Border Bots VR

Border Bots VR – Review

Border Bots VR throws you into one of the last jobs for humans in a futuristic city full of worker robots. There’s clear inspiration from games such as Papers Please, the ID-checking border control game, and Job Simulator (the colourful human working in a robot world VR game), but Border Bots takes that in its own direction with a different tone to either of those influences.

Border Bots VR has the child-friendly zaniness of Job Simulator but there’s also some satire, some oppression and a major conspiracy going on. There are cutesy robots and some slapstick humour but also some darker themes, an exploration of consciousness and a sentient toaster that spends a lot of time on the “bread hub” website. 

a turret aiming at a robot

To be honest it’s a bit of a clash. The writing isn’t as tight or witty enough for an adult audience but the dialogue is so slow and waffly that I can’t imagine it’ll hold a kid’s attention for long. 

This mismatch of concepts also hits the gameplay. You have a nice home apartment to spend time in between work shifts which feels like a VR playground. There are objects all over that you can pick up and examine but with surprisingly little interaction. You can run the taps and slot anything small enough into the aforementioned talky toaster just to see what happens, but you can’t eat any of the food, squeeze out the toothpaste, lather soap or open the drink cans in your fridge.

a blue robotoic toaster on a counter next to a slice of bread. subtitles read "I'm here for all your toasting needs."

The main gameplay is much more focused within your little guard booth. There are plenty of buttons and gadgets at your disposal, all gradually introduced level by level. They’re very interactive, fun to use and vary from simple checking IDs against make and model to testing flammability using incendiary grenades. 

Most levels tend to have special requirements or interesting modifiers, such as also having to scan infected bots or someone messing with your booth so that you have to figure out the opposite of each listed requirement. I do love how the game layers on more mechanics but balances how much you have to do at once so that it becomes more challenging without being overwhelming.

an man with greying thin moustache and distinctive headress is shown as a hologram with the subtitles reading "I've been staying up late monitoring the traffic from..."

However, the overall difficulty seemed inconsistent to me. It was quite easy to make a mistake and miss a detail, but I’d still end up at the top of the daily leaderboard (against NPCs, not other human players). There was a level with very strict deadlines for each bot inspection that I just couldn’t keep up with, it felt a lot like I was failing but still I had a decent score. I don’t really want the game to be punishing, but such a difficulty spike with no consequences felt odd.

The story progresses painfully slowly with a decent twist towards the end, it’s just a shame the world and characters didn’t keep me engaged enough to care. The messaging is not as hard-hitting as Papers Please, the robots are clearly oppressed, but you’re mostly along for the ride. There are a few opportunities for you to let bots pass against the rules, but your biggest moral dilemma is whether to smuggle cupcakes for organised crime bots.

a futuristic 3D printer with a creen reading "Select Robot". Several reference models of different types of robot are on the desktop around it. VR

The overall concept and the execution of the booth gameplay in Border Bots VR is excellent but the pacing is dragged down by drawn-out sections of just listening to NPCs. There’s fun to be had here but if you run out of patience the job simulation starts to feel like an actual job.

6/10 star rating

Developers: Paw Print Games, vTime Limited

Platforms: PlayStation 5, Microsoft Windows

Publishers: Paw Print Games, Team17





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