Border Bots VR is a thoroughly entertaining adventure that mixes Job Simulator with Papers, Please. Read on for our full review:
With the right developer, video games can turn even the most mundane tasks into a compelling journey and Border Bots VR is no exception. Set in a dystopian world that humorously satirizes modern corporatism, recent behavioral changes amongst the robot citizenry have led to you, one of the city's few remaining humans, being employed to carry out checks at a border control booth.
Tasked with ensuring each robot meets the daily rules, shifts are split across successive days that gradually introduce new mechanics. That begins with easier checks, like ensuring a robot's pass hasn't expired, ensuring their badge matches the listed manufacturer or checking that the robot's listed model matches the machine before you.
A few badges can't be directly seen, requiring you to rotate the robot's platform for a closer look. Some robots will smuggle illegal contraband, as indicated by the weight sensors, while others may carry undeclared body modifications. Once completed, you can approve or deny entry when stamping the pass using motion controls, which offers satisfying feedback thanks to the PSVR 2 Sense Controller haptics. Hit the bell to call the next robot over and the cycle continues.
It's a straightforward premise with significant depth, and VR's interactivity adds an exciting dynamic to a normally boring activity. You'll continue receiving new tools even in the campaign's later stages, and this gradual introduction ensures that it never feels overwhelming. Varying rules ensure no two missions feel alike and this creates some absurdly funny situations, like detaining robots for the crime of being flammable, while illegal contraband ranges from booze to cupcakes. These interactions offer pleasing physicality while maintaining the game's strong humor.
Thankfully, Border Bots isn't as strict as Papers, Please when you make mistakes, and your progress is monitored through a points system. Competing against five other human agents on a shift leaderboard, each correctly processed robot earns points and you'll earn a bonus for building up a streak. However, incorrect processing deducts points from your overall total, and the gameplay is compelling enough that I wanted to restart missions if I made multiple errors.
Another incentive for good performance is that these points become currency used from an online shop, accessed between missions at your apartment. Though some purchases directly affect gameplay, like an extra desk monitor or quicker inspections, the cosmetics let you buy new gloves, decorate your apartment with posters and more, providing some nice personalization.
I enjoyed how Border Bots doesn't relegate the narrative to apartment scenes, either. Plenty of events unfold there, usually thanks to your troublesome house bots, but the game sometimes throws you additional tasks that affect how this story unfolds. For example, mob bots will make booth visits asking for shady favors that you can accept or decline, whereas others missions involve planting bugs. This leads to multiple endings, and I achieved the "good" one.
It's a fairly meaty campaign that took roughly 10 hours to beat, which could've been shortened had I not reset my progress on a few stages. Crucially, strong mission variety means it never gets repetitive, nor does it outstay its welcome. What's here isn't an especially new concept but Border Bots VR succeeds by ensuring it's a highly polished experience.
There's strong attention to detail in this world's interactivity. Similar to Job Simulator, there's a clear focus on pleasing physical interactions over button presses, like actively pushing touchscreen buttons on your in-game menus. Seeing people appear through 3D holograms with actual depth to the character designs was also welcome.
Border Bots VR splits gameplay between two sections - your apartment and a contained booth with minimal movement. The former lets you explore using teleportation movement or artificial stick-based locomotion with four options for your walking speed. You can choose between snap or smooth turning with adjustable angles and turning speed.
Movement vignettes with different strengths can be applied, headset vibration can be switched off in-game or from the PS5's settings menu. Seated and standing gameplay is supported, subtitles can be switched on or off. Finally, your wristwatch for bringing up menus can be swapped to your dominant hand.
That said, I had some small gripes with Border Bots. If you mess up and want to try again, there's no restart mission option on your menu. You must quit the main menu and then load up your save, which doesn't take ages but the process could be quicker. The ability to replay previous campaign missions would also be a nice addition; that's currently not possible without starting a new save.
Border Bots VR Review - Final Thoughts
Border Bots delivers a rich, engaging VR experience that had me invested. By taking the best aspects of Papers, Please, and Job Simulator, Paw Print Games and vTime Ltd have delivered a highly polished experience that's well suited for VR, offering an entertaining yet sometimes challenging campaign that never feels overwhelming. Combined with its vibrant presentation and great humour, Border Bots comes highly recommended.
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