I’m really bad at throwing things in VR. Like, really bad. I had a very humiliating demo at an Oculus event in 2015 where the developers of Sports Champions learned that their football mechanics weren’t as generous as they thought, and I recently held up my Escape the Lost Pyramid team trying to lob a weight into a bucket. But my worrying lack of hand-eye coordination actually paid off in Accounting+.
In the opening menu of Crows, Crows, Crows expanded surrealist take on VR, which is just a secret-laden as the rest of the game, I find a ball and a hoop. Naturally, I pick the former up and attempt to shoot. I miss, and miss, and miss. All the while a godly voice goads me into trying one more time. Upon what must be the 20th attempt, however, I receive a divine message.
“Look, I’ll just give you the trophy,” it says. “No one will know.” And an achievement pops up.
And that just about sums up the brilliance of Accounting+. Sure there’s Justin Roiland’s eccentric brand of brute force humor, but it’s a design philosophy centered around anticipating the darker desires of the player’s mind and their ability to follow through with actions that makes it more than an interactive episode of Rick and Morty.
You can think of Accounting+ as a sort of director’s cut of the original experience, though it’s absolutely worth throwing down $11.99 for if you already went through the free version. It’s an even deeper rabbit hole than it was before, packed with new levels and interactions that triple the size of the original whilst retaining its assault on both sense and sensibility. At one moment I’m being subjected to inexplicably heavy profanity from a hideous angry creature living in a tree, the next I’m in a getaway vehicle firing weaponized seeds at cops that will grow into plants and crash their cars. All the while a driver is shouting “It’s virtual reality! It doesn’t matter! You can kill anyone!”
There’s something very knowing about all of this, as if Accounting+ is some absurd precursor to the inevitable attention-grabbing VR slaughter simulators. In some respects, it’s an even dafter version of Virtual-Virtual Reality; just like Tender Claws’ intriguing experience, Crows, Crows, Crows knows what springs to mind when you pick up anything even remotely capable of causing destruction in VR. But, instead of awkwardly shying away from that disturbing fact, it makes the unavoidable result so emotionally confusing and hilarious you can’t help but laugh. Unexpected interactivity, the kind that would likely be swept under the rug in other VR games, is at the heart of Accounting+.
This is VR at its most fascinatingly awkward. As I return to the angry tree monster, I light a bomb fuse only to discover that the explosive is also sentient and just as furious. Suddenly I’ve got two voices screaming directly at me while everything’s on fire, their rushed cries gelling into an inaudible mess. It’s the virtual embodiment of this:
Most of all, though, it’s the intrigue of genuinely not knowing what’s around the next corner that makes Accounting+ such a trip. Rather than conforming to set mechanics, the game throws out the rulebook in each and every scene in a quest to constantly surprise you. It’s one of the first apps to really embrace the idea that with VR you can do pretty much anything and be pretty much anywhere.
And then there are the rewards, secrets that congratulate you for exploring the morbid possibilities of swallowing a mysterious pill or pointing a gun at your head and pulling the trigger. If you’re the type to pick through every aspect of a scene in hope of finding some hidden bonus then this is an experience built for you. A 30-minute straight run is ready to be dissected as soon as you finish. Don’t look up guides and videos; go back and explore environments for yourself. Pick up objects, shake them about, knock on doors and pay special attention to the level select menu. Your curiosity is bound to be satisfied.
I wish there were more VR experiences like Accounting+. I’d sooner take another 20 rides on its unpredictable emotional rollercoaster than suffer another wave shooter. But its individuality is ultimately what makes it so memorable, and I believe that as developers gain a tighter grasp on what really makes VR tick, this will be seen as a key cornerstone of what helped us get there.
Oh and I don’t know if the secret zoo level actually exists, sorry.
Accounting+ is available now on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR.