In #SelfieTennis you have a VR tennis title made by people that, by their own admission, don’t know much about tennis. Instead of incredible ace serves and nail-biting challenges, you have a videogame with a selfie stick mechanic and disturbingly deformed ball people. If you thought VR Tennis Online was meant to be a fun take on the sport, wait until you see what VRUnicorns has cobbled together.
Though it somewhat intentionally sounds a shambles, the core concept behind #SelfieTennis is actually very sound. Using the HTC Vive’s position tracked controllers, you play a game of tennis against yourself. Every time you hit the ball over the net you’ll be teleported over to the other side of the court, in front of its trajectory. You’ll have a few seconds to adjust, prepare yourself and then make a return. On paper it’s a great idea.
In practise, #SelfieTennis provides silly, if flawed and shallow fun. Given that you’re facing off against yourself there’s no one serious strand to the entire experience. It’s akin to renting out a tennis court with friends and spending a few hours playing casual matches, messing around rather than playing to win. There’s a novelty here that provides giddy laughter as you manage to completely miss a shot you’ve set up perfectly, or fail to even serve the ball. Fortunately, there’s no one standing on the other side to point back and laugh.
As with all novelties, though, the fun can wear off. In this case, it’s a problem without a serious answer; how do you keep a player engaged when you can’t implement a career mode or play a match with any kind of consequence? VRUnicorns is clearly aware that this mechanic only gets it so far, but instead of trying to force in any kind of traditional systems, the team instead dives deeper into the slapstick.
The results are hilarious. Your magical floating court is populated with an audience of terrifying creatures with giant tennis balls for heads. As you play you can knock the ball in their direction, sending them hurtling towards the ground or even off the side and to their doom. At one point an army of these cartoonish critters appear on the court, and you can bat them away with your racket, causing cries of pain as they tumble over. It’s like descending into Teletubbyland on the war path, or playing football with Elmo as the ball.
Of all things, though, these few moments of childish hyper violence remind you most of Grand Theft Auto. There’s a sadistic pleasure to swatting these unsuspecting characters away, and a pang of guilt to trying to shoving a tennis ball down one’s throat. It was probably far from VRUnicorns’ intention to create a mechanic that turns you into a monster, but that’s exactly what #SelfieTennis does.
Even with the comedy piled on, though, it’s hard to escape the feeling that you’ve seen all that #SelfieTennis has to offer in around 20 minutes if that. Though the concept of playing tennis with yourself is intriguing, this doesn’t suggest that there’s a full videogame’s worth of material to mine from it. Instead, this feels like an extra mode in a larger experience, and it would be great to see the developer expand its ideas to include two or four players. You’ll get more out of it by sharing it with friends, of course, but VRUnicorns is going to need to price this experience just right if it’s to be recommended.