A Very Bad Christmas Eve Review: Be good, for goodness sake!
‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through HQ, no employee was working — except, of course, you! That’s right, it’s Christmas Eve, and you’re somehow the only elf on duty up at the North Pole, which is… really weird. You’d think there’d be a few more tiny hands on deck, but I guess even Santa’s Workshop isn’t immune to the labor shortage.
But, no matter! Santa’s lucky to have you manning the stations while he schleps off to every house ’round the world, delivering presents to nice children and coal to naughty ones. With four different machines to monitor as Santa’s sleigh works its magic, you’re definitely in for a stressful night. What a very bad Christmas Eve this is!
And that, my festive friends, is the premise of A Very Bad Christmas Eve. Developed and elf-published (get it) by Incineration Productions, A Very Bad Christmas Eve sets itself apart from others as being one of the few Christmas VR games available — and for a mere $4.99 at that. Set in the most elusive toy factory in the world, A Very Bad Christmas Eve asks players to keep things running smoothly so the big man in the red suit can make his annual rounds. How does that play out? Read on!
A Very Bad Christmas Eve has appropriately festive aesthetics, Santa’s Workshop snug, cozy, and quiet. In fact, on any other night, it’d be easy to think that it’s time for a long winter’s nap; alas, warming up to the crackling fireplace while Christmas carols serenade isn’t in the cards for this lonely elf. Luckily, things don’t go awry until you get your bearings (at least on the easiest settings), so feel free to take in that magical Christmas spirit while all is calm and bright.
While A Very Bad Christmas Eve managed to set a delightful mood with its visuals and audio, a few must-haves were left off my Christmas list in terms of controls and gameplay. First, movement is clunkily teleportation-based, which takes a bit of time getting used to but ultimately becomes workable for long-distance movement (short-distance precision… good luck). Second, there this massive, wide open workshop with little areas for these four towering machines to live, but operational directions were nowhere to be found. Oh sure, there was a book near the fireplace that kind of gives a macro picture of what you need to do, but the actual instructions aren’t near any of the machines.
This does indeed make for a very bad Christmas Eve, by the way, because these machines have alarms that will occasionally scream at you, the only way to make the godawful noise stop being to complete the required action. One machine will demand a present being stuffed into a random continent’s chute like a 2-pointer, while another machine will need you to squash bugs a la whack a mole. These alarms will incessantly ring and increase in pitch and frequency until the Ghost of Christmas Future’s icy grip shows you what’s in store for elves that fail Santa in his hour of need (answer: endless darkness), so it would have been nice to have instructions posted near each machine. Since I’m a terrible elf and all.
It’s not impossible to to fumble around and find out, but that alarm is so… alarming, that its juxtaposition to the cozy workshop feel is extremely jarring. Again, I get that this is the Christmas equivalent to that iconic chocolate episode of I Love Lucy so such a contrast is supposed to be expected and — if we’re nice — fun, but not really understanding how to accomplish tasks with a blaringly loud ticking time bomb is not my idea of a good time; in fact, I daresay it makes for a very bad Christmas Eve. I just wish I could have ironically experienced that feeling as an overworked elf instead of unironically as a frustrated player.
A Very Bad Christmas Eve is exactly what it says on the tin. If you were hoping for a very good Christmas Eve, well… I’m sorry, but you won’t be finding that here. What you will find is a genuinely cozy depiction of Santa’s Workshop that is utterly charming for the first 10 minutes, followed by confusion and frustration for the rest of the experience. A Very Bad Christmas Eve isn’t exactly how I imagined I’d spend my Christmas vacation, but considering the price, Santa could have done a lot worse.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Incineration Productions; Developer: Incineration Productions; Players: 1; Released: December 18, 2020; MSRP: $4.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of A Very Bad Christmas Eve provided by the developer.