Smashbox Arena is exactly the type of game we need in VR. A vivid cartoon-ish dodgeball-style multiplayer shooter blended with humor and super fun fast-paced action gameplay.
In its core, Smashbox Arena is an dodgeball game which is mixed with some crazy and cool power-ups. The goal of the game is simple, eliminate the other 3 players of the opponent team. It's a 3vs3 deathmatch game, but you can play it solo in offline mode. Of course the online multiplayer is where things get really fun and exciting.
Like a dodgeball game, you need to avoid getting hit. If you get hit, like in Counter-Strike, you are eliminated and out of the match. You can still continue watching the match in a spectator mode or VR God-view as the developer call it and see how the action unfolds and learn about the opponents' tactics.
Each player is equipped with a hand cannon that can grab and shoot balls. The balls are scattered around the arena, you can pump them in or grab balls that the enemy throws at you and then shoot'em back towards your opponents to take them down. Your character can teleport, block incoming attacks and dodge to takecover. It's a good practice and even essential to take use of the environment to out-maneuver the enemy and to protect yourself against incoming projectiles. Smashbox Arena was developed as room-scale VR game, so you can physically dodge to avoid incoming projectiles or hide behind cover.
One of the greatest features in this game are the power-ups. Powerups are scattered around the arena. They give you a huge advantage in the battlefield, but reaching for them does pose a risk because you are exposing yourself to an enemy fire. You need to think tactically, whether it's worth exposing yourself and getting a powerful power-up, or stay in place and let a player on the other team grab it and take him down while doing so.
When you start the game, you have the option to train and learn the core basic gameplay mechanics. You learn how to teleport your character from one place to the other and over obstacles, learn how to grab a ball, train yourself to accurately shoot a ball into a bullseye target, learn how to grab and block incoming balls and how to use powerful power-ups to your advantage. At the end of the training session, you'll need to knock out 10 enemy AI players (which are quite sneaky). One you finished your training, you are ready to for some real fight against real players in the Arena.
There are many powerups boxes which are available for you to use during the match, including a fireball projectile, a sniper rifle, long teleportation shot, huge rolling ball, AOE bombs, grenades, a heat-seeking rocket launcher, etc.
There are two ways to join a 3vs3 match: do a quick match using the 'QuickMatch Shuttle' or join a match as a party of six people using the 'Party Shuttle'. The Quick Match option is the fastest way to play if you don't have a party of several friends ready to play at that moment.
Before the match begins you'll be given a color that represents your team. Once the match begins, balls will fall off from the sky and this is the time where you need to quickly grab and orb and strategically position yourself, locate the enemies and be ready to shoot them down. It's a very fast-paced game and because you don't respawn when you die, the match can be over even in like 20 seconds. When the match is over, each team faces each other and can tease one another with some head and hand gestures, which is pretty cool, especially if you win and want to annoy the other players in the losing team.
When you die, you'll be positioned in a spectator mode, where you can have a bird's eye view of the battlefield. It's pretty cool mode, you can just grab something to snack meanwhile and learn about the other team's strategic moves. Don't build on staying there for too long, because the matches are very short and you'll need to get ready to fight in few moments time.
Smashbox Arena really has all the right components to be a very popular and immensely fun competitive multiplayer game. It has really fun maps, superb gameplay mechanics, fun looking characters, great social interaction, fast and addictive tactical gameplay, built-in voice communication, a progression system (e.g. badges and head styles) and super cool powerups that create unpredictable and hilarious situations.
Smashbox Arena is coming in December 2016 for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. According to the developer, Smashbox Arena works with the Rift and Touch controllers, but some optimizations need to be made to make it work perfectly. The good news is that the developer mentioned on the official Steam page that this update is coming shortly. I also hope that like in Rocket League, we'll get to see even more maps, more cool power-ups, and even more game modes that will keep players entertained for a long time and keep them coming back for more.
Smashbox Arena unquestionably deserved our 'Impressive Award'. If you have the Vive or the Rift and love competitive multiplayer games, you should definitely give it a shot.
Image credit: BigBox VR, Inc.