Is Sports Bar VR Playstation Home’s spiritual successor? It certainly feels like it at times. Although billed primarily as a fairly successful Virtual Reality take on pub games, it excels at being a social hangout far more.
The game is set in a fairly typical bar; couches, bottles lying around, a bar itself and a few TVs. Dotted throughout this virtual world are a few gaming tables and a darts board. Pool is the biggest draw, especially seeing as this comes from the same people that gave us the pretty solid Pool Nation, but Air Hockey, Darts and Skeeball are on offer too and well worth trying out.
When you first enter the hub (pub hub?) you’ll be greeted by a massive set of instruction screens floating in front of you. These are you introduction to the world of Sports Bar VR and get you familiar with using the Move controllers (that’s right, no Dualshock support here, folks) to move around and interact with the games. A word of warning; don’t skip this part! It’s confusing enough at times when you’re holding a pool cue and press the wrong button to find yourself with a fist full of darts while staring at the cue ball. The menus are a little fiddly for my liking as they float around and take a while to get through, but they’re useful.
The next thing you’ll find out pretty quickly is that you need space, much more space than most other PSVR games. You really do need to stand and walk over to the right space on the pool table in order to play, otherwise you’ll find yourself floating right through the middle of the table, staring right at the cue ball with no room to move your cue. This is fine if your PS4 is set up in a front room, but my default setup is a study which doesn’t really allow for all that much movement. A little furniture re-arranging and I was good to go, but it’s worth noting before you think about playing.
The two main tables, Pool and Air Hockey, are great fun and really well designed. Physical are, as you’d expect, spot on and it’s great to play in groups. AI, though, is pretty fierce and annoyingly unfair (in my opinion) at times. You can play these games solo, against AI or with other real players. Skeeball requires a little more manipulation of the Move controllers and was fine once I got the hang of it, which is more than I can say for darts. The Dart board is clear and darts are easy to pick up (they appear in one hand and you pick them up with the other) but firing them is a nightmare, partly because of the hand tracking when it gets near the VR visor and partly because it’s almost impossible to get the right angle using the controller as you launch another dart at the board. Hopefully this gets fixed in an update as the developers have already announced plans to add more content.
But back to that social thing. Sports Bar VR really does use the VR headset well to create virtual people around you and it’s by far the most social VR game I’ve played, even with all those RIGS and Valkyrie multiplayer games out there. This is partly down to the fact that you don’t even have to play the games, you can warp around the area and pick up everything from stools to bottles, chucking them around. You can even chuck darts around the place if you really want to take someone’s virtual eye out.
I hope the team of developers at Cherry Pop manage to expand on the ideas here and make this world even bigger as I can see it being a great alternative to the now defunct Playstation Home. New rooms and more games would be very welcome for this social experiment.
Sports Bar VR is more than the sum of its pub games, although these are fun to play themselves. It’s a social hangout that really uses VR’s strengths to its advantage.