Roiland’s got a brand new bag.
I’m gonna be straight with each and every one of you: While I’ve always been proud of my voracious apetite for surrealist comedy, I’ve never seen a single episode of Rick and Morty. I’m living underneath the inescapable weight of this terrible sin, and most days it’s hard to face the rest of my generation. I hole up in my dark apartment, don a strange pair of video goggles that blacks out what little light remains, and I live my virtual life—one in which I’m caught up on all the latest fashion trends and watercooler talk. Oh, and I shoot robots with a laser gun. Only the bad ones, though.
Something landed in the VR section of Steam this week that offered me the opportunity to get a little taste of what Justin Roiland is all about. Roiland, as most of us know, is the series creator and showrunner of Rick and Morty (now prepping for a hugely-anticipated third season on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim), and he’s finally getting the chance to show HTC Vive owners just what sort of madness we can expect to see from his new game development company. He’s teamed up with William Pugh—one of the bright young minds behind 2013’s indie sensation The Stanley Parable—and together, they’ve released Accounting.
Accounting. That’s it. That’s the name of Crows, Crows, Crows and Squanchtendo’s first (and free!) virtual reality game. I’d like to ask that you all turn off the word-readin’ parts of your brain and turn on whatever quadrant is used to combat nightmares. Because this trailer sets things up better than I ever could.
Still with me? I don’t think it makes any sense to try and explain what is that we all just watched, and, truthfully, I’m not sure that I have any coherent insight to provide—despite the fact that I’m one of the few brave souls that has actually played through that fever dream. But you’re here to get a summation of what Accounting is all about, so I’ll do my best.
Accounting is about 20 minutes long—a perfect length for a new studio to introduce their style to VR players. What begins in a simple (if messy) corporate office soon leads the player down a rabbit hole of meta zaniness, complete with multiple in-game VR headsets (one of which is carved from a tree trunk) that are designed to quickly transport the disoriented protagonist between multiple, entirely disparate environments. Without giving too much away, over a stretch of time that curiously mirrors the length of Rick and Morty’s individual episodes, I answered a few phone calls, committed a murder, played a xylophone made of bones, went on trial, and escaped physically unharmed. My mental stability, however, is still recovering.
Despite my limited exposure to the Rick and Morty universe (through YouTube clips, memes and the like), I can confidently make the claim that Roiland’s VR comedy is a direct carryover from the popular animated series. Dialogue is a rambling, incoherent mess. Themes are encapsulated in metaphorical bouncy balls, careening around the environment and sometimes (though not always) returning to smack you in the face. There were moments when Pugh’s writing felt a bit forced, especially if I allowed a vignette to play out for a little too long without activating the mechanism necessary to carry the story forward. But it’s important to note that Accounting had me laughing more than any other VR game to date. Not grinning or chuckling, either; I’m talking about full-throated, gut-busting laughter—the kind that only manifests itself as a by-product of feeling like you are part of the crazy proceedings.
Attention has also been paid to making sure the game runs flawlessly on the Vive hardware. It’s important to beat this drum more than once: a stable frame rate is so important when you’ve got a screen filling your field-of-view. I’ve played countless badly-optimized VR titles that I couldn’t finish, not because the content wasn’t engaging, but because the dips in performance left me stricken with discomfort. No such issues exist in Accounting. Clearly the team spent a lot of time playtesting and modifying the game to meet VR’s stringent standards.
There’s no doubt that Crows Crows Crows and Squanchtendo have put every other VR developer on notice. Accounting is an indictment of the play-it-safe approach that has wormed its way into a lot of the content we’ve seen so far. It’s a collaborative vision between two wacky pranksters operating at the height of popularity in the games and animation industries. Though I wish it was a bit longer, for the price the experience is a refreshing injection of the type of oddball exhibitionism that VR is not only lacking (at least in its early days), but also uniquely suited for. Justin Roiland and William Pugh have, in one fell swoop, become a force in this young medium.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Crows Crows Crows, Squanchtendo ; Developer: Crows Crows Crows ; Players: 1 ; Released: October 21, 2016 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: FREE
This review is based on a copy of Accounting VR purchased by Hey Poor Player.