Review: Vacation Simulator

When it came to showcasing the potential of interactive virtual reality (VR) entertainment, Owlchemy Labs’ Job Simulator had it – almost literally – hands down for the arrival of HTC Vive. With its mix of quirky humour and myriad of little tasks to perform, it was the videogame to demo to VR newbies. And testament continues to be paid with the title almost having a permanent spot in PlayStation VR’s top ten downloads each month. Now the studio is back with sequel Vacation Simulator and it has some big shoes to fill.

When you work hard you then need to play hard, and after a difficult day/week/month, you’ve earned yourself a well-earned break, so it’s time for a vacation (or holiday as we say in the UK). Vacation Simulator continues the series narrative that in 2060 robots now do everything, so modern humans get to learn about what their ancestors did with their time, first ‘jobbing’ and then relaxing.

Fans of the first game will feel instantly at home in Vacation Simulator, keeping with the bright, vibrant design aesthetic, floating robot TV’s, and lots of things to pick up and play with. And that’s no understatement, almost everything you can get your hands on can be used in some way. From little things like bottles all having caps on to cooking stations with all sorts of culinary delights, Vacation Simulator is like being inside one giant toyshop.

As such, Owlchemy Labs has also ensured maximum comfort levels by having pre-designated teleportation points to move between. You’ll need to move around the roomscale area to interact with some items, but for the most part, everything tends to be reasonably close.

Vacation Simulator has a core hub location where you can alter your avatars look as much as you want, before heading out into the three worlds where further accessories can be found. The hub also includes some neat little features including your own room with storage facilities (and safe) for any useful items found. Plus there’s even a games console with some odd titles to kill a few minutes – you can find more dotted around the levels.

Heading out there are three worlds to explore, the Beach – which has been widely seen in trailers and screenshots – the Forest, and the Mountain. Each has its own selection of mini-games, with the core challenge being to collect as many memories as possible to unlock deeper parts of the videogame.

And it’s these tasks that are both the strength and Achilles heel of Vacation Simulator. There’s no denying that there are plenty of things to do in the videogame, and they are fun, however, there’s plenty of repetition, having to collect bugs, taking photos of particular creatures, and keeping everyone fed. Quite a few tend to be very easy (maybe a little too easy), while segments like the sandcastle or ice sculpture building offer some of the best moments in the entire experience – the skiing section is also worth mentioning.

What’s particularly pleasing is the fact that everything just seems to work. Owlchemy Labs needs to be commended on its production values for Vacation Simulator, offering a smooth, faultless experience from start to finish.

To be honest Vacation Simulator was always going to face an uphill struggle against its sibling. Is it better than Job Simulator, most definitely yes, enhancing that hands-on play style fans love. But it also arrives at a time very different to 2016, when expectations have changed, but it hasn’t. Once again the series proves ideal for newcomers. Experienced players will get through Vacation Simulator fairly quickly with the only reason to go back being to 100% the memories. Where Vacation Simulator will really find its market is on standalone devices like Oculus Quest creating new VR fans.

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