Generally, I enjoy VR games that imitate physical reality so I thought it might be fun to guide pedestrians, give instruction to impatient drivers, and deal with unforeseen disasters in Traffic Jams, developed by Little Chicken Game Company and published by Vertigo Games.
The user interface in Traffic Jams is intuitive and easy to use. I didn’t experience any glitches or other problems while I was in the game so it was relatively easy to move from the office area to the tutorial and then to the cities where I could control the flow of the city by managing traffic and pedestrians on a busy street corner.
It’s always nice to find tutorials that walk you through the basics of what you’ll need to know in a game and Traffic Jams does that with the help of Dennis, a sassy Italian teacher who shares advice through speech bubbles since his speech is garbled. Personally, I enjoy speech bubbles because it increases accessibility for deaf players and there are quite a few in our VR ecosystem.
One thing I could go through life and not experience again, however, is Dennis’ tendency to start dancing and behave in such a way that made me wonder how he managed to keep his job as instructor. His personality is supposed to be amusing, but I found him more annoying than anything.
On the Job
Once you’ve finished training, you can go to the first city and start directing traffic. Thankfully there’s a learning curve for traffic controllers so initially, there are few pedestrians in the streets and traffic is relatively sparse.
The early experiences build your confidence and you quickly pick up on the fact that it’s important to account for the speed of different types of vehicles since motorbikes travel faster than buses, for example.
This is also true of pedestrians, which I didn’t really notice until my first accident, when I miscalculated how long it would take two men to carry a pane of glass across the road and I heard it being smashed into by a bus. It actually caused me a brief drop in the pit of my stomach as I realized what happened, which is one of those funny sensations we can experience with the immersive quality of virtual reality.
I enjoyed the gameplay and the fact that it became progressively more challenging with increased traffic and pedestrians. I suspect Traffic Jams would be particularly appealing to fellow multi-taskers who take pleasure in juggling different stimuli.
While I found the core gameplay of directing traffic enjoyable, you have to play levels not only for higher scores, but also to complete objectives that really have nothing to do with directing traffic.
Learning how to shoo away bees from your face makes sense, but things like popping balloons with a frisbee or causing accidents don’t really fit with my idea of objectives I should try to accomplish while directing traffic on a busy city street corner.
Unfortunately, you can’t level up in Traffic Jams until you actually tick off these tasks on a checklist so you’re forced to comply with the demands that feel a bit like smaller side games which don’t fit well with the overall goal of directing traffic.
Traffic Jams Accessibility Options
As mentioned earlier, Dennis uses speech bubbles to communicate, which is great for deaf or hard-of-hearing players, but it also makes Traffic Jams more accessible for speakers of other languages since there are several different languages to choose from in the settings menu. With the ever-expanding playerbase of VR gaming, this is a great option.
Hand commands can be given with either left or right hands so it doesn’t matter which is dominant. I tend to use mine interchangeably so it was nice to discover that you don’t have to choose one or the other. You simply make the appropriate hand gesture with either hand and it works well.
One small complaint I had while playing is the fact that I couldn’t find any option to change my height so it would appear as if I were standing. The game definitely is playable for seated users, which is excellent, but in the office area, for example, my head was barely at the level of the table so that was a bit disappointing.
One main feature I disliked was the multiplayer option. I’ll admit that I’m used to multiplayer games in VR where you simply join multiplayer mode and then it puts you in with others. That’s not the case with Traffic Jams. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it “multiplayer mode” because it’s more akin to a friends and family party mode.
Basically multiplayer in Traffic Jams involves gameplay with others on their smartphone so they aren’t even in VR. Of course, there are other games out there that offer this option, but this wasn’t what I expected when I kept trying to find the other players.
When I finally realized I needed my phone, which wasn’t really evident, I still couldn’t figure out how to find the other players until I looked it up online and discovered that other players would join me via smartphone and they could summon traffic and otherwise cause chaos at my intersection.
This mode might’ve had more appeal to me if there had been someone to test it with, but meanwhile, my impression remains that it should be easier to understand that you won’t actually be put in with other VR players so perhaps things like this should be called “party mode” or something that more accurately reflects the fact that others can interact with you, but they’re not in VR.
There were some parts about Traffic Jams I really enjoyed while other aspects didn’t necessarily appeal to me. There weren’t any huge issues with the game and it was a bit addictive, but I would’ve preferred more serious objectives versus frivolity.
I greatly enjoy silliness, but for this game, I simply wanted to direct traffic and would’ve enjoyed the option to level up based on more serious objectives. Since this is a matter of personal preference, however, I’m sure many others will enjoy causing crashes, popping balloons, and dealing with monsters.
Released a couple of days ago, on April 8, Traffic Jams is available on Oculus Quest (and supports Oculus store cross-buy) and PC VR for $19,99/€19.99. The VR game is coming to PlayStation VR this summer.