Gearbox’s latest VR venture features the world’s most famous magician duo aiding you in the pursuit of pulling pranks on your friends.
Of all the games I was able to try out last week at E3 2019, Penn & Teller VR: Frankly Unfair, Unkind, Unnecessary & Underhanded was by far the goofiest. First teased back in 2017 at PAX East, Penn & Teller VR is finally set to launch in just a few days on nearly every major VR platform and its premise is relatively the same as what was pitched two years ago.
The main hook for Penn & Teller VR is that it’s meant to be a distraction for anyone who might actually be “playing” the game. For instance, in my first of many tricks that the game offers, Penn was teaching me how to catch bullets in my mouth. While I used the motion tracking of the VR headset to move a virtual mouth around in front of me and I used one of my controllers to snap the mouth shut, the partner that I was playing the game with utilized the other controller to shoot bullets in my direction so that I could then catch them in my teeth.
In reality though, this was all supposed to be a misdirection meant for my partner in the room to set up some sort of real-life prank. Later on in the trick, my partner then shifted from using a pistol to fire bullets at me to a shotgun. This time upon firing though, the bullets shot at my face much more quickly and the screen went black. Meanwhile, my partner I was playing with had gone behind my back and prepared for this moment and provided a nice jump scare as soon as the shotgun was fired.
Little practical jokes like this are what Penn & Teller VR is mostly all about. The game is meant to serve as a facade for the real trick that is going on in the real world while the player is unaware of their surroundings. Most of the tricks that come included with the game are meant to stall time or provide a specific moment of opportunity in which you can screw around with the person wearing the headset. Some of the additional tricks that I saw in my brief time with the game included a neverending Rock, Paper, Scissors and another where you read the entirety of the novel Moby Dick. Many of the tricks in the game are actually automated so that your partner doesn’t need to be involved at all, allowing them to then set up the real-life prank.
One of the coolest things about Penn & Teller VR though is that it also has a tutorial section that teaches you how to properly pull off each of these tricks. Some of these will be much more straightforward and won’t need a whole lot of explanation, but others will be a tad bit more complicated. For these instances, you can refer to the tutorial, led by Penn & Teller themselves, to learn about the application and how it works so that you’re prepared before your buddy ever puts on the VR headset. Penn & Teller will even suggest some pranks that you should pull on your friends while they’re distracted such as looting around their wallet and stealing money.
And for those who are actually big Penn & Teller fans, Gearbox has faithfully recreated some of the duo’s most iconic locations in-game that you might recognize. The theater in which the pair regularly perform has been completely modeled in Penn & Teller VR in addition to the Monkey Room, an area in which both magicians hang out at before their shows. Gearbox has gone the extra mile to try and make this experience as authentic as possible and that shows in the design.
Penn & Teller VR: Frankly Unfair, Unkind, Unnecessary & Underhanded isn’t something you’ll likely pour dozens of hours into, but it seems like it could be a fun gag game that you could use on those who aren’t expecting a prank. Paired specifically with the Oculus Quest, the newest VR headset on the market which you can take anywhere, I think Penn & Teller VR could make for some brief enjoyment. At the end of the day, the game doesn’t seem like it’s supposed to be much more than what it pitches itself as and that’s perfectly fine.
Penn & Teller VR is slated to arrive later this month on June 27 for Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift, Rift S, and HTC Vive. It will then be coming to PlayStation VR a bit later on July 9. The game will retail for $19.99 across all platforms.