Let’s face it, virtual reality isn’t the most social of video games platforms. Whilst the Playstation VR does have a few multiplayer titles (some which cleverly implement local play too), the social side of things can take a bit of a back seat when you consider that someone is playing with a headset and headphones on. Sports Bar VR aims to change that by offering a series of pub games to compete in with friends online, all within the Playstation VR headset and all guaranteeing a bit of a laugh.
You can head to the Sports Bar with up to five other players online and it can be a hell of a blast. Of course, it can often be a blast for the wrong reasons – I’d like to emphasise that just because they’re the wrong reasons, it doesn’t mean they’re bad reasons. Sports Bar VR isn’t just about playing competitive games, but also about causing chaos and throwing stuff around with your friends too…
It’s odd to think that Sports Bar VR used to just be a Pool game, especially given the plethora of things you can play around with. The Pool mini-game is still great fun in itself though, despite some initial problems with tracking my movement in-game. Sports Bar VR demands you use the move controllers to play, so lining up the Pool cue, pulling back, and then hitting the shot could feel a little cumbersome initially. It’s something you’ll get used to quick, but getting over the initial hump of making everything work can be a bit of a pain.
Of course, once you’ve got some space around you and actually practiced a bit it becomes second nature. It’s surprisingly accurate and easy to use and it won’t take you long before you’re potting shots with ease. It does help that you can actually fine-tune your shots with the move controller buttons though, so lining up each shot doesn’t have to feel too awkward with an over-dependence on precise motion controls.
You can search for matches online and take on players from around the world, or alternatively you can get in a match with friends. Playing with friends whilst hanging out can be an interesting experience though – let’s just say you don’t necessarily have to follow the rules of the sport. Balls with be flying everywhere, bar stools will zoom past as you’re lining up a shot, opponent’s Pool cues will be swinging around in the air… it can be pretty chaotic. It almost adds a whole new element to the game and allows you to set up a few comical situations, bringing a ‘party game’ vibe to the overall experience. I found that I spent more time messing around on the Pool table as opposed to playing actual Pool, but it just adds to the charm that Sports Bar VR offers. Don’t worry though, you can actually find players online who want to play a serious game or even take on AI opponents if you want to indulge in a proper game of Pool.
Some of the other games on offer don’t perform as competently though, especially the likes of Darts and Skreeball which depend upon throwing mechanics. I love playing Darts and consider myself quite a good player, but actually lining up a shot and working out the right amount of power isn’t an easy task in-game. On so many occasions my dart would simply drop right in front of me or simply land miles away from where I was aiming, essentially rendering Darts a difficult game to play seriously. Skreeball is a little easier, but only because it doesn’t depend upon pin-point accuracy with your throws. You can wing it and garner a little bit of success, even if your throws aren’t quite as accurate as you’d like them to be. Both of these games have the potential to be fun, but they won’t hook you in like Pool will.
At least Air Hockey is good fun, though I can imagine it’d be pretty difficult to mess up such a simple game concept. The only awkward moment was when I found myself wanting to lean against the table whilst playing, something that can lead to disaster if you let yourself get momentarily fooled by the immersion virtual reality offers. It’s fun though and the AI provides a competent opponent, though like most things in Sports Bar VR it is better played with a real-life opponent.
Since its initial launch Sports Bar VR has introduced a few extra table top games: Chess, Checkers and Shuffleboard. They all add a little something extra and each work quite well, adding a more subdued and tactical element to the games on offer. Or you can just throw Chess pieces at your friends – it’s your call.
Online support works quite well in the game and I didn’t suffer too many issues. Sure, there was the occasional disconnect whilst overloading the game with ping-pong balls and American footballs could result in a bit of a stutter during gameplay (that’s right, you get plenty of toys to play with and throw around). It never resulted in anything too bad though and it was all just a bit of fun anyway, which is all anyone could really want from a game like Sports Bar VR.
There are two ways to look at Sports Bar VR: as a collection of pub games to play with friends or as an experience that lets you mess around and have a lot of fun. If you focus on the pub games alone then it’s hard to recommend the game, especially when only Pool and Air Hockey perform competently. Simply playing around and causing chaos is a hell of a lot of fun though and offers hours of entertainment – especially since there isn’t anything else that lets you mess around with friends in virtual reality like this available on Playstation VR right now.
It doesn’t offer the most refined of gameplay experiences, but Sports Bar VR is still a blast to play and something I’d recommend to all virtual reality fans. It’s my ‘go to’ game for multiplayer fun on Playstation VR at the moment and something I can see myself coming back to over and over again, especially when played with a group of friends who can find laughs at simply throwing things around and aggravating each other in virtual reality…
Developer: Cherry Pop Games
Publisher: Perilous Orbit
Release Date: 13/10/2016
Format(s): Playstation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive