Vacation Simulator is one of those games that's hard to explain. Why in the world would you want a simulation for vacation, particularly one that doesn't look realistic? The trick is understanding what developers Owlchemy Labs designed, and it's not a real-world representation of what your next vacation should look like.
Instead, Vacation Simulator is a tongue-in-cheek representation of what a robot thinks a vacation looks like just as its predecessor, Job Simulator, was a tongue-in-cheek representation of what having a day job looks like. You see, something apparently happened to humanity and the robots that inherited the planet don't understand the human relics left behind.
Just as we humans try to recreate the past based on what we've found, these robots are trying to recreate the experiences humans once had, presumably to better understand them. The hilarity ensues in all the misunderstandings that robots have about what people actually did while on vacation, and it's in these small worlds that'll find yourself laughing and experimenting for hours.
Since we already reviewed the original release, this review will cover what has changed in the Oculus Quest version, and detail how the experience has fared in the port.
Better than a staycation
Bottom line: Vacation Simulator is a perfect port of an already perfect game. It's one of VR's finer showpieces, as it blends an imaginative world that's full of interesting puzzles to solve and goals to achieve, all while being accessible to every kind of player. You'll spend hours exploring the forest, diving in the ocean, or skiiing on a snowy mountain, realizing that a robot's feeble attempt at recreating human experiences ends up being a sardonic anecdote instead.
- Impressive visuals
- Environments are perfect for the wireless Quest
- Improvements over the original release
- More things to see and do than in Job Simulator
- Controller tracking over the head was sometimes problematic (see yoga)
Vacation Simulator What I love
Vacation Simulator's original release is already one of the best experiences you can have in VR. Like Job Simulator, this other Owlchemy Labs title exhudes character, charm and, maybe most importantly, is easily accessible to everyone. This last part means that the game is one of the best ways for all your friends and family to experience VR for the first time.
Owlchemy's port of Vacation Simulator to the Oculus Quest is nothing short of brilliant work. I've played plenty of VR ports since the Quest debuted a few months back, but this is easily the best port I can recall experiencing. Part of it is the simplistic nature of the art style; it just works well on less powerful processors, such as the mobile processing package found in the Oculus Quest.
It's also due to some impressive changes and optimizations made by Owlchemy that takes the Quest's lower-powered nature into consideration. While the term "optimizing" is highly overused when talking ports of games, Owlchemy detailed several ways it achieved perfect performance on the Quest without sacrificing resolution, detail, or, most importantly, frame rate.
Vacation Simulator isn't just sharp and vibrant looking on the Quest's OLED display, but it also moves perfectly without any obvious frame drops and without reprojection, both problems across other ports. The bottom line is this: if you were worried about the experience somehow being reduced because of the lesser processing abilities of the Oculus Quest versus a powerful gaming PC, don't be. This is as perfect as a port can possibly be.
One positive point of being on the Oculus Quest is the ability to be truly wireless. While Job Simulator was created during a time where most available VR systems only provided 180-degree tracking (in front of you and to your left and right sides), Vacation Simulator is built in a world that requires you to fully turn around and travel throughout the world.
Don't be scared though, there's no advanced locomotion here. Rather, you'll be moving between sections of the world. Each section is divided up into perfectly sized segments that you can physically walk around in, based on your real-world physical play space. Don't have much space to move? The world will be properly scaled based on your surroundings. Do your kids want to play Vacation Simulator (or are you a tad shorter than some other folks)? Enable "small human" mode in the settings, and everything magically scales to your height.
One big improvement over the original release, and this will make our original reviewer Russell Holly happy, is the addition of two more save slots. That brings the total number of save slots to five. Given that there's a fun avatar creation portion right in the beginning of the game, it means that more people in your household can play Vacation Simulator before you need to start deleting save slots.
Vacation Simulator What's a bummer
The only real negative aspects of the Vacation Simulator experience revolve around its operation on the Oculus Quest, not necessarily shortcomings with the game itself. The Oculus Quest's truly wireless nature and freedom mean that you'll need a charged battery to be able to use the Quest at all. That means you'll have a maximum play session of two and a half hours before you are forced to stop and charge.
While there are several ways to subvert this shortcoming of the Quest, this issue rears its ugly head in Vacation Simulator more than other games for several reasons. First, it's easy to get lost in the world and vacation until you're tired (or, really, until your Quest is tired). Second, this game is bloody fun to play with friends and family, a fact that's even more exacerbated due to the Quest's simple wear-and-play nature.
The second issue comes with the controller tracking abilities of the Quest. Like the Oculus Rift S, the Oculus Quest uses cameras to track the movements of the controllers. While most actions in the game involve objects in front of your face, there are several points in the game where you'll be reaching behind you or above your head. I didn't have any issues with the backpack mechanic, where you reach behind you and pull off your "backpack" to manage any inventory you might have. This is because your hands will generally reach behind you quickly and pull the backpack up.
However, at other points you'll be doing "yoga" and other similar exercises with your controllers. The problem here is when you need to hold your hands above your head or outside the range of the camera's sensors. There were several times where I had to hold the "smart-bells" (as dumb-bells are referrred to in the game) over my head and, inevitably, one of them would go flying across the screen as the Quest lost controller tracking and thought I might have let go.
Vacation Simulator Should you buy it?
To echo the sentiments in our original review: heck yes. At $30 you'll net far more hours of playtime than most VR games provide, and you'll experience it in a way that's beautiful and fun. The Oculus Quest enhances the experience this time around, providing a visually equal version that's sharp and clean, moves smoothly, and provides the freedom of wireless VR (so you can actually turn around and not get tangled). This is a must-have for every Oculus Quest owner!
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