The first thing you’re asked to do in Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality’s simulated world, a world only accessible to those who’ve dropped a couple thousand bucks on a good PC and VR headset, is to clean an old man’s dirty underpants. It’s worth it.
You play a mute Morty clone: disposable, disrespected, and extremely fragile. While Rick and the real Morty head out on their adventures, you play support from homebase in Rick’s garage workshop, performing errands and incomprehensible tasks to keep them on their destructive course. Justin Roiland returns to voice Rick and Morty, and during a few cameo appearances the original cast also shows up. And thank goodness, because the few new side characters sound like they're trying too hard to mimic the endearing improv stutter Roiland is known for. It doesn't represent the show at its best, but gets by on other charms.
From Owlchemy Labs, the team that developed Job Simulator, RIck and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality takes the wacky VR physics playpen genre a few steps further, using weird objects to solve even weirder, albeit simple, puzzles.
When Rick asks me to do his laundry I’m not in the mood. I just got done doing real laundry last night, and let me tell you, if you’ve never done laundry, it’s not bad. But it’s also not good. It’s nothing, and that’s what death is.
Laundry gets sidetracked by some hijinks, and Rick and Morty take off. They give me a high-tech watch in case we need to get in touch, which you can look at for objectives or hints, but I ignore it for now and poke around the workshop.
I may be a clone, but that doesn’t mean I’m not driven by the pursuit of knowledge, so I form a hypothesis and test it out.
Well I’ll be, it worked! Slamming a spiked mace into your head is deadly. Death isn’t a big deal though. Repeatedly smashing most objects in the workshop into your head makes a nice squishing sound and also kills you, but there are plenty of more creative ways to die in Virtual Rick-ality. Finding them is its own voluntary challenge.
In death, I wake up in purgatory, a void with a tally and a baffled man on the other line. He thinks processing clone deaths is a big waste of his time. I press the button and warp back into existence, a convenience of being a clone, but I’ll chat with the man on the phone, often.
A strange contraption catches my eye on Rick’s workbench, so I teleport over to play with it. Without thinking, which comes naturally to me, I grab two objects and press the button. It combines the properties of the hammer with the crystal, producing a crystal hammer. I form another hypothesis.
My hypothesis was correct, again. It’s not just a novel tool either. There are several points throughout the game where I need to combine items to solve simple puzzles, like restoring a lightbulb or supersizing a snack for a very big, very hungry friend. For fun, I combine a wrench and beer to give the bottle a beautiful metallic sheen, and a carrot with a hammer to make a carrot hammer. It’s very useful device, obviously.
My favorite device is a ball that summons an augmented Meeseeks clone to wherever you throw it. These poor guys exist only to mirror your movements and die in the middle of a horrifying revelation. Like a twisted cave allegory, you can pull off their VR goggles, exposing them to ‘reality’, which causes them to explode. It’s pretty cute and I do it a lot.
Their misery comes in handy too. During a segment where I need to transport a volatile canister of dark matter across the room, I summon a few Meeseeks to help. They can grab any object, but since they mirror your movements exactly, passing an object down an chain of them is quite the brain-bender.
It’s a really cool puzzle that requires me to cook up a solution taking physical space, object behaviors, and perspective into account. It’s just a shame that Virtual Rick-ality is so short. Most of it’s best ideas hit once and disappear for good, but with enough time to develop over the course of a longer experience, it could be a beautiful puzzle-adventure hybrid.
Even if the workshop can feel pretty small, I eventually visit other locations using a portal device. I take objects between locations to solve simple puzzles, save Rick and co. when they’re in a pinch, and take a baby alien back with me (to Rick’s twisted end). There aren’t endless places to visit, but they’re fun, familiar diversions from the confines of the garage.
But before that, I need to charge up batteries to power some devices—OK, yes, I’m being vague, but I’d rather not ruin the why and what for every task Risk asks of you. So I press a button and teleport into a glass-domed room. Behind me, I pick up a battery from an endless supply of empties and turn around to face some indecipherable controls. Plugging the battery in up top, I get to fiddling.
Each interface flashes highlights an area in pink and makes a noise, signifying where to pull or push or place it next. Let it sit too long and the whole thing short circuits, and I need to start over. It’s a hectic VR interpretation of Bop-it that makes me feel like a cartoon engineer, pressing wiggamajoos and pulling thingamajigs in a hurried panic like I know what I’m doing. In that sense, it’s an excellent way to feel competent.
If only the writing also knew what it was doing. Virtual Rick-ality is never as funny as the show, and some of the writing is outright boring, prioritizing instruction over telling jokes. During a VR segment (in the VR game, yes) some joyless dialogue and amateur voice work almost retroactively ruins one of my favorite bits from the show. Luckily, the slapstick comedy from the clever puzzles and dozens of weird physics objects used to solve them makes up for it.
But the worst thing about Rick and Morty is the damn cable attached to your head—your real head, to be clear, because it’s one of the most active VR games I’ve played. I wanted to crouch down and run around and roleplay a reckless scientist with no strings attached. Virtual Rick-ality is the best interactive toybox VR anyone has cooked up yet, and a promising sign of how streamlining VR hardware will only make it an even better place to die over and over again.