Fans of the 1993 Bill Murray film, Groundhog Day, have all been chanting from the rooftops in unison since the day that film came out about how much this film needs a sequel, specifically in the form of a virtual reality video game. Well, it only took 25 years, but back in 2019, those dreams were met when Groundhog Day – Like Father Like Son was released.
Okay, but for real though, who in the world actually thought Groundhog Day needed a sequel? A sequel almost feels like you’re missing the whole point of that movie, or at the very least, didn’t see how beautifully encapsulated it was into one simple story that really shouldn’t need any continuation.
That being said, almost the same second my wife came home with a VR headset for me, I had a copy of this game on my hard drive, which I then began playing nearly immediately. So, you know, I’m one of those idiots who would have totally watched a sequel if it had been produced, thereby proving once again that I am unable to kick my addiction to Hollywood’s bleeding beloved franchises dry.
But here’s the thing, this silly little video game, which relies far too much on obnoxious mini-games, especially the spray painting one which feels like it should have gone through a few more years worth of development before still being thrown out of the end product, does something I would have never expected. It actually manages to improve the first movie. I’m not suggesting that it improves on the first movie, as that movie was a far better specimen than this game could ever be, but the twists and turns you go through in this game actually manages to highlight a new perspective on the first movie, giving us additional details on Phil Connor’s life past the infamous repeating day of the groundhog, and ultimately doing a superior job of explaining the reasons for Phil’s being stuck in a time loop outside of finally getting Andie MacDowell into bed.
I’m a little ashamed to admit that the final revelations in the game brought more than a few tears to my eyes as I realized that this story about Phil Connors’ son ended up becoming a story about fatherhood and how difficult it is to be the man you want to be for your kids.
The story was surprisingly, sweet. The actual gameplay, on the other hand, was really nothing more than a distraction from that. While some of them were fun distractions, such as the dance contest you get to have with Needlenose Ned, others were truly obnoxious and impossible, like the previously mentioned spray painting one, or the guitar one, and then there was the one where you try to make a rock sculpture which gives nearly no information on what to do, only for you to find out that it really requires almost no effort.
I think this game had a truly missed opportunity in allowing for the manic actions we see Bill Murray go through in the movie, where he’s trying everything to get out of the loop. Heck, even just having a battle with a groundhog would have added some more fun to the story. Instead, you very quickly try to be as good as possible just so you don’t have to hear the same dialogue over and over again. In a story about how you can do simply anything without repercussions (outside of having to live the day over again), you’re incredibly limited in what you can do, or when you can do it. Sure, you can throw bacon at your brother’s head while he’s telling you about how much he needs his cappuccino, but that doesn’t do anything outside of cause him to stop talking for a half second to call you a name before he continues on with what he’s doing anyway. You can’t even hit anybody with your enormous disembodied hands. Really, the worst you can do is to get drunk at the end of the day, only for the new day to start immediately after having your first drink.
This is where I think the developers really failed. One of the best things about VR is the ability to do things you can’t do in reality. I can burn the pancakes just fine on my own, but it might be nice if they had, instead of spending so much time on things like the coffee grinding mini-game, they had thrown in the opportunity for me to, I don’t know, go on a driving rampage through town before Thelma and Louise-ing myself off a cliff with the groundhog at the wheel.
The story hidden within this game is truly spectacular, but the game itself just doesn’t quite go far enough into what makes the reality of a time loop fun.
So, I’m on the fence. While it’s certainly a good introduction into VR itself, as it has a bunch of little mini-games that can help you understand how a lot of VR games work, and you can screw around here and there with some places that allow you to interact with your surroundings, the truth is that in a platform that should allow for the freedom that a time loop game mechanic would thrive in, they really botched allowing you to do anything, meaning this game is a far cry from what it should have been, even if I’ll still suggest it just for the feels that you’ll get by the end.
But seriously, that spray painting mini-game was the worst.