Ever since Sparc was announced as a first and true eSports type of game for the PSVR, I knew I wanted in. It catered to my competitive nature and looked to reintroduce dodgeball to the world in virtual form. Can’t tell you why I love the sport, but maybe it just has something to do with showing others you’re better at dodging and throwing than they are. Yes, Patches O’Houlihan would be proud. Little did I know that Sparc would be so much more than simply throwing a ball down a hallway. The simple fun and bliss of what CCP Games has orchestrated here finally shows how virtual reality can be taken seriously in the competitive gaming world.
The whole premise of Sparc is a 1-on-1 game of hit each other with a ball while in a rectangular arena. Each player will have their own sphere to throw which can be simply tossed all the way to calculated bounces off walls. If one of them hits a player’s upper body, a point is scored. If a ball passes through a circular zone behind you, called a strike zone, the opponent gets a strike. The more of these that stack up, the bigger and faster their ball becomes. Naturally, this means faster paced gameplay and a mechanic to quell even the best dodgers. Dodging isn’t the only defense you’ll have, however. In basic modes you’ll be able to punch an opponent’s ball away and when you have your ball in your hand, it forms a shield which can deflect the other oncoming projectile. Unfortunately, it breaks apart after you use it and you must throw the ball away until it returns to you. Then your shield will re-materialize.
To be clear, when I say dodging I mean you actually have to move. The game does a great job of maintaining and registering your upper body with the PSVR headset and two Move controllers alone. So expect to sweat and/or have a towel nearby like me. Even though only your upper body is targetable, your feet will be moving quite often. Other tactics include: deflecting an enemy’s ball and throwing your own at the same time, bouncing and ricocheting shots off of walls at different angles, curving your throws like you would in real life, and even timing your throw when the opponent’s ball is returning to them so they have to deal with double the trouble. The best part though? All of this is done through the PS Move trigger and nothing more. That and moving your own body of course.
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For such an intricate and fast-paced sport, the technology needs to be there to make this as seamless as possible. No lag, framerate problems, or hit detection issues between the PSVR, the Move controllers, and Sparc’s software. I’m happy to report it works flawlessly. In the twenty plus hours I’ve played so far I haven’t encountered a single issue or labeled any point scored against me as “bullshit.” The animations and ball movements are incredibly smooth, throwing accuracy is pinpoint, and deflections result in life-like angles and bounces. So much so that I was able to achieve best in the world in throwing training. (I’m an athlete in real life so I can do a lot of athletic things, unlike our fatboy editor Chris). The only “technical” problem I’ve had so far was when a second ball of mine appeared in its spawn area and didn’t go away or couldn’t be picked up. It was transparent though so there was no interference.
Unfortunately, Sparc lacks some singleplayer game modes. There’s the tutorial that will teach you the basics and challenge mode which will test your skills on things like throwing, deflecting, and a bit of both at once. Essentially, you just hit a target with your ball. Other than that there’s little to do by yourself. Multiplayer isn’t that much better in this regard, but the exhilaration and joy of playing this sport with other people is unmeasurable. There’s three game modes online. One has a basic rule set, the second has more skilled objectives, and the third is more of an experimental arena with some non-standard qualities. Each one can host up to four players with only two playing at once. The others are actually giant kaiju monsters that watch active games in a little rectangular box. This setup works very nicely for the competitive aspect of the title as people can easily queue in and not feel left out like in certain fighting games.
Lastly, the customization is actually more extensive that I originally thought. Whether you are a kaiju watching matches or engaged in an exciting game, your character (or should I say upper body) can be completely decked out in accessories. Shirts, masks, eyewear, hairstyles, and gloves can all be color swapped as well as offer different designs. Just make sure to spin the wheel underneath the selections to see them all. Even your “aura” can be changed to whatever color suits you depending on what side of the arena you’re on. This will also dictate your shield and hair color. It’s quite cool and more in-depth than Sparc had any right to be.
While the game’s lack of modes are more than made up by the simple fun factor alone, there are still valid criticisms. Having just four players in one lobby can lead to a lot of repeat matches and not a lot of variety. Bumping the number up to six or eight players might offer a remedy for the staleness of beating the same people over and over again. Also, the virtual multiplayer lobbies you’ll find yourself in are quite bland. A nice color touch up or meaningful designs other than a circular room might prove useful. The same can be said with the game’s atmosphere. An appropriate, official soundtrack could have done Sparc wonders in the entertainment category. Dodging, bumping, and throwing to the beat of certain tracks could elevate this game even more. More so than chit chatter or sound effects.
Sparc PSVR Review
If any virtual reality title would convince people to dive into the technology or take it seriously as an eSport, Sparc is that title. It's simple playground fun with none of the bullying or awkward relationships. Needless to say, CCP Games' creation works and works well. Everything is as smooth as can be for a game that has competitive gaming dreams. Let's just hope that more arenas, items, and modes are added to keep the casual fan base around and even more complexity is inserted for the comp squads. Also, you know...if you like throwing a ball down a hallway, then this PSVR title will make you enjoy it like you were a kid again.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a retail copy of the game bought at the expense of the reviewer. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using base PS4.