It turns out that exercise can actually be really fun, albeit a little frustrating. No, I’m not talking about going to the gym, running around the park, or punching dead cows as a means to get tough for the big fight against the communists. I’m talking about TreeFortress’ Holoball for PSVR. It’s the first game to make me sweat like a pig and still keep grinning like a fool. But what is Holoball, I hear you ask to screen that can’t reply. Take a seat, grab a cuppa, and let me tell you about it.
Holoball is a simple game. You play it with one or two PS Move controllers (it’s better with two, trust me) and the PSVR headset, the latter being painfully obvious, yet I still get emails to this day asking if Robinson: The Journey can be played sans PSVR. Your one and only goal in this game is to smash a ball with your virtual racket. That’s it.
It’s basically Pong for the new generation of gamers. You’re at one end of a huge Tron-like room, and at the other end is a big square. Mr. Square is your opponent, and he’s kinda dickish. By that I mean he gets progressively more aggressive with his shots as you beat him from round to round. It’s fair, mind you, otherwise you’d just be waving your arms around like a lunatic without the sense of reward. Each round has you play against Mr. Square in a battle to reach a set number of points, and after you win a round, Mr. Square starts hitting the ball at faster speeds which become harder and harder to anticipate and react to. You win by hitting the ball past Mr Square. You hit the ball with your racket. You use your racket by swinging your arms. I feel like this game kind of talks for itself…
It sounds simple, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. It’s gameplay in its purest form. There’s no ‘gameplay loop’ or ‘system’ or any of that other drivel that modern games get bogged down in, just pure, unadulterated, unashamedly fun gameplay. It’s not easy, though, and once I’d made my way out of the ‘easy’ and ‘normal’ stages, I started to get my arse handed to me in every sense; yes, I fell over because I’m a clumsy git and I didn’t account for all the space I’d be needing, which brings me onto the requirements for Holoball.
This isn’t a game you can just sit on your bum to play. Well, technically you could, but then you’d be having around 4% of the fun that you would have while standing. Holoball’s true brilliance lies in its ability to let you reach out and move around, the latter being to a limited extent. You’re given a play area that you can adjust to your own needs, so if you’ve only got a limited play area you can go to the settings and adjust accordingly. Neato, no? However, if you’re fortunate to have a fairly decent bit of space in your play area, you’re free to go mental. The game recommends being around 7-8 feet away from the camera. This is so that it can track your movements from as far up as you can reach, right down to the floor below. Fortunately, the tracking works like a dream for the majority of the time, though I did have a few moments where my rackets had a meltdown, but thankfully these were few and far between.
I’m lucky enough to have a fairly big (I’m being humble, it’s bloody huge!) living room, so it was no issue moving the sofa back across the room so I could let rip. And let rip I did. I was able to reach up high to smash the curve balls Mr. Square sent my way, and I had no problem reaching down to the ground to defend the cheeky low balls the swine played. I was even able to move around and not get lost by the PSVR’s tracking camera, though I wouldn’t suggest it due to the cables running from the PS4 to the PSVR are a little dangerous for going walkies. Point is, it works, and it works very well.
Note: Ordinarily we’d include some gameplay footage that we’ve captured to include as part of the review. We do this so that you don’t just have to rely on our words or pretty pictures. Unfortunately, while we’re able to post this review whenever we like, we’re not allowed to post gameplay footage online until November 22nd when the game releases in North America. We’ll be sure to update this review with some gameplay footage once the embargo is over.
In all, Holoball is a beasty little game and easily the most fun I’ve had doing physical activity that didn’t involve… Let’s not go there. What I’m trying to say is that Holoball is a bloody good game: there’s the bonkers gameplay which gets harder and faster as you progress, and then you’ve got the different game modes to try out, one of which is a ‘Zen’ mode. This is just you hitting the ball back and forth against a wall, yet it’s oddly relaxing while being furiously addictive due to the highscore for hitting a not-real ball against a not-real wall. Back in my day, I’d kick a ball against a wall, but it looks like my son will never need to outside to play sport.
I’d be doing a disservice if I didn’t mention the game’s outstanding soundtrack. Now, as any regular readers of Pure PlayStation will know, I’m an ardent fan on The Killers and they’re basically all I listen to. That being said, the game’s soundtrack couldn’t fit it any better. Dance with the Dead’s electro-tunes are the perfect fit for this futuristic Pong. Wait, it’s not futuristic. It’s actually here.
Holoball PS4/PSVR Review
Holoball made me sweat, and for that I hate it. But it also gave me hours of fun, and for that I love it. It's the most simple concept in gaming that's older than myself: Hit a ball back-and-forth and try to score a point. A premise so simple, yet so elegantly executed. Toss in the fact it's releasing at a fair price and you've got yourself a genuine bargain.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital code provided by the game’s publisher. This has no effect on the content of the review or the final score awarded. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
* Reviewed using a PS4 Slim, not a PS4 Pro.