Virtual reality as a whole is exciting but still somewhat of a niche market. That goes doubly so for Google’s “Daydream” platform, a mobile VR solution released last year to compete against Samsung’s more popular GearVR system. Daydream’s adoption rate has been slow for multiple reasons, and its library is only just now starting to see good, fully fleshed-out games. One of those games is the quirky “Virtual Virtual Reality”, a brilliant little title by Tender Claws studios that showcases polished control mechanics, fantastic writing, and Portal-esque humor.
SPOILER WARNING: As always, I’ll be doing my best to avoid spoiling anything major, but since we’ll be discussing the plot I make no gauruntees. You’ve been warned.
Virtual Virtual Reality (or “VVR” for short) puts you in to the world of Activitude, a company that provides temporary companionship to the various AI’s that now run the world. It’s your first day as their newest “human labor associate”, and your cheerful robot manager “Chaz” is there to help show you the ropes. During the game’s tutorial stage (cleverly inserted in to the story as “employee training”) Chaz introduces you to the game’s central mechanics and before you know it you’re ready to to start helping your first client! At the beginning the game makes it seem like the “jobs” are just framing devices for a collection of mini-games, but it quickly becomes VERY apparent that that’s not the case: something sinister is going on at the Activitude corporation, and it’s your job to find out what it is. By the time you’ve finished the game you’ll have realized this goofy whimsical title was actually a meta-commentary about VR, the gaming industry, artificial intelligence, the “gig economy”, and even about the nature of reality itself.
As fun as the story is, it’s the game mechanics that really make VVR special. Each AI “client” resides in its own virtual reality construct, and you get to them by putting on (and taking off) VR headsets inside the game. As the mystery begins to unfold you’ll use these in-game headsets to go deeper and deeper in to Activitude, resulting in some kind of VR Inception where it’s easy to forget how many layers of reality you’ve traversed. Early in the game you’re also given a tool that allows you to alter these worlds to a limited degree, allowing you to screw with your concept of reality even more.
In addition to the novel “virtual headsets” concept, VVR also remembers to polish the traditional game controls too. They make good use of Daydream’s Wii-like motion controller resulting in an intuitive experience that flows well with the premise of the game. Like many other VR titles, VVR uses the “teleportation” style of control for locomotion. However, it manages to implement it much more smoothly than any other Daydream title I’ve played to date.
I’m sure it’s obvious at this point, but I’m definitely a fan of VVR. I’ve been waiting for a well written story-driven Daydream game for a long time, and this title delivered in spades. I was fully immersed in what was happening not because of impressive graphical detail or breathtaking scenery, but because the game made me think. There’s too much to go in to here, but if you own a Daydream system then you owe it to yourself to play this title.