Whatever technological advances humankind creates, we will use them for dinosaurs. Jurassic Park proved this true, and so has Time Machine VR, the closest VR has come to cloning prehistoric creatures (for now).
At GDC 2016, I stepped into the Oculus Rift and became a cadet at the Monda Muzeo time-travelling research center just in time for an ancient virus to emerge and threaten all mankind, or at least an inconvenient percentage of it. Bright side: the terrible pandemic put me on the promotion fast track, as my superiors tossed me back in time to scan prehistoric lifeforms and search for some sort of solution.
I do most of my civilization saving by being a friendly neighborhood scientist – tagging new species, scanning intriguing anatomy, collecting data. A true hero of the apocalypse, I analyze predator behavior like a pro and track down my samples with cunning determination. I sit, in my time travel pod of victory, and I find that pregnant Dakosaurus. I look at its fetal baby and prevent the extinction of my world.
You see, this doomsday will be won by our innate curiosity, and Stonehenge. Stonehenge is involved somehow. It’s underwater.
A human desire to explore and discover is really what propels Time Machine VR, and is more likely going to be why players dive in rather than a sincere desire to save their in-game species. The mechanics of tagging and scanning aren’t themselves heart-pounding activities, but it’s VR-enhanced experiences like huddling behind rocks as nearby predators hunt and even just staring up at light reflecting off the ocean surface that make TMVR exciting. Your brain on VR loves doing what it shouldn’t, like breathing underwater alongside long extinct species.
Most important to the experience is the game’s playful time pause mechanic, which for a short time can freeze a giant fish long enough for you to crawl inside its mouth or a large predator seconds before its teeth meet your flesh. It’s the kind of power that can bring you eye to eye with history’s most viscous monsters, or leave you a quiet moment to glide among a swarm of sea turtles.
There’s an extra time mechanic available to players using an HTC Vive and its body-aware motion sensors. Standing up, the player can freeze the world permanently and is given space to walk around. It doesn’t serve any gameplay use, but adds an extra way to play with the world.
Hopefully the title can achieve depth of gameplay and narrative success with its full release, but as for now, Time Machine VR accomplishes its base goal – bringing to virtual reality the adrenaline and wonder of the Jurassic world.
Time Machine VR is set to release this April on the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, with plans to head to PSVR sometime in 2016.