Upon hearing the announcement that yes, virtual reality would indeed be “coming to a living room near me“, my mind went to one subject in particular, one which has been on my mind for a long time, Ping Pong. You see, I’m notoriously terrible at the sport. And while I don’t understand how everyone but me seems to have been born with an innate base-level ability to play, there’s no doubting that I am particularly awful. So here then seemed the perfect opportunity for me to hone my skills in secret, away from prying eyes and jeers of “I just don’t understand how you’re THIS bad“. Yes, this would be my chance, my chance to finally understand why everyone else seems to love this silly little sport. So did VR Ping Pong give me the accurate simulation I needed to “Git Gud”? Well after several hours and one trip to A&E I can tell you that it did! Kinda.
VR Ping Pong is unfortunately held back, as many PSVR titles are, by the accuracy of the PlayStation Move controllers. I feel for developers, I really do, wanting to offer a authentic sports experience only to be hampered by the speed at which the controllers can be tracked at. In spite of the issues I experienced with VR Ping Pong’s tracking, once I adjusted to the fact that rapid movements were out of the question, I found them to be perfectly adequate. Slicing and precise ball placement become extremely difficult when the paddle stutters and shakes around. Another problem I had was with the intensity of my shot. Sometimes, when I aimed for a relatively gentle hit, the ball shot across the room as if I’d struck it with all of my might. This is of course game-breaking at its worst and quite a nuisance at best.
Visually the game is as bare-bones as it gets. A crowd of nightmarish pixel-men jeer and boo at you and your opponent, well is merely an avatar to hold the panel with no real animation or energy to offer. Everything is at least clear and comfortable. Movement is tracked well and I never experienced any drifting issues.
Once you factor in the jankyness, there’s definitely plenty of fun to be had. I found myself wanting to get better and found that if I tried hard enough to exploit the game, I did! A tournament keeps things interesting while arcade modes mix up the gameplay slightly. My only gripe is that there is no competitive multiplayer. In a game such as this you’d think it would be a no-brainer and at the price point at which the game is offered, would certainly go a long way to justifying a purchase.
But is the game like actually playing Ping Pong? Yes and No. VR Ping Pong offers a stripped down and slower version of the game which, once accepted, is a lot of fun. In terms of immersion, let me tell you a fun fact, I got so engaged in a game that it sent me to A&E. Yeah. After a series of tournament games and game after game of frustrating defeats I got dragged right into the action, that is until my phone went off from across the room. I paused the game, let go of my Move controllers (which fell to the ground), went to pick them up and lent on the table. Now if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from this experience is that VR tables don’t hold your weight too well. So one trip to A&E and a sprained wrist later, I put the game down.
I feel that the game would have benefited from a more dynamic soundtrack. The current offering is a limp and placid ambient track which loops over and over. The text is also really under developed with directions like “hit as many changes, time runs out” giving the impression of a bad localisation.
VR Ping Pong the, is a fun party game and a good thing to show your Nan, but in terms of a challenging Ping Pong experience it’s severely lacking. At its current price point it is also pretty extortionate. There’s definitely some enjoyment to be had once you’ve forgiven the game’s shortcomings but ultimately VR Ping Pong is a stark reminder of the need for better VR peripherals.