You’re dying for season 3 of Rick and Morty (2013) to come out, and the release of episode 1 on April Fool’s Day isn’t helping. You’ve got a fever that only the drunken ramblings of the genius Rick Sanchez and his level-headed, albeit hopelessly outmatched grandson Morty Smith can cure. The good news: Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality (2017) is here to fill the void in your meaningless existence. The less good news: it’s basically Job Simulator (2016) expertly grafted to an episode of Rick and Morty. And you know what? Th-th-th*ugghhb*at’s just fine by me, Jack. Don’t know why I’m calling you Jack all of a sudden. Let’s just get on with the review.
Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality Details:
In Owlchemy Lab’s new Rick and Morty VR game, you’re lower than the low. Not only are you a Morty, but you’re a Morty-clone who has less purpose (and respect) in life than a butter-fetching robot. The only thing that might be construed as a lower being on the totem pole of galactic intelligence in the game is a Mr. Meeseeks, cleverly renamed Mr. You-seeks for the purpose of the game, of which you have in infinite supply. But all he does is mirror your movements, letting you pick up objects that go out of your teleportation range, making you basically the lowest life form in the entire multiverse.
It all starts one day when Rick, in his infinite wisdom, conjures you up to do the simple task of cleaning his clothes. Open the washer, pop in the suds and dirty clothes, hit a button, and you’re done. Game over. But not quite. From there you take on grander tasks, like retrieving “important parts” (for his spaceship), fixing the toilet, drinking gasoline—you know, menial Morty-tasks that need doing while the real Morty goes with Rick on actual adventures.
I genuinely started to feel jealous of my namesake as he flies away on Rick’s space ship, or hops through portals while I’m stuck in the Smith’s garage charging micro-verse batteries, ordering parts online to fix more “important things”, or feeding an alien laxatives. If you can get over the fact that you’ll never truly have that free-wheeling Rick and Morty adventure so tantalizingly close to your grasp, and that you will invariably be the butt of every joke, you’ll begin to see the game for what it is: a true glimpse into the Rick and Morty universe, one that’s masterfully stitched into Job Simulator’s object interaction.
The game’s spiritual predecessor Job Simulator, the critically-acclaimed VR game from Owlchemy Labs, is a parody-sim about what human occupations were once like, as seen through the eyes of our future robot overlords. Of course, these robots have an imperfect understanding of the past and hilarity ensues. It’s easy to see why show creator Justin Roiland hooked up with Owlchemy Labs to produce his comparably absurd game.
Even though your tasks are essentially meaningless—and believe me, there’s plenty of plumbus-bopping and bottle-smashing—the patently absurd story arch playing out before you really makes you feel like you’re in an episode of the show, albeit a subplot to a grander adventure waiting behind Rick’s portal. In unmistakable Rick-like fashion though, eventually the old man’s machinations are revealed, giving the inane object bashing that much more importance and authenticity.
That said, Easter eggs are also everywhere, with 13 collectible mix tapes featuring silly songs and ramblings from the show’s characters. The fictional VR game Roy: A Life Well Lived, made famous in the episode Mortynight Run (2015) in Season 2, also makes an appearance in the guise of a knockoff called TROY complete with cardboard cut-outs to give it that cheap-o feel.
Rick’s sci-fi ‘combining machine’ alone will keep you mixing and matching in efforts to create the weirdest object combination (think growth hormone + plumbus). I played through with minimal faffing and completed the main story in a little over 2 hours, but if you’re hunting for every last one of the game’s Easter eggs, it could take you much longer.
The brilliance of the Rick and Morty TV show is how it reaches through your television and grabs you by the ears, sometimes directly by breaking the 4th wall, but often times by disarming you with absurdity while delivering powerful messages on mortality, loss—you know, the human condition. The VR game is all of this and more. You only need a few minutes in Purgatory after your first death, listening to the devil’s secretary tell you about why you shouldn’t reanimate back into the game to see what I mean.
From Rick’s lovingly recreated garage-lab, to all of the interactive items ripped straight from the show (including low poly 3D versions of Rick, Morty and Summer), there’s a feeling of familiarity that fans will definitely click with. But there’s something more insidious lurking in Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality though.
The show’s characters get in your head in VR in a way the TV show just can’t. Because you’re physically in front of the almighty Rick (voiced by show creator Justin Roiland) you can’t help but seek his approval, if only so he doesn’t dismiss you as just another stupid Morty-clone. You begin to wear Morty’s persona, the sycophant grandchild who just wants to please his ultimately powerful grandfather. If you do a job right the first time, you might get a backhanded compliment like “Hey, it looks like this Morty-clone isn’t a complete pile of flaming garbage afterall.”
And that’s when I started understanding something about the game: you just aren’t good enough to go on a real adventure with Rick. Hell, the real Morty barely is. Sure, there are action sequences with the promise of multiple deaths around the corner, but these are remarkably few in number, and stink of Rick’s characteristic manipulation. It isn’t a real adventure at all. And yet somehow, all of this is okay given the absurdity of both Job Simulator and the show itself.
All of this is done in a beautifully rendered environment that easily mashes up with the show’s hand-drawn feel. It’s like living in your favorite cartoon (if Rick and Morty is your favorite cartoon, that is).
Getting to the nitty-gritty, Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality offers many of the same features of Job Simulator, including its ‘smaller person’ mode that lets you scale down the size of your environment to let you access things easier. Despite this, the game is very much a standing experience that requires at least 2m x 1.5m (about 6.5 feet x 5 feet). Object interaction is the exactly the same as Job Simulator; bottles have poppable corks, and jars have screwable tops, i.e. almost everything is interactive and articulated enough to seem plausibly real.
There are three nodes you can teleport to, all of them inside the garage. This makes it an ultimately very comfortable experience, one that requires little explaining to master (even a 6-year old can do it).
Strangely enough, the Oculus Rift version doesn’t offer any form of ‘comfort-mode’ snap-turn for people with only a two-sensor set-up, which considering the 360 nature of the game may initially sound like a no-go for anyone without at least 3 sensors. Despite this, I found most interactions to be forward-facing, so I didn’t have to deal with Touch tracking issues all that often. The HTC Vive’s standard Lighthouse tracking predictably handles all room-scale interactions with ease.
Check out the first 10 minutes of gameplay to get a better idea of just what Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality has to offer.
We partnered with AVA Direct to create the Exemplar 2 Ultimate, our high-end VR hardware reference point against which we perform our tests and reviews. Exemplar 2 is designed to push virtual reality experiences above and beyond what’s possible with systems built to lesser recommended VR specifications.