Title: Sports Scramble
Developer: Armature Studio
Genre: Arcade, Sports
Platform: Oculus Quest
Audience: PEGI 3
Release Date: 21.05.2019
Price: £22.99– Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Some time ago, to become more fit, my wife and I decided to take up tennis. After spending far too much time and money getting the equipment needed, we found ourselves at the local park ready to exercise and have fun doing it! The thing is two people who had never played tennis before and weren’t that athletic, to begin with, play a pretty ugly version of the game. I chased down so many balls that day that at one point, I was hoping to follow one into traffic and end it all. I’m not very good at sports, and my desire to become better at them is about as strong as my desire to eat a salad, which is nil.
So, when the Oculus Quest launched with a demo of Sports Scramble, I was less than excited to try it, but I’m glad I eventually did because Sports Scramble’s version of tennis is a lot of fun and I can do it while still in my bathrobe!
The core of the fun is owed to Sports Scramble being an arcade game and not a simulation. Balls are generally hit within reach, and the gameplay is just forgiving enough to keep me from wanting to break my virtual racket across my knee. The game supports stationary play for those with limited space and/or mobility, but for the full tennis experience, I would recommend the room-scale option. Playing in a large open area felt natural and resembled nearly perfectly the image I had in my head all those years ago of what playing tennis would be like, though not without incident.
While making an over-aggressive attempt at reaching for a ball, I ignored the Guardian System’s boundary and drove my hand into a wall so hard that I thought I might have broken it. Luckily, the Quest Touch controller was fine – my hand, not so much. Being an arcade game, Sports Scramble has a hook, and that’s where the Scramble in ‘Sports Scramble’ comes into play. Hitting certain targets in the game will change either the ball or the racket into equipment from a different sport. You start with a tennis ball and a racket, but by the end of the match, you could be trying to hit a basketball with a pool noodle! The several types of equipment that get mixed and matched during a game make each one feel as different as it is ridiculous, adding variety to the gameplay.
Sports Scramble isn’t just a wacky tennis game. It’s also a wacky bowling game and a wacky baseball game, each one as fully featured as the tennis portion. Baseball is split into pitching and hitting, and both feel great. Pitching is accurate enough to place the ball over all four corners of the plate, which you will need to do to engage the “Scramble” objects. There are no “junk” pitches like curve-balls or sliders to be thrown, but there are plenty of junk objects that have physics unique to themselves like the hockey puck, Frisbee, and goldfish.
The batting mechanic is similar to the one used in the tennis game in that you only use one hand to swing. I adapted quickly enough, but it does feel a bit strange. I suppose you could untether and put down one of the Touch Controllers to swing two-handed, but you will need to put it back on for the pitching segments, and that seems like a lot of work. Getting a hit increases the power of the bat and changes its material from wood, to aluminium, to gold.
The latter being the most powerful and the one you are most likely to hit a home-run with. Hitting certain pitches will turn the bat into something else, like a trout or a giant foam finger, negating any power that had built up previously and adds a little extra strategy to the game. The games themselves are short and follow standard playground rules; Three innings, balls hit to the infield are outs, and single, doubles, and triples are determined by how far from home plate they’re recovered. Home-runs, of course, are fair balls hit out of the park.
The main form of play in bowling doesn’t adhere to conventional rules, instead, a timed contest where the player is pitted against an opponent in a two-lane alley with each trying to score more points than the other. The Scramble objects are given randomly and interspersed with legitimate bowling balls, allowing the player to pick and choose from an ever-changing assortment. The different balls of the other games make an appearance as well as objects unique to the bowling mode, including cheese wheels, bombs, pineapples, and a plethora of other weird things.
The stand-out feature though has to be the changing playfields. Every time the pins reset, the lane splits, revolves, sinks in, or pop-ups to reveal any one of a multitude of wacky obstacles and/or mini-games populating the lane. Bowling can be fun all on its own but adding loopy-loops, basketball nets, and minefields, amongst other things, brings the whole thing together. Who knew!? Oh, and you can dual-wield rolling-pins if that’s your thing.
Controls are tight and fluid. The motions needed to make plays are intuitive and produce predictable results – even when the Touch Controllers are obscured from the camera and not ‘seen.’ I don’t know what kind of black magic the Developers incorporated into their code, but the tracking is the best I’ve seen in an Oculus Quest title.
The presentation in Sports Scramble is spot on and highly produced. The energetic announcer and driving music compliment the flashy graphics and easy to navigate menus makes for a fluid user experience. Each of the three sports arenas is exceedingly colourful and vibrant, matching the cute creatures cheering you on from the stands. Whimsical set-pieces fill in the empty spaces between you and them, lending a sense of density and liveliness to the activities. My only gripe is that there isn’t more of this. There seems to only be two environments for each of the sports with half of those being stripped down versions of the more grand venues. Some added variety isn’t necessary but would have been welcomed.
Each of the three sports offers multiple modes of play, including training/endless, quick play, and challenge modes. Bowling adds an additional ten frame mode for those interested in a more conventional game. Difficulty can be increased or decreased, and the Scramble objects can be set to ball and bat, ball only, bat only or omitted altogether. Online mode rounds out the package adding even more gameplay modes. Furthering replayability, trophies can be earned by completing certain objectives, rewarding the player with additional playable avatars.
Sports Scramble is an excellent example of a developer playing to the strengths of a platform. By employing a cartoonish aesthetic that relies more on vibrant colours and strong silhouettes than it does ‘true to life’ detail, the game firmly places you in believable environments that are both charming and engaging while keeping the fast-paced action fluid and responsive.
Much like how Wii Sports showcased the viability of motion controls and the vision of the Nintendo Wii, Sports Scramble does the same for the Oculus Quest and VR in general. In my opinion, Sports Scramble is the most accessible and fun game on the Quest and the best experience I’ve had in VR thus far.
Rapid Reviews UK Rating
You can purchase Sports Scramble for Oculus Quest on the following link, https://www.oculus.com/experiences/quest/705576999566582
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