I don’t know what I really expected going into Penn & Teller VR: F U, U, U, & U, but I certainly didn’t expect to be the one having the most fun, despite not having the actual headset on. Yes, you read that right – this is a game where you actually do more outside of the headset than within it. Odd, no?
Penn & Teller VR is a PlayStation VR game, so naturally you’ll need the PSVR headset. You’ll also need a pair of PS Move controllers and, for at least one of the bits, you’ll need a DualShock 4 controller. You’ll also need a willing victim, because there’s not much to see and do as a solo player, outside of a couple of bits that are, honestly, a bit crap.
Before you go pranking your friends and family, you’re going to have to learn the routines. The game is split into different sections, one of which is the backstage area. It’s here that Penn & Teller will demonstrate how to pull off each bit. This is done via pre-recorded videos, though you can also test them out for yourself by entering ‘Chump View’ which will show you what your unsuspecting victim will see.
This could have been very complicated and boring – they’re basically instructional videos – but having the magic duo act them out, with Teller staying silent, as always – it was actually fun to watch and learn. So much so that I just couldn’t wait to step into their shoes and get my prank on.
The different bits are spread across different categories: unkind, unfair, unnecessary and underhanded. The unnecessary bits are, as their name suggests, quite unnecessary. One of which is Penn reading the entirety of Moby Dick. Before the game came out, I’d read about this bit in a press release and assumed it would literally be Penn Gillette sitting in a chair reading the book. Unfortunately it wasn’t, at least not in the way I had imagined. Instead of having that handsome devil reading out loud to me, I watched through Penn’s eyes as he read the book via a tablet computer. Gutted, I was. Absolutely gutted.
The actual tricks and pranks themselves aren’t all that difficult to perform, though their success will depend on your abilities. The beauty is that you won’t need to do any complicated sleight of hand or misdirection – your victim can’t see what you’re doing! – so even a dunce like me could get things right. Mostly.
Once you’ve gone through the tutorials and you’re feeling confident in your abilities, it’s time to line up a victim and get them in the headset and the hotseat. The show that I created consisted of three bits. The first was Roshambo VR, which is Rock, Paper, Scissors with a twist. The second was Mofo Knows, a carnival psychic attraction. Lastly, the final bit was Egg Quality Control, where the person in the headset must sort the bad eggs from the good. I’ll run you through what happened.
The first bit, Roshambo VR, had me holding one PS Move wand controller and my victim holding the other while she was in the headset. I explained to her that people can cheat at Roshambo in real life by watching people’s hands and delaying their action by a fraction of a second to gain an edge. I then explained that this edge is nullified in VR as we’ll both be holding a controller and our actions are dictated by what we press on the controller. Press nothing and your in-game hand will throw paper. Press one of the face buttons and you’ll throw rock. Press two face buttons at the same time and you’ll throw scissors. Simple enough.
We played a few rounds and, as expected by the Laws of Large Numbers, we were evenly split on our wins and losses. And then I pulled my trick. Or should I say, I pulled the trigger button three times and then set the controller down. I then snuck out onto my balcony and had a cigarette, sent a few texts, read some BBC news, and browsed PornHub. My victim? She carried on playing, getting ever more frustrated as she constantly lost. She had no idea I wasn’t even in the room. After 10 minutes of constantly losing, she removed the headset to find me stood at the balcony door waving the middle finger. F U number one, complete.
We had a good giggle about it and then moved onto the second bit. Mofo Knows.
This bit takes place in a carny barn where the bodyless head of Mofo the gorilla sits atop a table. He talks some shit for a couple of minutes, claiming to be fantastically magic and that he can gather information about the player by watching how they play through a series of mini-games. The victim in the headset is then instructed to play through a few simple mini-games, such as tossing a ball at stacks of cans, throwing darts at balloons and so on. Meanwhile, on the social screen, a pop-up has appeared with instructions for me, the prankster, to enter my victim’s date of birth using the DualShock 4 controller. Easy peasy. I do my piece and set the controller out of sight. I claim to not know anything about this bit and that it didn’t have a tutorial because it’s for single-player use only. I’m a damn good liar.
Once my victim had completed her mini-games it was time for Mofo to work his magic. First he revealed the star sign of my victim, then the year of their birth. Spooked out, my victim removed the headset and asked whether Mofo would work on me, too. I didn’t actually reveal that I was behind it all so, technically, this is a prank that is still in progress – I just need to figure out the end.
Bit three was the big finale and the reason I hadn’t been leaning on my right leg whilst sat on the sofa.
This bit required a bit more prep, but I was prepared. You need a table that the victim can slap, so I got a little side table and brought it in front of the sofa where she was sitting. I then explained that the PS Move controller would be set on top of table and that as she slapped the table, the motion sensor in the controller would detect her slap and would initiate the action in-game. Her task was to slap the table to get rid of the bad eggs and other undesirable items that flew down the chute, but leave the good eggs by not slapping the table when they appeared.
The reality is that slapping the table did nothing. The PS Move wand controller was on the table purely to calibrate the height of the virtual table she would be slapping. The PS Move controller in my hand, however, was useful. Every time she slapped the table I’d pull the trigger, and that is what made things happen on-screen. Do it right and your victim has no idea, do it poorly and they’ll either suss it out, or become incredibly frustrated. My victim was very frustrated. I pulled the trigger randomly, or didn’t pull it at all. After a couple of minutes of being a dick, I did it properly and she was then convinced she was having an influence on the game. Little did she know that I had an egg in my right pocket, and that I had no just placed it on the table where she would soon smack her hand.
It worked beautifully and she shrieked as I removed the headset from her head; I didn’t want her eggs hands touching my precious gear. We laughed and then got to cleaning the mess. The reality is that you could use anything – it doesn’t have to be an egg, but I wanted maximum effect.
That’s just a flavour of what you can do in Penn & Teller VR. You can create your own shows with whatever bits you want in whatever order you like. However, you’ll always need new victims. Penn & Teller is only as good as you make it, and without a steady flow of unsuspecting victims, this one will soon be left to wither and die in your digital library. I’ll be keeping it in my library for when I have people round, but that’s not as often as I’d like.
For the single player content, there’s really not much, and after you’ve done those solo bits once, there’s not really much reason to go back and do it again.
I’ve always loved magic and Penn & Teller are always a good watch. It’s fun to be able to step into their famous shoes for a few minutes and pretend I’m just as good as they are. But it really is just a few minutes, and the longevity of this game really will depend on how many people you can convince to don your headset and trust you not to poke them with sticks while they’re not looking.
Penn & Teller VR PSVR Review
Overall - Very Good - 7/10
Penn & Teller VR is the only virtual reality game I know of that delivers more fun outside of the headset than in it, but that’s just typical for the Las Vegas duo. They can’t do anything by the rules, can they? You’ll get a masterclass in pranking your friends and family, but that class is only as long as your friend list.
- Pranks and tricks are easy to learn.
- Pranks and tricks are easy to pull off and the effects are brilliant.
- Ability to customise your own shows and save them as playlists, perhaps different shows for different victims.
- Single-player content is not much, and once you’ve done it, there’s little reason to do it again.
- Unless you’ve got a lot of people to show this off to on a regular basis, it’s going to be played a couple of times and then untouched until Christmas and other family gatherings.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.
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Chris has been writing about gaming news for far too long, and now he’s doing it even more. A true PlayStation know-it-all, Chris has owned just about every Sony console that ever existed. Trophies are like crack to this fella. (Bronze trophies, that is – he only has one Platinum.)