR gimmicky, and it’ll be waiting, whenever you get a reasonable opportunity to test it out. But don’t expect to come back to it for a second playthrough.
Editor’s Note: I have avoided spoilers in this text, as some of the gags (particularly the fan-service ones) are at their best with surprise on their side, but I do want to spoil part of the game’s ending to make a point. To read this, continue on to the next page. If you’d like to avoid this spoiler, enjoy our Good, Bad, Ugly recap and head out.
- As much authentic Rick and Morty comedy as roughly two episodes of the series
- Full voice cast shows up to create new funny situations instead of rehashing old ones
- Hidden and surprise gags, including one “VR inside of VR” moment, make this game a funny one to interact with
- In purely mechanical terms, there’s less to do than in Job Simulator, which is a bummer
- If you aren’t already a fan, much of the humor will fly over your head
- Misses some of the heart that balances out the TV series’ wackier moments
- This might be the most expensive episode of Rick and Morty you’ll ever watch (or, I guess, be a part of) if you don’t already own a compatible VR kit (though $30 is reasonable for the comedy here)
Verdict: Don’t spend over $1,000 just to play this, but if you’re a Rick and Morty fan, don’t just watch a stream, either. Rob a mad scientist’s garage if you have to, but find a way to try it.
More Info: arstechnica.com