Groundhog Day is one of those classic Bill Murray movies that is often held up as the reason why he’s such a fantastic actor. Absolutely hilarious, it features Murray trapped in an endless time loop, forced to repeat the same day over and over until he can perform it perfectly and get out. Someone thought this would be the perfect act to follow up on with a VR sequel. Groundhog Day: Like Father Like Son has sought to be that sequel, but is it worth getting trapped in this loop?
You play as Phil Jr., a self-centered vlogger that comes back to the town of Punxsutawney to attend a ceremony for his father, but with the real goal of filming what a disaster he expects it to be in an effort to get a high paying job for a streaming company. It doesn’t take long before his brother’s daughter drives a van through the wall of his mom’s house, the statue meant to honor his dad isn’t finished, and bumbling insurance man Ned accidentally lights the entire park on fire. It’s all great footage except for one problem. Phil wakes up the next day and finds himself trapped in a time loop, just like his dad. Now he needs to repeat the same day over and over until he can perform it perfectly, learning a lesson about family and humility along the way.
It’s basically the exact same story as the movie, which is fine. The goal is essentially just to be a playable version of Groundhog Day but as a VR adventure game, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Thankfully, some great voice acting and genuinely funny lines help sell this as something actually really fun. While none of the actors from the movie show up, all the voice actors manage to fit their roles extremely well. From Phil’s high-strung caffeine obsessed brother to the angry ex-girlfriend that calls him at the start of every day, each character has several funny lines and delivers them all perfectly.
For the first few loops, Groundhog Day can best be compared to one of those early VR games where you just sort of play with weird physics while a story happens around you. You’ll knock things over, break glass, find strange combinations, and other silly stuff. Occasionally you’ll make a dialogue choice by literally grabbing speech balloons and squeezing them until they pop, which is cute and visually interesting. However, there’s not really much to the game up until about the third or fourth loop.
It’s here where things suddenly take a turn by introducing a really weird minigame that has Phil learning to fix a cappuccino machine. Groundhog Day represents him learning this by having Phil shrink down to the size of an ant and has him shoot “energy” at coffee beans in a strange first-person shooting segment. At first, it’s actually pretty clever, a fun little distraction from the talking and poking things. Yet like nearly every minigame that’s to come, this section far outstayed its welcome. At some point, I realized I had been doing this for nearly 30 minutes, and it didn’t really have 30 minutes of content.
This is How to Fix a Coffee Machine, Don’t Ask
There’s a variety of minigames in Groundhog Day that had me doing things like carving a statue of Phil’s father into a rock, dancing with Ned, cooking breakfast for the family, shooting T-shirts into a crowd, or spray painting groundhogs onto a wall. However, each of these minigames started cute and ended up making me groan, just wishing they’d end. Worse, several of these minigames required me to perform them perfectly to get them to count as finished. Even if you as a player perform it perfectly the game decides that Phil, as a character, couldn’t perform it perfectly because he hasn’t done it enough times yet, and you’ll be forced to repeat the minigame until you both get it perfect several times and Phil has done it enough times to “get it perfect” in character.
Other minigames just suffer from being too difficult. The dancing one, in particular, is the worst. The idea is that you’re supposed to follow Ned’s hand movements while he does a dance, but there’s no indicator on your end to tell you where your hands are supposed to go, how good you’re actually doing, or even if you’re supposed to be acting out the part he’s currently at. The minigame is ridiculously difficult, and the developers themselves seemed aware of it since it’s the only minigame where you can skip the entire day and repeat directly if you choose too. Why you can’t do anything like using your in-universe knowledge of how the dance goes to make it easier for the player is beyond me.
Killing Yourself Does Not End the Loop
While I understand it’s trying to emulate the movie, this ultimately makes Groundhog Day: Like Father Like Son not any fun to play. Having to repeat the same tedious, overly lengthy, and often difficult, minigames over and over is just not fun. While I can say I was impressed with the storytelling and voice acting, and it really did feel a lot of effort went into making the game feel just like the movie. I just wish it was actually fun to play.
Groundhog Day: Like Father Like Son review code provided by the publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR headset. For more information on scoring please read our Review Policy.