Developer / Publisher – Pawprint Games / Team 17
Price – US $19.99 / CAN $24.49 / EU €19.99 / UK £17.99
Release Date – February 8th, 2024
Input – 2 x Motion Controllers
Play Area – Seated, Standing, Roomscale
Store Links – Meta, Steam, PlayStation
Reviewed on – Quest 3, PSVR 2
If you’ve followed my content for awhile, you would that, in general, I now avoid job sim type games as I have performed countless occupations in VR and am honestly just tired of the genre. So, when Border Bots was announced you would think I would have dismissed it outright but for some reason, being a border control officer for Robots seemed somewhat appealing so here we are and while it can be a little frustrating at times, it’s a fair bit of fun!
You play as a human, but not just any human as you are the 1st in a long time (over 2 decades in fact) to have an actual job (yay!?) thanks to your AI overlords deciding that your skills are required to manage a border stop. Some comical shenanigans ensue thanks to some newscasts that shed some light on the world your living in as well as your own robot servants who often require your aid as they find themselves in trouble in your new, fancy living quarters. The between job stuff I found to be a little tiresome as the comedy didn’t quite land for me but given the lighthearted nature of just about everything in here, and just how brief some of these interactions can be, they never offended. It’s in your apartment where you can purchase a variety of gloves, apartment cosmetics like posters and plants, a basketball hoop and a few upgrades for your workstation, which is where the rest of the game takes place.
Everyday you wake up, smack the alarm (aka your robot assistant), check out the goings on in your home before hailing a flying cab to take you to work. It’s here where your boss (via hologram) will let you know what you need to get your job done that day. This starts off easy enough with just making sure the robot type and manufacturer symbol match the info sheets they provide though each day will offer new stuff to look out for and/or extra criteria for that day. Soon enough you’ll have to detain robots smuggling contraband, test the flammability of specific robot types, check to see if their modifications match their description, ensure the zone they are from isn’t banned, scan bar-codes and a host more obstacles that make each day its own challenge. If I had the time to thoroughly go through each bots files, no worries, but each day only offers you somewhere in the neighbourhood of 6 to 12 minutes to get through the queue of robots. Of course, you are scored based upon your success rate so every time you mess up, your points for that day get penalized as does your ranking against your fellow human co-workers.
It’s the stress of that time limit that makes this so challenging and the further you get in the game, the harder it gets thanks to the more unscrupulous robots disguising their flaws quite well or just forgetting to check one of the many rules that could be the difference between a pass or fail. When contending with so many options, I often found myself forgetting to check the scale, which indicates when a robot is smuggling contraband, and every time I missed that, I cursed out loud at my own lapse in judgment. Sometimes robots will have their manufacturer logo hidden in weird places on their frame forcing a waste of precious seconds to find it and even more time to remove or replace it if it’s a counterfeit one. Additionally, some NPC’s may ask you for favours that typically go against doing your job properly but could benefit you in the long run adding some replayability thanks to differing narrative paths and multiple endings. It is a little unfortunate that there isn’t an endless mode where you could hone those skills as the challenge factor is fairly high once you unlock all the tools and checkpoint options but with that said, my 1st run through the campaign took me a surprising 5 hours to get through and I had fun all the way too the games conclusion.
That’s not to say the gameplay is perfect and while nothing in here is broken, I would have loved the ability to customize my workspace without risking items respawning back to their storage slots. There’s also a grab option that lets you point at an item and bring it to your hand, but I found this to be incredibly finicky and sensitive on the PSVR 2, to a point where I just gave up using it unless necessary, while on the Quest, that function worked much better. One of the games tasks is to show a specific image on your tablet to some robots in the hopes a reaction BUT if any image was selected and within a robot’s view, their heads would lock on to it, causing some issues when I was rotating them in the scanner. I have a few other minor quibbles but for the most part I just navigated around these shortcomings as none of them broke the game, just messed with it until I learned how to avoid them.
As far as presentation goes, it’s a good-looking game with fantastic NPC models and some great looking environments though you’ll only be visiting 4 different locations so don’t get too excited. The stars of the show are the robots as they come in a variety of model from little R2D2 type units to much larger ‘heavy’ robots that tower above your head with an array of models and classes in between. They’ll wait patiently in line until they hear the ding of the ‘next in line’ button and when they approach your station, they may just be polite and pass over their ID or do something a little more unexpected. Everything is very cartoonish and the complexity of each robot’s design made them fun to watch and scan for those inconsistencies that may prevent them entry. The environments aren’t anything special, but they do the job of carrying the narrative along though I will admit that I was quite impressed by the view from your apartment as it features not only a very high-resolution background, but enough 3D elements into and on top of it that it made it look like an authentic and busy futuristic city. You’ll chat with a couple human NPCs via hologram and they animate well enough though there were a few moments when their mouths didn’t match what they were saying or didn’t move at all which was immersion breaking, though this was a minor issue at worst. With regard to the Quest vs PSVR 2, both versions look nearly identical save for the aliasing issues on the Quest which caused a fair bit of “shimmer” while the Sony headset looked much smoother (120 Hz without reprojection for those wondering) though outside of that, and the resolution bump on the Quest 3, they look pretty much the same.
The audio design here is, for the most part, solid with some decent voice acting from everyone involved and while I did care less for some performances compared to others, many of these interactions are all to brief so it’s easy to move on. The jokes run rampant in here and while I did enjoy the news broadcasts, most of the jokes fell flat (especially the ones with your own robots) but there was still enough charm with each of the NPCs to have me forgive the failed attempts at humor and I’m sure others may chuckle at the stuff I rolled my eyes at. Wherever you find yourself, there will always be a radio nearby playing some kind of music with a bulk of the options annoying me to a point where my 1st action in any room was to turn the radio off. Spatial audio is on point, which is always appreciated, especially in a game that doesn’t really need it, making for a quality audio package despite my few misgivings.
It’s not a perfect game, but it is a fun one and I was surprised at just how well this kept my attention thanks to constantly changing criteria for bots crossing the border and additional tasks like shooting down drones trying to sneak past you or navigating the various NPC’s and their additional challenges. If, like myself, you are tired of the comical job sim genre, I get it, but this was a nice dip back into the sub-genre that does right by VR and despite being quite repetitious by design, never really felt that way which is always a good thing. There’s a fair bit of bang for your buck here and it’s easily worth the asking price regardless of the headset you want to play this on!
Meta & Team 17 provided The VR Grid with press codes for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!