Through the Fourth Wall
Virtual reality (should it ever catch on in the mainstream) promises to bring new life and methods to the way we play video games. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is up to personal opinion, but we’re already seeing some genres – especially FPS – hit relative success with this new tech.
When I think about it, I believe there’s one kind of game that may benefit from the VR treatment – licensed games.
Bear with me here. Licensed games, especially movie and television licenses, are created with the idea that it would be fun to interact with the world and/or characters of a specific property. That, or they’re blatant cash grabs, but let’s stick with the positives here.
If you keep that in mind, then you might see: what’s a better way to explore and interact with your favorite TV show than in VR? You can remove the fourth wall and immerse yourself in a world you’ve enjoyed from the outside up until now.
Just like any other game, though, the success of this immersion is going to come down to how much work and care a developer puts into their game. Also, just as with traditional games, not every licensed property is going to be the right fit for VR.
Developed by Owlchemy Labs and published by Adult Swim Games, Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality was released on April 20th, 2017 for PC via Steam. The game is exclusive to VR for both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. The Vive version was played for this review.
For the Sake of Clean Pants
Virtual Rick-ality presents itself, somewhat, as an episode of the television show. In fact, you start the game by placing a Rick and Morty DVD into a DVD player.
You play as a clone of Morty, which Rick created for one very important task: to do his laundry. Of course, the mundane quickly turns more insane, as things are apt to do in this TV series.
If I have one complaint about the plot presented here, its the surprising lack of the show’s titular characters. Outside of the intro and ending, you see very little of Rick and Morty, and your interactions with them are nothing more than dialogue being spoken to you. You can smack them around a bit if they’re near you, but they have no reaction.
There’s even less presence when it comes to other series characters. Summer, Morty’s sister, is seen once for a few moments; Jerry, Morty’s dad, seems to appear in voice only; Beth, Morty’s mother, is absent altogether. A couple of minor characters get momentary cameos, but its disappointingly lacking for a game billing itself as experiencing the Rick and Morty universe.
Luckily, though, the writing here retains the surreal humor the series is known for, and it drew sincere laughs from me fairly regularly. Plot progression is very unusual, mostly taking place off screen, but the ending helps bring everything together in a way only that would only make sense with Rick and Morty.
The vast majority of Virtual Rick-ality takes place in Rick’s garage/workshop. There’s all kinds of little gadgets and tools you can interact with, along with a number of hidden secrets you can hunt for.
Outside of messing around in the lab, the core gameplay here is mostly solving a series of puzzles. Each puzzle typically starts with a call from Rick asking you to perform some inane task, and then the game leaves you to your own devices to figure it out.
Most of the puzzles here are fairly simple, with ample hints spread around the environment if you search. The game does randomly throw a somewhat challenging logic puzzle at you about halfway through, though, which didn’t fit the experience all that well.
As the game progresses, you do unlock a couple of other environments you can warp to. These typically don’t have as much to do in them as the garage environment, but they’re introduced frequently enough to keep said garage from getting stale.
A couple of the puzzles, while simple in their execution, are amazing in their creativity. Using a hacked-up Mr. Meeseeks (here called Mr. Youseeks, since they mirror you) to move a sensitive object across the room is mind-bendingly entertaining. There’s also a machine in the garage that combines two objects into one that, while used in a few puzzles, is also just plain fun to mess with (especially with some of the hilariously literal creations you can make, like a “carrot hammer.”).
Virtual Rick-ality makes good use of the Vive’s room scale system, and keeps the amount of teleporting around the environment to a minimum. The garage environment is divided into three distinct areas you can teleport between, but navigation within these areas is entirely room scale. Other environments are presented completely in room scale as well, greatly helping with immersion.
Unfortunately, the main plot and gameplay is relatively short. I completed all of the story puzzles in about two hours, and that includes time just messing around in the environment. There’s still plenty of stuff to play with and search for after the main game wraps up (which Rick and Morty tell you in the most boring and drawn out dialogue in the game), but the core experience is over disappointingly quick. If you’re not into just dicking around in games, the fun here will dry up quickly. Even if you are, the $30 asking price at the time of writing is incredibly steep for such a short experience.
Straight from the Source
Graphically, Virtual Rick-ality succeeds well in translating the look and feel of Rick and Morty into virtual reality. The show itself isn’t the most detailed in animation, using a lot of basic shapes and solid colors, and the same can be said about this game. This isn’t a bad thing, however – the goal here is to experience the world of the television show, so retaining the same art style is the right choice. As an added benefit, it performs well on my low-VR-spec PC, with no slowdown or stutter to be seen.
Rick and Morty themselves, though, don’t quite survive the transition to three dimensions unscathed. Their character models appear to be made out of plastic, and their lack of animation makes it feel like you’re spending time with mannequins of the series stars, rather than the actual characters.
I’ll fold the music section of the review in here, since there isn’t much to say about it: there is no music. The sound here is purely environmental. The voice acting here, though, is great. There’s really no way it coudn’t be, as the voice actors from the TV show all reprise their roles, so the characters here are a perfect match to the show’s performances.
Overall, Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality is a fun and polished title that falls into the regular VR pitfall: being more of an “experience” than an actual game. The core gameplay is great, but there’s just nowhere near enough of it. There’s only so much random messing around I can do in a game before I get bored, and that unfortunately came quickly after the end of this game’s plot.
The lack of presence of so much of the show’s cast is also a major disappointment. I can understand not all of the voice performers having time to work on a game, but the lack of even the titular Rick and Morty is shocking.
Finally, the $30 price tag is straight up punishing for the dearth of content here. A lot of care was obviously put in to the game here, and the environment is crafted amazingly well, but I still can’t find a way to justify dropping that much money for this title.
Despite all of my complaints, though, I did have a blast with what content there actually is here. For Rick and Morty fans with cash to burn, this is still quite a fun experience. For most other gamers, though, I’d highly recommend waiting for a price cut or sale.
~ Final Score: 6/10 ~
Review copy provided by Adult Swim Games for PC. Screenshots courtesy of Adult Swim Games.