Probe: A Game Dev Experience is a unique project developed by Voxel Labs and published through Sony Interactive Entertainment España as part of the PlayStation Talents initiative. It’s out for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, and supports PlayStation VR headsets as well – which was our way to play for this review.
If you follow game releases on Steam, then you’ll have noticed that in recent years there’s been a bit of a trend where game developers go “meta” and create games like Game Dev Tycoon, Game Dev Masters and Indie Dev Simulator. Many of those games are designed as management/sim titles though, which makes Probe: A Game Dev Experience a different kind of look at how game development works.
As the title suggest, this isn’t a straight up game in the traditional sense, but instead walks the line between an “experience” and a videogame – which is part of why we think Probe works much better in VR than it does on a flat screen, where the experience is far less immersive. If we had to give a one sentence description of the game, we’d say it was akin to a hands-on tour of a game development studio, realized in VR. That’s not going to draw everyone in, but those with a passing interest in how games are created will find it interesting to see the process unfold and be part of it.
Probe: A Game Dev Experience takes players by the hand and gives them a near full overview of how games are made. Though many aspects probably merely scratch the surface, it’s interesting to see for those of us looking in for the first time, getting to know about the processes behind art, programming and testing.
It’s all done in a narrative kind of way as well, with a story that starts off with an invite to come work at EcoSoft (which I initially kept confusing with the studio behind X4: Foundations). In what is a fairly straightforward experience, you take the job, which is where you’ll quickly run into the fact that Probe was made on a limited budget. Characters at EcoSoft all look different and rich with personality, but none of them are voiced, so be prepared for some immersion-breaking text-based conversations.
As you explore the studio, you’ll run into different team member who all have different skills and thus have different tasks and challenges for you to get involved with. You feel a bit like the intern who gets to help everyone out, but while doing so you get fun little insights into their work process without it ever turning into a lecture. Everything’s very hands on, though the controls should’ve made more use of motion controls in the VR version.
So while the audiovisual experience could have certainly been richer, with voiceovers and a soundscape that doesn’t make EcoSoft seem like the most quiet workplace on earth, this is an interesting window into game development for those who are interested. If you’re not, then there are better VR games out there, like Job Simulator.