As one of PS VR’s strongest launch titles, Job Simulator is charming, accessible, and slapstick fun. It benefits from and leverages the novelty of virtual reality–the hesitancy and confusion that first-time users feel–to mimic how a human of the far future might feel trying to replicate the manual, mundane labor of our present day. To that end, Job Simulator places you in one of four scenarios–Office Worker, Gourmet Chef, Auto Mechanic, and Store Clerk–and tasks you with a series of small tasks familiar to those jobs.
The presentation means so much to the game’s quality. In its cheery, cartoony style, Job Simulator pokes fun at our menial work with robot narrators and taskmasters who seem incredulous that society once functioned like this. The humor and jokes bounce between dry, sarcastic comments on human efficiency, references to real-world staples like sugar-addled children, and earnest praising for the “fantastic” work you’re doing, however disastrous the end products.
The gameplay freedom to do tight, polished work or wantonly slap some sandwiches and TPS reports together aids the fun factor. I enjoyed goofing off and ignoring my robot taskmasters, but the accurate tracking makes following directions and completing tasks rewarding in its own right. As you stand in the real world, your avatar does so inside your virtual workstation. Two disembodied cartoon hands are represented by the PlayStation Move wands (a requirement for this title), and you can freely turn and lean while grabbing and manipulating objects in virtual space.
Working with your hands is responsive and satisfying. While the game does have pretty strict space requirements (the sweet spot for tracking is about seven feet from the camera), within that zone, the subtlest hand movements are tracked. This is doubly impressive in its gameplay context, as some tasks require to combine objects with other objects, or manipulate two things simultaneously. One of my favorite examples is in Gourmet Chef, when you’re asked to fill a kettle of water and boil it to make tea. In just a few swift motions, one could simultaneously turn on the faucet with the left hand while reaching for the kettle, then whip around to hold it under the faucet while reaching under the right arm to turn the stove top’s dial. As I grew comfortable in these bite-sized worlds, I started to feel a sort of mastery by combining actions and juggling tasks, like I would in the real world.
In this way, I think of Job Simulator’s scenarios as miniature playgrounds. The guided experience is sufficiently engaging (especially for VR newcomers, since it’s as challenging as you make it). But the freedom to complete tasks however you like (say, “fixing” a redneck’s truck by painting it bright pink) adds replayability, and there are fun, humorous touches to find by exploring. Whether I was throwing paper airplanes at my office co-workers, assembling a nasty sandwich, or reading the fake IDs of three robot kids, it was rare that I didn’t have a smile on my face while playing. While the game is undeniably short–completing all four scenarios only takes a couple hours–the frequency of charming, engaging moments means there’s never a dull one.
Job Simulator’s answer for VR movement is to jam-pack as much control and interaction into your immediate vicinity as possible. Turning a dial to replace the kitchen sink with a blender, or accessing a myriad of car customization tools from a single panel, is not only clever, it’s a confident demonstration of PS VR’s mechanics. Sure, you’ll lose sight of your hands if you turn so far that your body blocks the Move wands, but I never felt like hardware limitations were preventing me from enjoying Job Simulator’s gameplay or forcing me to behave a certain way to make the game “work.” I found the Office Worker scenario to be a bit less detailed and interactive than the others, but all four are confident bursts of VR fun. And because it allows and correctly tracks meticulous actions, Job Simulator’s virtual spaces feel especially convincing.
Deceptively simple and purely charming, Job Simulator is a perfect entry to VR while offering enough mechanical depth to entertain more experienced users. Its brevity and slightly repetitive structure mean you may not return often, but for a time, it’s a delight–an early demonstration of VR’s capacity to mean more than just ooh’s and ah’s.