October 31, 2018 | 16:52
It’s a weird quirk of VR that surreal experiences are often more immersive than games and apps that attempt to mimic reality. Perhaps it’s because no amount of haptic feedback can quite obscure the fact that you’re not really Captain Flash Coolman, hero of Space Fighter Squadron X1Z, and are instead swivelling around in an office chair with a box strapped to your face.
This is the perspective taken by Accounting, which is a VR accounting simulator in the same way that Fahrenheit 451 is about temperature. Originally released two years ago as a free short game, Accounting was developed by William Pugh’s CrowsCrowsCrows in conjunction with Squanch Games, the game studio set up by Rick and Morty creator Justin Roiland. It was basically a whistle-stop tour through both men’s aberrant imaginations, a blend of daft, Stanley Parable-esque sketches with characters voiced with Roiland’s improvisational comedy.
This month, the developers released Accounting +, a new, paid-for version of the game which is stated to be “three times the size of the original.” It includes seven new interactive sketches, some of which are threaded through the, ah, “story” of the original, while others can only be accessed by more secretive means.
It’s basically a series of shorts in which you do daft things to elicit funny responses. There is a vague premise, which is that you’re a new accountant who is trying out the firm’s new “VR accounting” software, but this is mostly just a loose thread which the game uses to stitch together its various sketches. Once you get the program up and running, it quickly transpires that you’ve loaded the wrong software, and the remaining game amounts to an increasingly bizarre journey as you attempt to “escape” from VR.
In essence, it’s a sort of Virtual Reality Wizard of Oz, if the Wizard was a foul-mouthed tree-spirit and Dorothy was a psychopathic vandal prepared to skin the Cowardly Lion just to see if his fur was warm. As you’d expect from a game that brings the creators of The Stanley Parable and Rick and Morty together, Accounting + is rude, anarchic, and very, very silly.
It’s also funny, although funnier in some parts than in others. Much of the dialogue is improvisational, and consequently some jokes land while others stumble. An early scene, in which the aforementioned tree-spirit is swearing at you to get away, while your accounting buddies frantically try to explain what has happened to you via a telephone, had me in stitches. The later scenes, such as a bizarre courtroom scene, I found less amusing.
I also generally enjoyed the gleefully daft tone of the game, and the way each scene had its own interactive setup and punchline. In an early example, you embark upon a rite of passage into a local street gang by doing “bad stuff”, such as downloading an illegal torrent, drinking beer, and picking up a porn magazine. At the end of the table is a brick, positioned right in front of a big glass window that’s begging to be smashed, which is precisely how Accounting+ likes to lead you down its winding road of depravity. In the next scene, you’re stuck in what appears to be a dungeon with a morbidly obese creature stood next to a table on which there’s a kitchen knife. It doesn’t take much prompting to figure out what to do next.
Accounting + is a good laugh, but is it worth paying £7 for? That’s a more complicated question. The game is very short. You’ll blast through the main story within an hour, and have uncovered all the secrets within two. I also think the first half of the game is decidedly better than the second, which culminates in a frankly mediocre shooting-gallery scene that could have been done much better.
I also think the scenes could be more interactive. Somewhat ironically, what you can do in the game is very prescribed, and it doesn’t respond that well to you generally mucking about. My immediate reaction when I pick something up in VR is to throw it at any potential target, especially NPCs. Given the nature of Accounting, I fully expected to be on the receiving end of a Roiland tirade whenever I did this. But unless you’re directly following the path the developers have outlined, NPCs rarely respond to your general tomfoolery. Also, many of the new scenes involve little more than standing in a room while a weird character talks at you, which doesn’t make particularly great use of VR.
In the end, while Accounting+ is a daft, fun time, it lacks the mechanical depth of other silly VR games like Job Simulator. If you haven’t played vanilla Accounting, and you like the work of either CrowsCrowsCrows or Justin Roiland, you’ll probably get something out of Accounting +. If you’ve already played Accounting, however, I don’t think the extra content of Accounting + is really worth the investment.
March 25 2020 | 14:00