VR Game Reviews
Time Machine VR Review
Educational, but kind of lacking depth, excuse the pun.
I entered Time Machine VR via the cockpit of the time pod. I have my role explained to me by the pod’s onboard AI, Rob. In this world, I am a time travel cadet, tasked with exploring Pre-historic waters to discover a cure for an ancient virus.
Set in the year 2033, a time when the human race is on the path to extinction, brought on by a fossilized infection exposed by the melting of the polar ice caps. Our only choice is to travel back into the past. In the hope of finding a cure.
The premise of the game is certainly intriguing and had me interested in exploring the space in greater depth. Playing in the Oculus Rift with an Xbox controller, Rob guides me through the process of accessing the pods set of onboard scanners. Holding down RB (Right Bumper) will bring up the interface for the tools. You can select them by turning your head and centering your cursor on the icons – select them with the A button.
Each mission has a specific species as the main objective. Players will need to use a set of tools to gather information from the dinosaurs out in the wild. Each discovery will edge you closer to finding a cure for the plague that is sweeping the globe.
The default tool loadout is the following. Firstly, a probe that fires out from the Pod. Players can use it to target unknown or already known species, with the goal of attaining new data. Secondly, there is a scanner on board that can gather further data for profiling the present case. Most importantly, and one of the key mechanics, you are able to freeze time by holding down the left trigger.
There are also some other tools that are unlocked as you progress through the stages. Including a baiting device that is used to lure predators to their prey, which has some interesting use cases in the game. Namely baiting smaller animals so they can be eaten by larger ones, brutal! However, with that said, the animations are rather lackluster, and most of the action is over as quickly as it started.
Additionally, there is a tracker that players can launch out to the ground in front of them. The tracker will highlight all of the living creatures in range and can do so by pressing LB (Left Bumper). However, I found that this tool came in handy on a number of occasions, but wasn’t very efficient in the deeper, darker waters.
In one scene, I was tasked to follow a large predator down to the depths of the ocean. The animations happen quite quickly, plus with no vision through the back of the pod – and having run out of steam on the ability to pause time – you may miss the cues. This could leave you floating around in the dark for a moment wondering what to do next, as the controls require a lot of spinning on the Yaw-axis (left and right) to maintain spatial awareness, which is something that can be a bit disorientating in VR.
Luckily, there is no real penalty for dying, making it easily reappropriated as a tool to relocate yourself. Either by navigating into the path of a predator or drifting out of the mission zone.
The controls are a little bit clunky, Left stick propels you forward or backward and the Right stick controls your left and right motion, as well as, allowing you to ascend and descend in the pod. I got a little bit carried away at first and tried moving around a bit too quickly which brought on the early signs of simulator sickness. However, after a brief pause, I was ready to play again, venturing on through the trepidations of the prehistoric world.
My advice to new players would be to go easy regarding locomotion. Fortunately, you can accelerate and decelerate in increments, so you do have a modicum of control over the intensity of your travel.
The environments are also lacking in depth. There wasn’t much that held my gaze for any prolonged period, outside of the objectives, and once you get over the initial ‘wow’ factor of inhabiting the space – as we are accustomed to in VR experiences – you are soon left with a slightly empty setting around you. On that note, it would have been nice to see some environments outside of the ocean. The game teases you with it when back at the headquarters, but it doesn’t manifest itself when out in the field.
With all of that out of the way, there were a few moments where I was able to put my contentions aside and found myself getting caught in the objectives. Mainly to do with the way the narration tied into the content as I explored. Time Machine VR is very informative in its delivery and plays like an installation at a natural history museum.
One of the most notable things about Time Machine VR was the soundtrack. A soft, classical ensemble that works well in the context of the game and matches the surrounding, without it think I would have lost interest a lot quicker. Additionally, on the subject of sound, I did find the asset used for the firing of the probe to be quite satisfying. One of the highlights of playing was when trying to shoot dino’s with the probe from the furthest distance I could find. Maybe adding more use of the shooting mechanics could have added an extra layer of dynamics to the gameplay. As it stands, the activities became rather repetitive and played out pretty quickly, meaning I don’t think I shall be rushing back to it with open arms very soon.
A few other notes to include, are that there is no feature for saving your progress in Time Machine VR, so leaving and coming back to the game requires a little bit of timing and planning if you don’t want to loose what you have done. This isn’t helped by the long, dark loading screens incurred when playing on Rift.
For me, this is a game that hasn’t quite adapted itself for VR, but instead, requires the player to adapt in VR to the game.
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