Welcome to Holoball, the TRON-styled death sport of the future — we’ll get to the death part in a minute. This is the 3rd title developed by TreeFortress Games. It’s also their first released foray in the VR space. Released on Steam in April, with the overall reviews being “Very Positive”. It just launched this week on PSVR.
I must admit that on paper Holoball didn’t seem to be that unique or interesting to me, but once I saw the trailer I was instantly sold. The retro neon aesthetic hit all of my high notes and something about the gameplay looked different enough.
The game is a futuristic version of racquetball or squash. The main difference being that instead of your opponent being of same size and stature of you as a human, which you are continually reminded of by the A.I.’s comical and snarky comments, you play against a square PONG-like paddle. This paddle is controlled by the talkative A.I. and it can travel the entire vertical and horizontal surface of the wall that you are hitting towards. You score a point by getting the ball past the A.I. and lose a point if you miss a shot. The A.I. also has a special power move that “catches” the ball every third shot. When it triggers this special it sends out a more powerful super-shot that is a little unpredictable in trajectory. The A.I. is not the only one with a special power though, you can tether a shot after you’ve hit it. If you hit a wild ball that has little forward momentum you can tether the ball which essentially sucks it back to you so that you can hit it again. This comes in handy as a ball that doesn’t make it to the other end of the arena in a few bounces will be deemed a “Dead Ball” and reset.
Move controllers are required for this game and the tracking is very accurate. Hit the ball with a lateral swipe and you will add some spin. This spin shot is almost required to get past the A.I. as you progress to the harder difficulties. Holoball, more than any game I’ve tried thus far, requires the most available physical space. You can move quite a bit in your little box, but I do caution you to be careful of your surroundings. I referenced the term “death sport” in my intro and that is because I nearly killed my hand. I have an overhead vent in my play space that is about 7 feet high, and I hit it at full force not once but twice with an hard overhead smash — The second time drawing blood. Thankfully I was streaming my play so this little snafu will forever be immortalized on the internet.
There are 2 modes in Holoball, one of which has 3 sub modes. You can select between Campaign and Arcade. In the campaign there is a story, but don’t ask me exactly what it entails. The gist of it is that you’re a human trying to escape from captivity and have to play this future-sport against an A.I. I definitely got a Glados vibe from the A.I. both in its inflection and humor which I thoroughly enjoyed. You progress through the campaign by beating the A.I. at different difficulties, starting at Easy and going all the way to Expert. The first to 5 points wins the round, win five rounds and you win. As you progress through the campaign your virtual environments get larger. This is the main way that the developers increase the difficulty as you progress. As far as I can tell the A.I. itself doesn’t seem to get any more challenging; it just starts moving faster as the levels progress. The larger stages force quicker head movements to properly track the ball. There is also a custom campaign that allows you to tweak every detail of the A.I.’s behavior. I really liked how many things that you could tweak here and having these options will greatly improve the replayability. I did find myself wanting more out of the Campaign however, maybe more of a narrative in this future game of survival would have helped.
The other included mode is Arcade which is a series of point based games: Zen, Score Attack and Endurance. Zen lets you play without penalty; you can rally back and forth forever without any fear of losing. It does count the amount of hits you take though which will tie into some of the games trophies. Score attack is similar to the campaign except you are limited to just 3 lives. Endurance has a similar setup to Score Attack but the point of this mode is to see how far you can progress with your 3 lives. These extra game modes really mix things up and keep the game fresh.
TreeFortress Games included a multiplayer mode of sorts in this title. You can play local multiplayer with a friend and two Move controllers. Holoball is screaming for an online multiplayer mode and luckily Treefortress Games is hard at work on an update that will include just that! I can’t wait to see how the competition grows in the community once this mode is released. I’m picturing sponsored TRON-like jumpsuits, 80’s hairstyles and headbands. Add in cool names like the Neon Dragons, or Radical Ratts! and Holoball could be the next great E-Sport that may just be more physical than the others!
Holoball is fun and sweat filled affair. Coming in under $12 this game is a bargain. It also gives you a real workout while playing, but don’t let that dissuade from checking it out. As it stands, Holoball is on my short list of “must own” PSVR titles. It is well worth the asking price and takes the tried and true “PONG” genre and expands on it with humor, neon-aesthetics, and spot on gameplay.
- Impressive amount of movement in physical space
- Accurate and robust control
- Constant fun
- A workout
- Large space requirement
- No real story
- A workout
I played a review copy of Holoball that was provided by Treefortress Games. If you have questions about our review scale please see our About page.
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