Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
More experience (and a educational one at that) than a game, Time Machine VR squanders a great first impression to deliver a title that has some cool ideas and polish. That being said, despite a theme around great depth, the overall gameplay here is pretty shallow.
Your level of enjoyment found from Time Machine VR is going to boil down to one primary thing: your expectations. If you are looking for gobs of action, this probably is not the right place as there is a very definite, deliberate pace that is more about exploration than gameplay. Bordering right on the edges of being a tech demo, Time Machine VR is ably aided by its very cool premise.
After all, you are deep under the water looking at and learning about dinosaurs. There have been a number of VR titles that try to take advantage of Jurassic Park-like fascination with dinosaurs, and I have played several titles on the Oculus that try to bring underwater exploration to life. Credit to Minority Media Inc. for managing to couple those two themes into a game that is brimming with wonder and beauty. The unique setting is one that appealed to me out of the gates as the prospect of facing down these mammoth beasts is exciting.
There is some story here as you play the part of a cadet at a research facility that has to go back into time to research the cure for a recently unleashed disease that has been dormant since prehistoric times. The story structure is built around missions, and while the missions themselves are short, the process feels somewhat padded by the sometimes painfully slow movements of your navigation vehicle. The submersible controls well, and I understand the slower pace as more rapid movements would have made this game prone to VR sickness. So there is a fine line to be had here, and I think the development team treads it well. That being said, with only a handful of missions, this game is not going to take you long to get through.
The gameplay revolves around exploration and… well, not getting eaten. Considering some of the massive predators you get to see, that’s a pretty good premise right there. Essentially you navigate with your line of sight as you scan and tag things. Of course, you aren’t allowed to change the past itself in any way, so you can’t actually fight creatures off directly. Essentially you can pause time to make your escapes, and there are opportunities to trick critters into focusing on one another.
However, that is where the majority of the gameplay is. Otherwise you’re tagging and researching creatures and learning more about their birthing and feeding habits. It never becomes too much of a scientific slog, but the pace is definitely not going to appease people who need quick trigger combat and action. The moments you get eaten are absolutely the highlights as the presentation is polished enough to create a pretty cool, tense experience.
In the end however, Time Machine VR falls into the somewhat common virtual reality trap of showing you stuff rather than letting you really play and do things. It becomes more of an experience with some interactive elements than a game of any true depth or substance. The setting and the interesting setup do a great job of setting the stage, but in the end Time Machine VR fails to deliver a truly memorable experience and feels like more of a proof of concept at this point than a truly fleshed out game.Score: 5.75 / 10