Traffic Jams Review
I always assumed that directing traffic would be a pretty demanding job. And sure enough, Traffic Jams, now on Oculus VR from Little Chicken Game Company, can get quite hectic, what with all the non-stop hand-signaling and turning about. But what surprised me was how fun it was — at least for a short while. Traffic Jams can get a mite repetitive after few hours, but there’s enough charm and clever ideas to make it worth strapping on your VR headset and checking it out.
It’s Traffic Jams’ clever and creative control mechanic that is really the star of the show. Using the thumb sticks on the Oculus’s motion controllers, you make hand gestures at NPC pedestrians and drivers — point with your left hand and then a command with right, such as “stop” or “go” or even “go quickly.” Equipped with this simple but effective gesture-vocabulary — BOOM! — you’re a traffic cop.
You’re stuck in one place but Traffic Jams is definitely not a stationary experience. A typical “shift” sees you coordinating walking and driving traffic coming from many directions, so you’re swiveling your neck back and forth constantly; and this is all while gesturing with your hands so furiously at times you’ll feel like a sign language interpreter at a rap concert. Traffic Jams, like many VR titles lately, is as much a good workout app as it is a game.
While it starts off simple, things get pretty crazy when you’ve got large intersections with traffic going in all directions. Each pedestrian or driver has an “anger bar” over them, and the longer you make them wait, the madder they get (and the fewer points you’ll receive). If they get mad enough, they’ll even hurl object at you and curse you out — I swear I heard more than a few F-Bombs tossed my way, but in weirdly cute and adorable cartoon voices which somehow made it feel worse.
The visuals are definitely not what you’d call stunning. NPCs are of the crudely-formed, Mr. Potato Head variety such as those you might see in Bugsnax. The cars are bouncy, cartoon-like. Photorealistic this is not. But still, I couldn’t help but be charmed by Traffic Jams’ little extras and details that made each level interesting. There’s the two guys carrying a big piece of glass across the street, who I was supposed to protect but I admit I sent a bus into more than once just to see it smash. There’s the zombies who pop up from the sewers sometimes, who were almost as adorable as they were dangerous. Traffic Jams is a simple game but it feels like love was put into making it.
Running Out of Gas
You also see that in the different levels. Each one is a city that you visit, doing a shift in either daytime, night time or rush hour. Tokyo’s level cleverly incorporates the multidirectional pedestrian crossings that city is famous for, which is a perfect way to introduce more difficulty in a way that feels natural. It’s smart. And just when you feel like you’re getting used to that, a certain giant lizard stomps onto the scene, which I’ll admit is a bit obvious but in VR it’s still pretty cool nonetheless.
So yeah, what content Traffic Jams has is good. The problem is, there just isn’t enough of it. You only get a handful of cities — in addition to Tokyo there’s New York, Amsterdam, Paris and Gouda (which is a real city, I think). That’s it. That makes for a paltry number of levels, except that they are padded out by adding the night, day and rush hour variations. While yes, different times of day bring certain challenges of their own, it feels like you’re just doing the same thing over and over regardless. Even the different cities themselves with their slightly varied intersections aren’t enough to keep the core experience from feeling played out after a while.
The developers, no doubt quite aware of this fact, have built in Objectives into each level beyond just getting through your shift. While some of these are logical — like how successfully you get everyone through with minimal crashes — others are secret and random, so you have no way of knowing what you’re “aiming” for. Traffic Jams is hoping that you’ll keep playing in the hopes of unlocking all those mysterious goals, but once I finished each scenario with a High Score, I just didn’t see much incentive to come back and redo Traffic Jams’ levels more than once.
I should mention that Traffic Jams does have a multiplayer component, but it isn’t very appealing. Up to four non-VR players can join you via their cellphones, but their roles are limited and frankly, I don’t see this being a popular way to play. Traffic Jams is, at it’s core, a single-player experience but even then, it is a rather thin one. While there are some fun and clever ideas here, and a few hours of genuine fun to be had, there’s just too much sameness to the experience to keep you coming back. But if nothing else, Traffic Jams’ arm-flailing madness could be a decent way to do a daily 30 minute workout if you’re looking for a change from your usual fitness routine.
** An Oculus Quest 2 code was provided by the publisher **
- Intuitive controls
- Clever details
- Good workout
- Very thin on content
- Repetitive gameplay
- Lame multiplayer