Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives Review
Many people use video games to escape from the ordinary, so the concept of Job Simulator might seem pointless at first. Players performs basic duties of four everyday occupations: office worker, chef, convenience store clerk, and auto mechanic. However, putting on your Vive headset isn’t like heading off to the daily grind. Owlchemy Labs’ VR title has plenty of irreverence and surprises, but I was still happy to punch out at the end of the day.
While the professions seem familiar at first, you quickly realize something isn’t normal. The copy machine spits out solid objects, and you “burn CDs” by putting them in a toaster. The jobs you’re simulating don’t always line up with reality; they are just the closest approximations that robots in the year 2050 can imagine. This disconnect is the source of a lot of funny moments (and frequent uses of “job” as a verb), and that charm and humor is the main draw of Job Simulator.
The professions are well-suited to the Vive experience, giving you small and densely packed work areas for your various tasks. You make coffee, add fluid to cars, put hotdogs on the rollers, and cook steaks depending on your currently selected sequence. Each job has a standalone linear progression of tasks to complete, but they all have you using the controllers to navigate 3D space, grabbing objects, turning dials, and pressing buttons. Controlling your in-game hands occasionally feels clumsy, but that also results in entertaining moments, like knocking the fire extinguisher onto the stove, or throwing paper airplanes at your co-workers. Because your tasks are painfully simple, these mistakes never have any repercussions, so they’re easy to laugh off.
From kitchens to cubicles, you have enough space to maneuver and interact, but the limitations of your play space still make sense. Counters and machinery present intuitive boundaries, so I never worried about inadvertently hitting walls. If anything, the danger is thinking the in-game surroundings are real; I leaned back against a non-existent wall once, and also tried to use a virtual table to support myself as I bent down. While the workplaces have lots of objects to interact with, being limited to four environments means that you quickly exhaust your options; without any additional challenges or modes, you have no reason to keep playing after you complete your assigned duties.
Despite the changing backdrop, everything from the jokes to the tasks run together; whether you’re putting gum in a bag or a tomato in a blender, you’re basically going through the same motions. They’re clever the first few times, but you already have a limited variety of activities, and all the repetition doesn’t help.
Job Simulator lives up to its own ambitions, presenting a compact, cute, and accessible showcase for interacting with virtual locations. I can’t deny the fun and novelty of the experience, but the entertainment fades quickly. Popping in for a few minutes to dump an energy drink on an engine or make fire-extinguisher soup is funny, but that’s as deep as the experience goes. The laid-back toybox structure means that I was never under pressure, but I was also never challenged or engaged beyond VR’s universal joy of inhabiting a digital space.