HoloBall is a VR version of the gamePong with a futuristic tron-like art style. With just racquetballs in your hands, you play against an AI or a second local player, each player trying to put the ball behind the other player's line and hit the wall behind it. This a new take on the iconic and one of the earliest arcade video games ever created.
The game was first released for HTC Vive. On the PC the games require a play area of at least 2mx1.5m. This is a very physical game and the developer mentioned that you should be careful of your surroundings. This might be true to many room-scale virtual reality games, but especially for action-sport games like this one that requires a great deal of physical responsive movement that translates to a movement in the virtual space. I've also read that some Vive players even reported that their ceiling in their room is too low passed easy mode, where the arena size increases and they use an upper
In HoloBall, the ball travels in space based on how hard and what angle you hit it. It might take some time until you get used to the mechanics. This game requires, like a shooter game, because it uses the motion tracking controllers, it requires precision hits to deflect the ball, whether you are using it in a more defensive way to just deflect an incoming ball or more aggressively, like trying to hit it hard and curve the ball so it hits the edges of the wall behind the player or the side walls.
The gameplay mechanics are simple. You need to use your hand paddles and hit the ball so it passes your opponent. In a single player mode, your goal is to win the five rounds, if the AI gets one point, you lose the match and your car behind you are destroyed. There are several difficulty modes to challenge yourself with: Easy, Medium, Hard, Expert, and Endurance (score as much as possible without getting scored by the AI three times). The developer is also introducing a Custom Match mode, which allows you to adjust the rules of the game to your liking, including choosing how long a round lasts, the speed of the AI, etc.
Just like an Air Hockey game, you can sometimes hit the ball hard so it bumps up the sides and moves towards your player and you score an own goal. Players, at least on the HTC Vive version, can hit the ball with their head. Obviously, it's useful as a last resort if the ball comes straight at you and there is no way to hit it back with the rackets.
There is also a Zen mode, which is a practice mode where you can practice and learn the game physics. Oh, if you wondered, like a Tennis game, you also can do ACE shot in the game, and this rewards you with +100 points.
As I mentioned in the opening, when playing on the PC, there is also a local multiplayer mode. In this mode, one player plays with the Vive headset and the two tracked motion controller, while the second player plays instead of the AI on the computer, without a headset.
When playing against an AI or locally versus a friend, keep in mind that there is a sweet spot at the far edge of the wall where the opponent can't reach. This is probably where you want to aim your ball at. Obviously, due to the fast game pace, it's really hard to get the ball landed at the edges of the wall behind the player. In anything harder than medium difficulty, you might find it even essential to land the balls in that area in order to beat the AI.
The local "AI" player was negatively criticized for the camera angles and control, but the develop continuously updating the game to make it more responsive, accurate and fun to play.
The music in this game is really good which adds to the overall experience and fits this futuristic tron-like art style. The developer, TeeFortress Games, also mentioned Custom Audio Playlist support coming soon in a future update. This means that you can inject your own music in the game, and listen to your favorite songs while playing, sounds great!
The developer also mentioned achievements. Speaking of achievement, it would be nice to have some sort of a progression system and to be awarded for it, maybe with cosmetic items, just to break the monotonic repetitive gameplay a bit. Not that this repetitive gameplay is boring, not at all, but just to have something to strive for while you're already playing the game. Just my thoughts, and hopefully the developer has something in mind that 'achievement' thing that he mentioned on the Steam page is what I was referring to - let's just wait and see.
Of course, the holy grail of this game would be with the option to play gainst other people online. The develop did mention an online multiplayer mode in the 'coming soon' section on Steam and on the official website, on the PSVR announcement press release, the developer wrote, and I quote: "Multiplayer is expected to launch early 2017".
Speaking of PSVR support, on November 8, 2016, TreeFortress announced that HoloBall will be released for PlayStation VR (PS4) on November 22nd. This is great news, now PS4 players can enjoy this popular and amazing game on their PS VR headset.
In the press release, the developer mentioned that the game requires at least 1 PS Move controller and the player must stand at least 7 feet from the PS4 camera. I guess that is essential due to how the PSVR works for room-scale games. I've read an article on polygon mentioning that the PS4 camera can recognize movement in a tracking play area of around 5.7 by 7.2 feet. On the other hand, I've read that the PlayStation Camera official room scale dimensions are 2.4m (7.8 ft) by 1.9m (6.2 ft) so that required standing from the camera fits these dimensions. I assume that it has to be at least 7 ft due to the way the game tracks the movement of the player and because of the lack of sensors, like the HTC Vive, that tells the game your exact place in the physical space.
The game is amazingly fun and addictive. The great thing about the game is not just the gameplay itself, but the commitment of the developer to bring even better experiences and make it even better in future updates. There are many fixed and optimization taking place in each new update, making the game feel more balance, improving the physics and just making the game more fun to play in VR. Because the game is revolved around simple gameplay mechanics, each one of these fixes really matters.
I didn't talk about the graphics yet. The graphics are simplistic, as you can expect from a tron-like art style, but it looks nice and feels great to be inside that futuristic world. The vivid colors and the music contribute to an amazing and immersive experience. I love the simplistic look of the game, it just perfectly fits the game and it even brought up some nostalgic memories from the past, remembering how it was playing arcade games back then where graphics and music in games were simple, but playing those games was so much fun.
The last time I checked the PC versoin of the game cost $9.99 on Steam, a superb value if you ask me. It's also great to hear that the game comes also for PS VR, so more players can enjoy this amazing sports game. If you searching for a game that can keep you in shape, I think that HoloBall works very well for that - just make sure that you don't break anything in the room. We are very impressed with this game - Highly recommend!