The developers at CCP games have been particularly intelligent with the terminology used advertising their new PSVR title, Sparc. Some might presume the term refers to a genre, as in football games, but here the phrase is much more literal. Sparc is by far the most physically demanding game released for PSVR thus far. This could have been the games undoing, but Sparc’s mechanics are simple yet engaging enough to keep you pushing yourself to fit in one more round.
Gameplay is at the heart of the experience, and in a lot of ways Sparc very much feel like playing a futuristic interpretation of squash crossed with dodgeball. Two players find themselves standing either side of a long corridor, each with a ball in hand. The goal is simple, hit the other player with your ball to gain a point. You can dodge the balls coming towards you, but this leaves a target just behind you exposed which causes the enemy ball to move faster and become more and more difficult to evade. You have the much more preferable option to deflect the ball using small shields on your knuckles, or a much larger shield that appears only when holding your own ball. If the enemy player doesn’t catch the ball you deflect before it hits them you gain a point. The chamber the players are in has a zero-gravity quality, meaning both thrown and deflected balls can be ricochet around the room in a hectic unpredictable manner. Deflecting the enemy ball and quickly throwing your own can easy overwhelm the opposing player. This is a popular tactic, but only one of many that the player base has started to devise since the launch of the game. Playing against an opponent of similar skill level can lead to some impressive back and forth volleys that encourage you to get creative and try out new techniques.
The game has a very limited set of single player functionality, a small number of challenge rooms that act as a tutorial and offering you a place to practice the mechanics, but the game is designed for online play against other humans and offers no AI opponents of any sort.
The visual and audio design of Sparc are both fantastic and reinforce the futuristic sports aesthetic of the game. The visuals are a mixture of neon holograms and smooth shining metal, with vibrant colours and bold distinctive designs. Sparc is one of the few VR games I’ve seen that offers character customisation, and is just varied enough to let you enjoy a sense of personality in each opponent even if they don’t make use of the voice chat. There is little need for sound effects but those of the ball hitting walls and whooshing past your head are rendered in perfect 3D audio giving you an excellent sense of spacial awareness. The music is unobtrusive but hits the perfect tone for keeping you engaged and energised for the game ahead.
It is worth mentioning that similar to SuperHot, Sparc demands a lot of movement from the player, and as such a substantial amount of space is not only encouraged but required to get the most out of the game. Playing without the ability to move quite liberally in sight of the camera will put you at a distinct disadvantage and in some cases, would make the game near unplayable. For example, if you have just enough room to walk around your PS4 setup, that’s not enough room and the game simply won’t work.
A predominantly online game can be a risky proposition, particularly considering VR is still an early platform with a pool of players much smaller than traditional games. But as with CCP Games’s previous title, Eve Valkyrie, the developers intend to release Sparc on all VR platforms and to offer cross-platform multiplayer. CCP have a history of long lasting a very high quality post-launch support for their games, and if Sparc receives the same treatment it’s easy to see this game becoming a go-to hit for many as VR proliferates.
Beautiful and distinctive visual and audio design, stellar gameplay and some of the smoothest motion controls you’re likely to experience on PSVR, Sparc has everything it takes to be a hit. A fantastic game that is easy for anybody to pick up and try, and will likely land a permanent position on your PS4.
- Replay Value