A sentimental VR take on a beloved film.
When done correctly repetition can easily work as a videogame mechanic, as seen in puzzle solvers Transpose or Tetris Effect. Get it wrong, however, and a repetitive gameplay arc can become monotonous and boring very quickly. So when Tequila Works announced Groundhog Day: Like Father Like Son, a sequel to one of the most famous time loop films ever, it sounded like a very bold move. The worry was that could a story about repeating the same day over and over again work in virtual reality (VR) to the extent that frustration and boredom wouldn’t sink in?
Groundhog Day: Like Father Like Son is as close to a direct sequel to Bill Murray’s original Groundhog Day movie from the early 90s as you’re going to get. You play his son, Phil Connors Jr, who managed to escape the town of Punxsutawney and hates going back. Alas, as an up and coming vlogger Connors Jr has returned to capture the famous Groundhog Day event for his viewers, getting caught in a similar time loop to his father.
The first day starts the same as any other, waking up in your old bed to the crackle of the radio. The title has a very gentle pace to begin with, as you begin to interact with the characters and learn their stories – which is highly important – as well as each of the four main locations.
Groundhog Day: Like Father Like Son is a very controlled affair in many respects. There’s no freedom of locomotion to go exploring the town as each area has fixed positions to teleport to. This does make for a very comfortable experience for any player, although more experienced VR players may find it a bit too restrained. The use of this mechanic also means you always know which characters form the core of the story, having to complete their individual side missions to learn new information or unlock another branch in the narrative.
And it’s this relatively complex entwinement of individual stories which is key to Groundhog Day: Like Father Like Son. Without it having to repeat these days over and over could become laborious. Talking to each character, in turn, offers a maximum of three conversation threads, each one whittled down the more you repeat. To keep track you have a tablet where you can look at the map (utterly useless) your various tasks to achieve (very handy) and other lesser options like a camera to take photos. The tablet is also where you can quickly reset the day or the actual scene you’re in should new info come to light such as getting a conversation thread really wrong.
So there’s plenty of talking to be had in Groundhog Day: Like Father Like Son. To mix that up with some interactive gameplay most characters have a mini-game which needs to be solved to complete their portion of the title. These can vary from showcasing your graffiti skills to a know-it-all kid, using a range of tools to improve your father’s statue, or even going so far as to put you inside a coffee machine to learn how to make a cappuccino. It’s all very light-hearted in keeping with the comedic theme of the videogame, whilst being highly interactive.
But Groundhog Day: Like Father Like Son does have a serious thread running right though as in keeping with the film. Touching on themes such as family, friendships, work, parenthood and righting the wrongs of past mistakes. What makes Groundhog Day: Like Father Like Son great is the emotional connection it manages to create, increasing that vested interest in seeing the story through. It’s a facet only a few VR experiences manage to replicate, and they’re normally not videogames.
Groundhog Day: Like Father Like Son is a lovable VR adventure that doesn’t do any disservice to the original material on which it’s based. There’s quite a bit to do if you look close enough as the title is all about paying attention to your surroundings. As such there can be quite a variance in gameplay time, expect around 6 hours on average, thanks to the different repetition elements – constantly repeating certain mini-games actually makes them easier. With a unique art style and engaging story, Groundhog Day: Like Father Like Son offers an unexpectedly enjoyable adventure, and you don’t even need to have seen the film. That being said, it’s time to see if Groundhog Day is online somewhere.