Traffic Jams REVIEW: Your Daily Commute just got WILDER!
There's been a lot of buzz around Traffic Jams, a new VR action-arcade game where you direct traffic while fighting zombies, causing accidents and avoiding meteorites.
But is it any good? Check out our review of the Little Chicken Game Company and Vertigo Games' newest release NOW:
Traffic is fun?
Traffic isn't fun. It's often boring, it's the foremost cited reason for delays, and is one of the primary factors implicated in incidents of road rage. But if you think it's bad for you, spare a thought for the poor traffic officers who are left to manage the chaos - taking abuse, making the hard decisions, and shouldering the responsibility for avoiding disaster.
Common sense may therefore dictate that producing a VR arcade game about the exploits of a cartoon traffic officer may not have been the best idea. But Little Chicken Game Company & Vertigo Games are wagering that you'll disagree when you see that they're produced Traffic Jams: a new VR action-arcade game where you direct cartoon traffic while fighting zombies, causing accidents and avoiding meteorites.
Released a week ago for SteamVR and Oculus Quest & Rift (with cross-buy support), I've had some time to try out everything the game has to offer. So, does Traffic Jams prove that this zany concept has something interesting to say, or does it (unfortunately) live up to the premise?
Before we start, a quick note: to celebrate the launch of Traffic Jams, Vertigo Games are handing out a 10% discount for the game on Steam. Click here to find out more!
Premise and Graphics
So, as we've already established, Traffic Jams kicks off a pretty zany concept. Like the recently announced Sam & Max: This Time It's Virtual and Turbo Button's elevator-based VR escape room Floor Plan 2, Traffic Jams uses a cartoony art-style and zany mechanics & plot elements to convey it.
The premise is pretty simple: one day, all the world's traffic lights conveniently go out at once, and with them vanishes any notion of civil obedience. You take the role of one of the heroic traffic officers left to keep the peace. Your job is to organise vehicles and pedestrians, and keep traffic flowing. Let me tell you, business is booming.
This premise means that you get a sample of a wide range of environments from the game's expansive world. As you earn your stripes, you'll start to travel to iconic cities from around the world to take up evermore lucrative jobs. Each of the game's five cities - Gouda, Paris, Amsterdam, Tokyo, and New York - is well designed and with a great bit of personality in each. Landmarks and creative objectives are injected into each level, helping you to invest in the premise even if it is... quite odd.
But on top of that, the cartoony textures and character design fit the outlandish premise and narrative well, and there's no greater embodiment of this than in Dennis - your eccentric mentor and tutorial master. Dressed like the front-man of a Scottish 90s boy-band, he'll hop around the screen, dancing and acting like a mad-man, and speak gibberish as he conveys what he really means through speech bubbles.
This is an interesting choice on two fronts. Firstly, it's great to see such open accessibility in a popular VR game. Secondly, the games core mechanics take a bit of getting used to, so having text instructions on screen is reassuring and stressful in equal measure, especially as things start to get silly.
Gameplay & Features
Traffic Jam's main selling point is a solid 4-hour 'career mode' that encompasses the lion's share of what the game has to offer. The general premise of gameplay is to control traffic your way: with or without keeping the peace, flowing traffic, easing congestion, and trying to make sure no one gets killed.
Each of the five locations you'll head to are separated into three subsections: 'Daytime', 'Night Time', and 'Rush Hour'. These subsections are essentially three variants of the base level, and each have their own set of 10 unique objectives that must be completed to progress. This means that a lot of 4-hour's content is repeated, as it will take a couple of goes to get everything finished.
Gameplay is marketed as "easy to pick-up, hard to master", and this isn't far off the truth. Dennis teaches you the few hand movements necessary to complete the entire game, and getting to grips requires something of a steep learning curve. So, you may wish to play through the tutorial a couple of times if you think you have to.
But after you get your head around it, it has a relatively simple control scheme and the difficulty comes from having to do things more often rather than learning to do new things. Essentially, you'll wrap your head around a number of hand movements that have different effects on actors in-game, and it'll be your job to apply the right instruction to the right situation. However, strangely, I have it on good authority that the game does not support finger tracking. For a game where you need to cycle through different finger arrangements with a joystick, it really seems like a no brainer to let you do it naturally. Perhaps this will be patched or added later, but for now it just looks like a missed opportunity.
The game doesn't really add many more mechanics from there. But it doesn't get boring. In other words, you won't get complacent, because more vehicles, pedestrians, and elements are constantly added to the environments as you progress. While the "difficult to master" descriptor isn't accurate, later levels sometimes led to frustration with the simplistic controls. Hectic action often resulted in me selecting the wrong NPC or vehicle, or a giving a direction I didn't mean to. Throwing mechanics, which are especially significant later in the game while completing the extra objectives, also tend to be inaccurate. None of these issues are game breaking, but expect frustration on your road to mastery.
Some of these factors leave Traffic Jams' later stages feeling more overwhelming than difficult, which of course is part of the charm of arcade games. Added distractions and objectives like swatting bees and causing creative car accidents also offer a nice bit of variety, even if they make little sense.
Finally, the game also includes an asymmetric VR party mode. Here, you and five friends can play together - one in the VR headset, and the others playing their part from their smartphones or PC via a web address. It's a nice addition, but more of a fun way to get the kids involved over the weekend. Don't expect to spend hours in it with your adult friends.
Traffic isn't fun, but Traffic Jams is. The zany premise doesn't feel as unique and original in a VR ecosystem filled with cartoony action-arcade titles. But this will be a smart addition to anyone looking to spend a few hours in the shoes of the world's worst traffic officer - even if it doesn't completely avoid the frustration the word 'traffic' usually invokes.
Traffic Jams is a wacky VR action-arcade game developed by Little Chicken Game Company and published by Arizona Sunshine developer Vertigo Games. The game launched last Thursday for SteamVR and Oculus Quest & Rift (with cross-buy support).
Best of all, to celebrate the launch of the zany VR game, Vertigo Games have instated a 10% discount code for one week only. That means there's just a few more hours to catch it, so better be fast!