Review: Time Machine VR


Blast to and from the past

In my mind, the time travel trope has overstayed its welcome on too many occasions. I actually went and saw 2002's The Time Machine in theaters for some reason, and that was enough for me to err on the side of caution when it comes to the entire time traveling genre -- it was that bad!

While it can be a bore, Time Machine VR has its head in the right place with a decidedly less Hollywood, more scientific angle.

Time Machine VR (PC [reviewed with an Oculus Rift], HTC Vive)
Developer: Minority Media Inc.

Publisher: Minority Media Inc.
Released: May 19, 2016
MSRP: $29.99

The developer took a risk with a slightly hokey setup that involves mixing live action videos in with normal gameplay (think Mad Dog McCree), but it doesn't take long to be sucked in by its charm. Kicking off in the hub of Svalbard, Norway, your character is charged with going back in time to the Jurassic area to investigate a cure for a deadly disease that has overtaken the globe. Your speechless, body-less first-person avatar is housed entirely in a high-tech pod of sorts, which is, of course, capable of time travel.

"Go to the past to save the future" sounds like a dour objective, but it isn't cheesy as it could've been if you were constantly pressed for time with arcadey timers and set to a rockin' soundtrack. No, it's a more relaxed experience in spite of the situation, which the developer really doubled-down on with the emotive, yet calm AI Roberto ("Rob"), who offers assistance along the way. It's wonderfully camp, and not in a "ha, this is a VR tech demo" kind of way -- but with a more endearing "this is kind of like early VR, but better" sentiment.

Yep, there's no motion sickness, looking around is responsive while donning the headset, and movement is not an issue with use of an Xbox One controller. By now, you're probably wondering "so what do you actually do in this game?"There's a simple enough answer: You're collecting data and avoiding predators underwater. Players can "tag" creatures by shooting a device at them, and scan them up close with various tools that sometimes require a dangerous encounter with a giant dino-shark.

Because your character can't actually disturb the past (the developer goes through great lengths to help explain this by having "dissolving" tools) you can't actually shoot to kill, so your time stop ability will be your weapon of choice. It's easily the most "gamey" element of Time Machine, as it runs on a meter, which can be strategically throttled to avoid patrolling creatures. And speaking of those fiends, they're accompanied by a really killer atmosphere that make up the best parts of the game.

It's terrifying, especially when the ominous music hits, when a predator roars in your face and opens its mouth to swallow you whole -- I even had to pause the game and take off my headset a few times. In turn, it's also great that the scanning technology lets you have a closer connection to the wildlife than a lot of other games, as you can even monitor things like unborn fetuses or devoured prey to monitor their metabolic rate, albeit in specific, pre-selected cases. It never gets too science-oriented, but it's just interesting enough to feel like a PBS after-school special.

And that's the game, really. At times it can feel like you're going through the same ocean environment over and over with slightly different subjects. But right after entering a new zone and the story begins to progress, it feels fresh again. It's almost like one of those arcade rides but in your home, which isn't something most of you out there would be jazzed about playing more than a few hours.

Yet with all that baggage, Minority Media has created something unique that's rarely seen in the industry today. Time Machine VR succeeds, without a doubt, in becoming a weaponized therapy session, allowing people to potentially overcome their fears. Whether that's aquaphobia or what have you, the intimate nature of the presentation isn't something I've experienced quite yet in other VR titles. Virtual reality truly is a new way to engage with games, and an experiment that I look forward to seeing bloom in the years to come.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Time Machine VR reviewed by Chris Carter



Solid and definitely has an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.
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Chris Carter
Chris CarterReviews Director, Co-EIC   gamer profile

Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step, make an account, and start blogging in January of 2009. Now, he's staff! ------------------- T... more + disclosures



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