Here’s an interesting bit of movie trivia; Neo didn’t really dodge all those bullets in The Matrix. Turns out he’s a big fraud and the real hero of the day is Just in Time Incorporated. This amazing company saves lives, acting as time-manipulating body guards that come to the rescue of their clients, as the name suggests, just in the nick of time. In Keanu Reeves’ case, I actually heroically jumped in front of all those bullets and removed them from his path. What a phony.
I can’t think of many VR games out there with as promising a concept as Just in Time, developed by Second Wind Interactive. I’ve already stacked the game up to the excellence of Superhot VR, and diving back in for a full review that comparison sticks on a purely mechanical level. By teleporting around various stages, you’ll have to locate any imminent danger facing your client then put a stop to it using your wits. It’s a puzzle game by way of The Bodyguard and The Flash, and there’s nothing quite like it.
But, premise aside, Just in Time is just a bit too short on memorable ideas and occasionally a little too high on frustration to make it an essential purchase.
Cast as a new employee at the titular company, you’ll work your way up the ranks solving increasingly tricky cases. These will range from epic action pieces to parodies of popular movies to downright ridiculous scenarios. Your teleportation device allows you to move around the field quickly as the action plays out in slow motion around you. This allows you disarm enemies, clear paths and even catch bullets and send them back from where they came.
At its best, Just in Time revels in its slapstick potential. Attaching balloons to an elderly man in the way of oncoming traffic or finding a bomb in an ice cream stand are good examples of the game’s ridiculous sense of humor. It can work quite well as an action game too, often demanding quick reactions to clear our a barrage of bullets, though the teleportation locomotion can make that a little awkward. On rare occasions it even touches on those brilliant ‘Aha!’ moments of puzzle solving, like figuring out a violent means of opening a door locked by a retinal scanner.
There’s a brilliant variety to the levels that always keeps you guessing what you’ll be doing and where you’ll be traveling to next. At one point you’ll be in a lab fighting off waves of killer rats while the next you’re in the woods guiding a lost camper home as he’s chased by bears.
But for all the laughs I can’t help but feel this is a game just scratching the surface of its brilliant premise, even in its better levels. The game has its share of funny levels, puzzle levels, and action levels, but never successfully mixes the three together in one instance. This might be your job, but at times it feels like too much work, especially when you’re fine-tuning the placement of your teleportation against the clock and the slightest error sends you right back to the start. In Superhot VR failure would be met with a laugh and a smile; here it’s more of an annoyed grunt, and that’s telling of the amount of fun you’re really having as the game wears on.
Every puzzle in Just in Time is solved through a simple case of trial and error. Randomization of hidden objects will keep you from simply retracing your steps, but once you’ve figured out what the danger is and how to stop it, you’ll have an easy time getting by. Some missions are overly repetitive; the parody of The Matrix I mentioned at the start long outstayed its welcome thanks to constantly having to start over. The game might have benefited from a time reversal mechanic to add to the empowerment and make failure a much less agonizing experience, for example. I would have liked to have seen a level editor that would let the community make their own set pieces too.
Having been through the game’s missions in the space of about two hours, I couldn’t help but feel like I wanted much more from it. It’s not helped by the identikit blocky visuals that can be seen in other VR releases week-in, week-out, or the generic voice overs. The presentation simply doesn’t do the concept justice.
Just in Time’s premise alone is brilliant enough to warrant a look, though the game only scratches the surface of its potential. When it gets it right, saving lives in slow-motion is a silly thrill, but many of the game’s levels are simply unmemorable. Second Wind is onto something here, but its short campaign never successfully mixes the comedy, action, and puzzle-solving into one truly satisfying package. These elements instead remain separate, creating an inconsistent, albeit promising, experience.