Originally published on Trevor Trove on October 28, 2016
Waaaay back at PAX West, I had the pleasure of trying the demo of Rick and Morty Simulator: Virtual Rick-Ality from Owlchemy Labs and Adult Swim Games. As a fan of the show, when I got the invitation to experience what they were showing off, I jumped at the chance.
The game was being demoed on the HTC Vive. It was my first experience with the Vive, having at that point, only played a brief PlayStation VR demo at PSX last year. My initial impressions were that the headset felt more or less fine (for the few minutes I had it on for the demo), the controllers were great and intuitive, and the ability to actually walk around an environment thanks to the Vive’s motion-tracking base stations definitely added to the immersion (a grid would appear in my view if I was ever in danger of leaving the “playing space.” The only real downside I encountered was the cables connected the headset and headphones to the computer as I had to remain fairly cognizant of them as I moved around to avoid tangling myself up or tripping over them. It’s way less of a concern when remaining static with something like the PlayStation VR.
As for the demo itself, it was a lot of fun. Built by the same team behind Job Simulator, with additional support from Justin Roiland (Rick and Morty co-creator and voice of both titular characters), the humor definitely felt right at home with the show. I even asked if Owlchemy or Roiland spearheaded the writing and was a bit surprised to learn that most of the writing was from the Owlchemy team. They would send what they had to Roiland, who might punch up the jokes, but the majority of the dialogue was internal. And having since played Job Simulator, it comes as no surprise as even a lot of the background humor in that title feels like it would have fit in perfectly in the Rick and Morty setting.
The demo begins with you, a Morty clone, being dressed down by Rick in Morty’s garage, with a winking reference to the fact that you can’t say anything because Clone Morty doesn’t have a mouth. You’ve been created in order to do the mundane tasks that Rick doesn’t want to do so he and Morty can go and have their adventures. So right off the bat, Rick puts you to work doing laundry. Using the same mechanics as Job Simulator, you’re grabbing items in this digital world and pursuing these tasks.
Eventually, Rick deems you a failure because of how bad you are at doing the laundry and shoots you dead. (I think this happens regardless of how you perform because – due to a minor hiccup, I actually had to do this part of the demo twice and felt like the second time I definitely had the laundry all set when Rick shot me anyway). Once dead, you end up in Purgatory, an empty void of black with a small red phone directly on a pedestal in front of you. The phone rings. Grabbing it and bringing it to your ear allows you to hear that the voice on the other end of the line didn’t expect you to die so quickly so they’re going to send you back.
Back in the garage, Rick moves on to the next part of the tutorial: teleportation. As with movement in Batman: Arkham VR (and other titles), a push of a button will allow you to teleport around the room. Even with the Vive’s room-sized playing space, there isn’t enough space to walk around the entirety of the garage so it was broken up into four designated quadrants. Teleporting from the washer/dryer quadrant over to Rick’s work bench, Rick and Morty explain that they’ve got to go off on an adventure and say, as you do in these scenarios, “don’t touch anything!” before disappearing through a portal.
So of course I immediately hit the button on the Mr. Meeseeks box. And, in what I initially thought was a very funny meta joke, this was where my first playthrough crashed. I chuckled a bit when the screen went black until I could hear the PR team start to panic a bit outside of my headphones. Apparently I was the first person in any of their public showings to crash the game. Whoops. Since my PS VR demo had glitched out too I admittedly began to think I was cursed. But they were able to quickly get me set up on another station and I restarted the demo and proceeded past this point.
For the uninitiated, in the show, Mr. Meeseeks is a creature created to fulfill a single purpose and then expire. In the game, hitting the Mr. Meeseeks box revealed a ball I could throw across the room, causing a Mr. Meeseeks to appear. In the game, Mr. Meeseeks is programmed to mimic everything Clone Morty is doing (and is even portrayed as a Mr. Meeseeks design with a VR helmet and disconnected hands to reflect your “appearance”). I threw a few Mr. Meeseeks balls around the garage and, sure enough, when I turned my head or moved my arms, they responded in kind, knocking things off of nearby shelves.
There were a couple other recognizable items from the show that you could pick up and interact with like Rick’s laser pistol or a plumbus. But as the Meeseeks continued to mimic my movements, the world outside the garage started become noticeably more apocalyptic until Rick and Morty eventually appeared to (correctly) blame me for bringing the world to an end.
Rick requested I move to another quadrant of the garage and pull a lever on one of the shelves over there to get the hell out of there. Doing so created a portal for me to walk through. And on the other side of that portal was space, and a little closing meta dialogue from Rick to close out the demo, basically pitching how much fun Virtual Rick-Ality was going to be.
Playing Job Simulator and watching season two of the show in the time since my Seattle adventure both have me excited at the prospect of the laughs this game has and will continue to produce. Additional platforms outside the Vive have not yet been announced but I’m hopeful it will end up on PlayStation VR. Given Job Simulator’s presence, I expect it will.