Indie developers make up the mainstay of virtual reality (VR) content producers, creating a smorgasbord of experiences from quick fire, pickup and play titles to lengthier story driven adventures. For those that like their VR videogames in the first category REDspace Games has come up with an innovative little title called Gunball for HTC Vive, which is all about scoring points in rapid fire rounds of gameplay.
The premise of Gunball is simple enough, placed inside an arena you have to get a ball though various point allotted targets as quickly as possible to achieve the best score you can. Nothing too amazing there, but it’s the gameplay mechanic that’s most intriguing. To score points you need to launch a ball at a target, but this isn’t dodgeball, you don’t throw the ball. Instead you’re provided with a gun to shoot it at your intended target, which is easy enough to pick up, but trickier when going for the longer shots.
Think of Gunball in a similar vein to tennis or badminton, you essentially need to ‘serve’ then smash the ball towards one of the brightly coloured hoops. These vary in size and distance depending on their points value. Up close you get ten point targets while way out in the distance are the 10,000 pointers. And don’t expect these to be stationary either. They’ll undulate around the arena disappearing behind the smaller point targets so timing is everything.
There’s also another facet to attaining the biggest score and that’s airtime. Shoot the ball directly out of your hand and you won’t get a multiplier. Throw it up into the air and the longer you wait the bigger that multiplier becomes, growing from 2x all the way up to 10x. It’s a simple mechanic but it does help to add that extra tactical depth to a title that would’ve been too basic without it.
Gunball has two areas to play through, the Stadium and Rainbow Volcano, each of which is divided into five levels. As you’d expect each of the levels offer a different combination of target layouts to make attaining those highscores as tricky as possible. On a first playthrough you’ll get past every level in around thirty minutes or so – they all have an allotted time limit – after which it’s a case of replaying them to improve your score. While this method is great for players that just want to kill a few minutes here and there, Gunball would definitely benefit from an expanded selection.
From this early look, Gunball is a lighthearted arcade/sports experience that’s not trying to rewrite the VR rule book. There’s not a massive amount of content but what is there is great fun to play – and highly energetic if you really go for it. It’s certainly one to showcase to VR newbies as you don’t need to move anywhere and the controls are spot on so if they miss it’s their own fault. Whether its appeal will extend to the more hardcore VR players out there is another matter.