It’s hard to decide whether Fail Factory! is the most ironic or appropriately named VR title of 2020 so far. On the irony side, as it’s almost impossible to fail most of the levels in the game, even towards the very end. On the other hand, the title is quite appropriate, given that this factory of a game only seems to pump out disappointments over its short but sluggish duration.
Published by Oculus Studios, Fail Factory! was originally developed by Armature Studios for the Gear VR and Oculus Go. Now, more than 2 years on from its original release, the game has been ported to the Oculus Rift and Oculus Quest systems. Sadly though, this game might have been better off left in the past.
Fail Factory! sees you start as an intern and work your way up the factory hierarchy by completing minigames, where your performance in each is rated out of 4 stars, or “cogs”. The campaign and level system is reminiscent of mobile games such as Angry Birds, especially with the star rating system.
In theory, the idea is that you likely won’t perform flawlessly on the first try, but can come back and try for those perfect 4/4 cogs later on. However, challenging levels are rare in Fail Factory! and those hallowed trophies can be achieved with barely any thought on the vast majority of the levels.
A Campaign of Minigames
The minigames boil down to 3 different types, each of which change slightly and introduce variations as you move through the campaign. The first type involves sorting and throwing color blocks into an appropriate colour-matching chutes, the second involves controlling a robot to walk it across a map and reach certain objectives, and the third sees you sorting parts to build objects, such as robots or cars, according to which parts are missing.
Each of these three minigames offers variations and somewhat more complex versions as the game goes on, but the basic premise of each stays the same. As I reached the two-thirds point of the campaign, I had yet to feel any kind of pressure or true challenge. The only levels I failed on first try, which were few and far between, were mainly due to a lack of clear communication on how the mechanics of a new minigame variation worked.
The block-sorting minigame is far and away the most engaging of the three, and perhaps the only one that starts to feel challenging in the last third of the game. The other two minigames are incredibly dull and have much less variation and challenge. Even though the last third of the campaign did see the difficulty increase overall, it was only tough in the way of not being able to achieve a near-perfect score on the very first try. The game certainly never feels intellectually stimulating, that’s for sure.
Despite this, the most frustrating element Fail Factory! is that there is almost nothing about the gameplay that lends itself exceptionally well to virtual reality, especially in 2020. The game was, as mentioned, originally published two years ago on 3DOF platforms and it absolutely shows. Even then, none of the minigames really feel like they offer something incredibly unique or exciting in the VR space, and I doubt that I would have felt differently in 2017.
There’s nothing about the design that truly necessitates it being part of a VR experience. If you altered the control scheme and input methods, this could easily be a mobile game or an arcade-style console title. There’s no reason for Fail Factory! to be played in VR – in fact, it very much feels like a mobile game. As a VR title, it’s not groundbreaking, immersive or necessary. It’s mostly just dull.
A Game Out Of Time
While this kind of gameplay may have been slightly more acceptable on the Go or the Gear VR in 2017, it certainly isn’t now. It’s frustrating how dated the game feels. Upon first boot, Fail Factory! tells you that it is best enjoyed as a seated experience. While there’s nothing innately wrong with this, the reasoning behind the message soon becomes clear.
Although the game now has 6DoF tracking, there’s no huge benefit from its implementation. You’re constantly locked to a plinth that floats mid-air in the environment and is moved around from location to location. It’s best as a seated experience because it was designed as one, and with 3DoF in mind no less. While this might technically be 6DoF, only the controllers benefit from the upgrade. For a title available on the Oculus Store in 2020, it feels incredibly dated.
The game also suffers from some performance issues in the audio department. The audio consistently stutters, quickly cutting in and out. It’s not bad enough to be unplayable, but it is noticeable enough for me to be annoyed by it at some point in almost every single level. It is frustratingly consistent, but not bad enough to make you have to stop playing.
I also had a couple of instances where a level would load and then quickly cut to black. I could still hear the game and interact with things, but there were no visuals at all, requiring a reboot. While not the end of the world, it was still frustrating.
Fail Factory! Quest and Rift Review Final Verdict:
The Fail Factory! Quest and Rift port feels years in the past and totally unnecessary. Several Go games have been made compatible with the Quest already, without needing a standalone port release. While this wouldn’t help Rift owners, I still can’t help but feel that the Quest-compatible Go app route might have been the better option here – it certainly would temper expectations, compared to a fully fledged new port release.
While the game may not have felt so frustrating and outdated to players in 2018, it certainly does now. Perhaps even worse, the whole experience feels kind of gimmicky, as if it’s just a fun placeholder to fill time with when you’ve got nothing else to play. The sad news for Fail Factory! is that Quest and Rift owners have much more to play these days and, frankly, they would be better off playing anything besides this.
Final Score: 2/5 Stars | Disappointing
You can read more about our five-star scoring policy here.
This review was conducted using the Oculus Quest version of Fail Factory!. Fail Factory is available on the Oculus Quest, Rift, Rift S, Oculus Go and Gear VR and costs $4.99.