Imagine if Superhot VR was a puzzle game, and not a first-person shooter. Instead of taking out waves of enemies, you see people charging into certain peril, and you have to use your mastery of time to save them before they end up stabbed, squished, shot or blown up. Maybe you throw a little Job Simulator-style humor in there for good effect. That’s pretty much Just In Time Incorporated in a nutshell.
This upcoming Vive game from Second Wind Interactive casts you as a member of an agency that specialises in saving clients in the nick of time. Think The Bodyguard meets The Flash. Using a special pair of gloves that slow down time (or, in the game’s fiction, speed you up), you teleport to various scenarios in which your well-paying customers are about to meet a violent end. It’s your job to put a stop to whatever doom awaits them.
It’s a formula for a brilliantly varied puzzle game; the type that requires situational problem solving rather than an understanding and mastery of a specific mechanic. You’ll get a hint as to what you need to do to save a client in each mission, but it’s up to you to scan your environment and find the tools you need to save the day. It’s your standard Vive game control-wise; the wands replicate your hands and you teleport around levels, picking things up.
Things start off as simple as disarming a mugger (and maybe then giving him a taste of his own medicine should you feel so inclined), but missions quickly become more elaborate. I played the game for about 30 minutes and in that time I was searching for bombs, getting people out of the way of incoming traffic, and defending scientists from an army of crazy lab rats. Second Wind clearly isn’t afraid to get inventive with its core concept, and the game thrives on the strange variety that you’ll encounter from minute to minute.
Just In Time takes that core, empowering thrill that made Superhot one of 2016’s best VR games and gives it an appreciated spin. It triggers that panicky ‘think fast’ mentality as you watch someone jump out of a window and desperately search for a means to cushion their fall, or hurriedly teleport around a jungle, removing weapons from enemies and aiming bullets back at them. Missions range from the given cinematic set pieces like saving a certain president to parodying other movies and games, though the most interesting come from Second Wind’s own design.
Levels are at their best when they require some invention on the player’s part, though. Robo Recall-style rocket rebounds are all well and good, but I was more enthralled by the levels that didn’t have immediate solutions. At one point I had to save someone from a Bond-esque laser beam, but they were locked in a room only opened with an eye scan. You can probably guess the solution already, but these kinds of levels that require thought are what really make Just In Time stand out. Other missions will randomly generate locations of key items hidden away, meaning each time you play you’ll be in a mad scramble.
Second Wind has laid the foundation for a VR game that could keep on giving. While there’s a lot of scenarios in the base game, they’re quickly solved without too much trouble. It’s more of a distraction than true brain teaser. I’d love to see later levels that really test my wits, with multi-staged solutions that take multiple attempts to work out. I saw a bit of that in my time with the game, especially when saving an old man from an incoming truck, but I want to see a whole lot more of that side of the game.
Truth be told the limitations of the game may be parallel to the developer’s own resources. Second Wind incorporates a simple blocky style into the game, with characters looking like they’ve just walked out of Minecraft. It’s a serviceable style that was likely cost-effective but it doesn’t reflect the game’s brilliant personality, nor does the computer generated voice acting. The game might not have been possible without these cut corners, but that doesn’t make them any less visible.
Just In Time may only end up scratching the surface of what it’s brilliant premise is truly capable of, then, but even on that level it’s a joy to play and see. Second Wind has one of the most curious concepts for a VR game I’ve seen this year in its hands, and I hope we see that fully capitalized on sometime in the future.
Just In Time Incorporated will be out on Steam on July 27th. A full price has not yet been revealed.