Sparc PlayStation VR Review

Publisher: CCP Games  Developer: CCP North America  Genre: Sports  Players: 1-2  

Age Rating: 7+  Other console/handheld formats: N/A

When playing VR games it’s always nice to play a traditional experience, with VR giving a different perspective on it, but, like with traditional gaming, it’s also very appealing to try out some brand new experiences, helping to truly freshen things up. Sparc is a good example of the latter, and with it developer CCP Games have combined rules from well known sports to create their very own sport, or vSport as said developer is calling it.

There’s some decent character customisation options in order to concoct your own player to represent you on the court.

Firstly, let me get one thing straight, Sparc really isn’t a game for the lone gamer. With only a tutorial mode and a few challenges, there honestly isn’t much here for the single player. What these options do help you out with, however, is getting you used to the rules of the game, as well as allowing you to practice your technique before going online and showing it to the world.

As mentioned in my opening paragraph, Sparc takes rules from popular sports, but it still feels like a brand new experience. Taking inspiration from Tennis, Dodgeball, and Baseball, the rules come across as rather complicated to begin with, but I’m sure they will become clear to most players within half an hour or so of play. The Tennis inspiration comes from knocking balls back and forth, whereas avoiding balls with your body means that it has a rule plucked from Dodgeball, and a strike system finally recalls Baseball.

The game makes use of two PlayStation Move controllers, and the tracking feels accurate enough, which is always a good start for a game that requires fast and responsive feedback. With that said, I’ll now try and explain the rules of the game in as simple of a manner as possible. Basically, players have a ball each, and it’s possible for both of these balls to be in play at once, with the aim being to strike your opponent with them. When your own ball is flying about, it’s possible to be hit by it, but it’s also possible to catch it as it comes towards you, and when said ball is in your hand, a shield-like bat can be used to hit your opponents ball back a single time, and then the shield must be recharged by tossing your own ball in order to use it again. Sometimes you’ll have to move out of the way of balls in order to avoid being hit by them, and this can often result in the other player earning a strike. Strikes in Sparc result in the growth of your own ball, and it also helps speed up your ball as well, which means that the more strikes you earn against your opponent, the more momentum that you’ll have. If you get hit by a ball, however, the strike number will be reset to zero.

The game also has differing difficulty levels, with the basic rule set giving you protective gloves that can also be used to punch your opponents ball back, and is therefore an extra defensive option for you. In the tougher advanced ruleset, however, these protective gloves are deactivated, which makes for something that feels quite different – it’s definitely something that is suited to more high level play. The final experimental option allows you to play the game on an altered court, which definitely changes things up thanks to the rather odd geometry. Depending on which mode you play, it’s either points based or time based, with basic rules matches lasting for three minutes for example, while matches played with advanced rules are the first to four points.

Sparc’s multiplayer must also be praised for how smooth it is, which was always a requisite for such a game, but the success of getting things working properly is appreciated all the same. I never experienced any lag when playing, and I always felt that any failure was due to myself as opposed to the game’s network code. Another reason to praise the multiplayer is the excellent lobby, which allows you to spectate the game as a giant, with the competing players being visible in the court below you. When actually playing in a match, it’s even possible to see the gigantic players on the sidelines, waiting for their turn. Speaking of which, in order to play a match you have to add yourself to the queue, but if you’d rather just have a rest and spectate, then that’s possible as well.

See the circle behind the character? That’s the strike zone, meaning that any ball that lands in here earns the opposing player a strike. If the ball hits anywhere else behind the character, however, it’ll simply bounce away harmlessly.

With few overall options though, and very little for the single player, the game does feel rather limited. With the latter said, the rules and the mechanics of the game are so rock solid that it’s easy to look past such things when being thrilled by a highly competitive match-up. When you do get back to the menus though, you do have a reminder in front of you as to how limited the content is, so this cannot be ignored entirely.

Sparc is sadly lacking in content and options, which is a shame as the game is currently priced rather highly at £25, but hopefully it will be gifted with some extra content in the months ahead. What Sparc also is though is highly successful as a new sport, combining elements from real world sports, and bringing them together to create an inventive, competitive, sweaty and thrilling experience that is deserving of plenty of attention. In spite of its limitations, this is easily one of the best VR experiences that you can have right now.