As expected for anyone familiar with the iconic magician duo, nothing about my appointment to see the upcoming Penn & Teller VR game was normal. For starters, the demo took place at a literal dance studio across some railroad tracks a few blocks away from the Los Angeles Convention Center during E3 2019. Offsite demos are entirely common, but they don’t usually take place in rented-out dance studios in the middle of a weekday while teenage ballet girls are busy stretching, gossiping, and loitering in the hallways, whispering about why a sweaty neckbeard with a Pokemon necklace is standing nearby. I was the sweaty neckbeard waiting for my appointment time.
After the prior journalist was done I could finally enter and stop pretending to be busy on my phone to avoid eye contact with concerned children in spandex that were probably considering texting their parents.
The full title of the game is Penn & Teller VR: Frankly Unfair, Unkind, Unnecessary, and Underhanded, which naturally abbreviates to Penn & Teller VR: F U, U, U, and U because that rolls off the tongue much more easily. In the press release Gearbox is describing Penn & Teller VR as a “comedic social VR experience” which sounds about right.
Instead of acting out simulations of the duo’s iconic tricks as if you were learning how to do them, Penn & Teller VR is instead actually all about pranking your friends. Some experiences have you make your friend jump just at the right moment while others have you trick your friend into thinking they can move things with their mind.
Then in another experience I got to re-enact escaping from a cell that’s rapidly filling with water, a la Houdini, while my wrists were literally tied together with an Oculus Touch controller strap, pictured above.
It’s hard to describe Penn & Teller VR without totally spoiling the fun, so you should just stop reading right now and skip to the final paragraph if you don’t want anything ruined at all.
During one experience the VR user puts on the headset and holds out a single Touch controller to get ready for a round of rock, paper, scissors. A non-VR players holds the other controller. By holding down different buttons you can throw out either rock, paper, or scissors. Eventually, the non-VR player is encouraged to trigger the AI to take over, which emulates their prior movements, freeing you up to scare your friend, move their chair, steal their wallet, or whatever you want to do.
Another example is the team’s famous bullet catch trick. As it goes, Penn shoots a gun and Teller catches the bullet with his teeth. Simple, right? For the VR experience your POV is inside Teller’s mouth and you move his jaws by pulling the controller’s trigger button to catch slow-motion bullets.
Then at the end, Penn blasts you in the face with a shotgun as a friend in real life is instructed to push you as a jump scare. It definitely worked on me.
Without a doubt, Penn & Teller VR is shaping up to be one of the most bizarre and downright hilarious VR experiences out there. It combines the zaniness of the iconic duo with the sort of asynchronous out-of-body experience that only VR can afford. This will likely join Cards Against Humanity and the Jackbox Party Pack as a staple at parties and get togethers.
Penn & Teller VR is due out very soon this summer. It releases for Oculus Rift, Quest, and Vive on June 27 and then hits PSVR the following month on July 9. The game will cost $19.99 on all platforms.
Let us know what you think down in the comments below!