Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive and Dodge; The 5 tenets of Dodgeball. They could also be applied to Sparc, the first true eSport game released for the PlayStation VR. Essentially it is a 1 vs 1 game of “Throw the ball and hit the other guy without getting hit yourself” and while the game will immediately invoke memories of Average Joes vs GloboGym, there is more to Sparc than first meets the eye and CCP Games have opened up a world of possibilities when it comes to creating fully immersive multiplayer games for the PSVR.
The action takes place in a corridor with your opponent at the far end. Each player will have their own sphere to fling at their competition. If one of them hits a player’s upper body, a point is scored. If a ball bounces off a “strike zone” behind you, the opponent gets a strike which incrementally increases the speed of their throws making it much harder to get out of the way. When you have your ball in your hand, it becomes a shield which can be used to defend your body and your strike zone but can only be used once. In order to get it to reappear, you must throw your ball and wait for it to bounce back to you. It sounds ridiculously complex but within minutes, it will become second nature.
The only option that is available for solo players is pretty much the tutorial. While it is essential to learn the basics of the games mechanics, it is also quite a bit of fun. The subtle nuances of changing your hand shape as you release the ball to alter the trajectory and throwing while dodging are daunting at first but when you get the hang of it, you will be bounding around your living room, frantically calculating the best way of spinning your ball against the wall to get the best angle to score a point, while simultaneously twisting your body to avoid being struck. It’s not a game that you can play sitting down or with little room to maneuver.
But Sparc is not built to be played offline. There are 3 different online modes; basic, challenging and experimental with each lobby having the ability to cater for 4 people. As the game is 1 vs 1, when 4 people are in the lobby, the 2 that are not playing are giant spectators watching the game from the sidelines. It’s a neat feature and does prevent you bored while waiting your turn by allowing you to harass your upcoming opponent while showing off your characters new accessories such as hats, hairstyles, shirts etc.
One of my main concerns coming into this game was that for a game of this style, it is imperative that would be no connection or hit detection issues. It would be a complete game-breaker if a game that relied on pin-point accuracy and timing suffered from any lag or VR tracking issues. Thankfully, in all my hours of gameplay, I encountered only one lag issue and that was my own internet connection that caused the issue, not the game. It’s remarkable how immersive and accurate your movements are represented by your on-screen avatar.
Sparc certainly is a terrific advertisement for Sony’s VR capabilities and establishes them as serious contenders in the Virtual Reality headset war. Sparc has cemented itself alongside Resident Evil VII and Headmaster as Sony’s “must-have” killer games for the PSVR.