Review: Barn Finders VR

Playing Barn Finders VR feels a bit like one of those reality TV shows you watch when there’s nothing else on, or you’re stuck at home ill, with only daytime TV to get you through. There’s a sense of being watched by cameras as you pick through old barns looking for value, or bidding on a storage unit which contains a valuable item. Half the time I was playing I wanted to look directly into a camera lens and raise my eyebrows at the audacity of those trying to outbid me.

The Barn Finders, that’s the player and their redneck relation, operate a store which seems to sell bits and pieces pulled out of random barns. At first, the store is barren; every shelf holds only dust, floor displays are broken wooden pallets. Utilising the store’s handy (and ancient) computer, customers will get in contact asking the Barn Finders to search a property for a particular item – we can keep everything else we find and sell it in-store.

I went out to the first barn looking for a taxidermy deer. I seemingly had superhuman strength as I could pick up huge wooden crates, vehicle tires and myriad large knick-knacks. At first, I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. At one point I picked up a taxidermy… I think it was an otter (it was bad taxidermy) and when I placed it down a countdown timer appeared with no other prompts. Eventually, I worked out that when the timer hit zero, I had to pick up the item again which would package it into the truck out back.

Using the controllers I pointed at cans, bottles, and random rubbish which could be recycled with the press of a button. Now I knew what the timer meant I began picking up everything to see if it could be collected. Eventually, I found the deer we’d come for, threw it into the truck and headed back to the shop.

Around the store are areas designated for cleaning items or repairing them. Of course, these took cash to unlock, so I began placing the items I found in the store. The shelves still looked bare, so I chose to bid on a storage unit next. After driving out, and watching one of the many bizarre cutscenes which feel as if pulled from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, it was time to bid. Of course, I won the unit, bidding seemed a bit pointless as I assume clearing the unit is part of the campaign.

I repeated everything from the barn, this time finding more mechanical parts and an entire truck which could be sold in the yard of the store. I was quietly enjoying the concept of the game, it’s not going to win any awards, but there was something oddly relaxing and satisfying about roaming these cavernous spaces looking for potential treasures.

Also oddly pleasing is the shopping experience offered to the customers back at the store. Patrons enter and stand by the item they want, sparking a conversation, which leads to some haggling over prices. Using a slightly wonky UI, you can hold out for a better price, refuse the sale or let the item go for the offered amount. 

Frustratingly, a moving bar must be stopped in the right zone to trigger a successful haggling attempt and the motion controls just aren’t good enough. In fact, anytime I had to ‘physically’ press a button it took a few attempts. Several times I sold an item for lower than I wanted because the sensitivity is skewed.

Otherwise, I was enjoying my time in this faux TV entertainment. The attention to detail in the environments and items is quirky and the developers have committed to the redneck family stylings in a wonderfully ironic way. The idea of rooting through these spaces is always appealing, but like many similar games (House Flipper I’m looking at you) it’s enjoyable but gets repetitive quite quickly.

There are odd driving forces aside from the core concept – the store can be upgraded visually, there are comic book pages to discover and hidden items which require revisiting areas and exploring again. Your mileage will vary depending on your patience.

It’s hard to say whether VR really offers anything to the concept here. There weren’t really any moments where I marvelled at something I was manipulating in virtual reality; the whole experience could be played with mouse and keyboard and affect nothing within the game. While that’s not a major detraction, it would be nice to have some features that justify the need for VR.