Steam is littered with small indie virtual reality (VR) titles, some of which seem like they’ve been very hastily cobbled together and others which have been passionately created to offer gamers a fun experience. The latter is essentially what Hooplord is, a solo project that does all it needs to do, provide an entertaining break from all those epic RPGs with a little basketball.
Created by Eric Wu and never originally planned to be fully published, he decided to pursue this b-ball experience and flesh it out into a fantasy-themed free-throw videogame. As you can imagine the basic setup is a court – well half of one – some glowing basketballs and a hoop to throw them into. It would be a bit boring if this was just it, so he’s added some opponents to make those shots increasing harder.
This isn’t some ordinary basketball court as its quite ancient and most definitely enchanted. Balls are fed to you by way of five huge statues in the background, each one corresponding to a point on the court where you can teleport to. That means comfort isn’t a worry as there’s no running around to do. You’re given a few free throws to get a feel for the mechanics which are on point, from throwing angles to power these have been finely tuned to give a natural sensation.
After that, it’s time to face three gargantuan bosses, guardians defending the hoop. All you have to do is sink one shot from each of the five points on the court. Every guardian is based on an element, starting with ice, then earth followed by fire. Each one has their own particular defences and they do get a lot harder, they can even kill you if you’re not careful!
The mechanics have been kept nice and simple, as there’s no movement there’s no dribbling or any other fancy ball skills to deal with, just throw. As these are big opponents lobbing the ball over their heads doesn’t provide the best chance to score, it’s all about being quick, nipping between points and getting a couple of shots off. This gives Hooplord an element of pressure which helps to heighten the gameplay experience and keep you invested in the progression.
Each guardian has three stages with the latter one being the killer (literally). For example, the ice boss will initially try to block your shots. On the second round, an icy rain cloud appears, freezing any shots that pass through; the ball shattering on contact with the hoop. The third and final stage combines all these and one additional feature, the guardian pulls ice spikes out the ground to kill you. If this happens then it’s back to stage one.
Depending on how good your natural basketball free throwing skills are you could be there a while, getting an arm workout in the process. Using the Valve Index controllers did make grabbing the basketballs fairly easy – even at a distance – the only problem was the fact that gripping the other controller also activated the force pull mechanic. It would be good to have the option to deactivate the other hand.
For an indie title that was originally just a portfolio piece, Hooplord is an enjoyable basketball videogame with a nice cartoon style. There’s just the right amount of difficulty so that you can’t blast through it in five minutes, the only real frustration is if you’re a rubbish shot. Hooplord isn’t a massive title so it would be great if Wu continues to support it and expand the premise, maybe adding a menu in there.