Outside of owning an HTC Vive, with its impressive room-scale technology, I assumed I would be spending all of my time playing PlayStation VR games sitting down or standing in place. HoloBall sets you in a retro style dystopian future, ruled by rogue AI. With your paddle in hand, you must defeat your opponent in the most thrilling and blood pumping cross between racquetball and Pong.
HoloBall sets the game world boundaries based on your available play space, meaning the more room you have, the more ground you'll have to cover. During calibrating, you stretch out your arms to help the game determine what play area to use. Of course, if you don’t want to, you can calibrate the playing area to a much smaller zone, keeping the majority of the action directly in front of you. I should also mention that the game works best when you are between six and eight feet away from the PlayStation Camera. This is in stark contrast to the five and a half feet that Sony recommends as being the optimal distance away when playing PlayStation VR games.
Working up a sweat in a virtual reality game is no laughing matter. In the heat of the moment, you'll want to ensure you never lose control of your PlayStation Move controller. While the tip of the controller may be soft to the touch, swinging it full force into a wall, lamp, or even having it slip out of your grasp can be a painful and costly reminder. Wear your wrist straps; no one is judging you.
The visual art style makes you believe you are trapped in a Tron-esque world, overwhelming your senses with vividly illuminated neon lights and a rocking synthwave soundtrack. Using your paddle, you’ll smash the ball in an attempt to get it past the shield-shaped AI opponent. Everything from the amount of power behind your swing, the angle of your paddle and where you make contact with the ball all have an effect on the trajectory. Just barely nick it with the edge of your paddle, and it will float slowly upwards and possibly dangerously behind you. A tethering mechanic allows you to pull the ball towards you if you are dissatisfied with the contact made.
Curving the ball is one strategy that works well on the lower difficulties, but as you defeat opponents, the AI gains new abilities. With every defeat, the AI gains faster reflexes, and more powerful, and faster shots. Increasing the difficulty also changes the shape of the AI you are competing against, making it much harder to score a goal. Not only that but they are more likely to charge up their shot, attempting to whiz a curved shot past you.
Momentum plays a significant impact in determining shots, and if the ball loses all momentum while it is still under your control, your opponent gains a point. When your opponent touches the ball, it will change its color to red.
Along with the main campaign mode, there are three additional arcade modes that add additional replay value to the game. Zen mode allows you to hit the ball continuously against the wall until you miss. Endurance limits you to only three lives, as you lose a life anytime the AI scores. Score Attack tasks you with competing for the highest score against increasing difficult rounds. Unlike Endurance where a goal counts as a single point, your score can is multiplied by time, the location of the goal, the type of shot, and more.
It doesn’t take long before you can accurately aim your shots with pinpoint precision. Currently, the PlayStation VR version of HoloBall only features single-player gameplay but does contain online leaderboards for all available game modes and difficulties. I would be intrigued to see TreeFortress Games add online multiplayer to the game, allowing you to compete against another player.
HoloBall is an action oriented sports game, determined to get players up off their seat and moving around against a highly competitive AI. While the premise is simple, the game is pure bliss. HoloBall features highly addicting gameplay, and I keep finding myself coming back for more. Your AI opponent even trash talks you during matches, and I found myself gesturing with my paddle after scoring a goal.
Note: The review for HoloBall is based on a digital PlayStation 4 copy of the game, provided by the publisher.