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Sparc review

On September 12, 2017 by Aaron Meehan

Sparc, developed and published by CCP Games, is the most impressive VR game released on the PlayStation VR to date as Sparc creates an amazing blend of full-body virtual reality and physical sport.

Now, Sparc is a straightforward 1v1 battle arena game where players stand on either side of the arena attempting to hit each other with energy balls. To avoid getting hit, players can deploy a shield or knuckle guards to reflect an incoming attack or use their reflexes to dodge the ball.

From the above description, you most likely realised that Sparc sounds like a game I previously talked about, and you are right. Sparc is the release version of Project Arena, a full-body VR game that I played when I visited CCP Games’ booth during Gamescom 2016. The game has undergone some changes during its transition from Project Arena to Sparc. These changes include a more streamlined and easier to see UI, the disc projectiles are now energy balls, and a new feature called Strike zones has been introduced.

The previously mentioned Strike Zones is a circular space located behind each player when this strike zone is hit the player who hit the zone receives a power boost. This boost makes your energy ball travel faster thus making it easy to hit your opponent. The Strike Zones reward tactical play as players who aim for this zone have a greater chance of hitting their opponent and scoring a point.

What really impresses me about Sparc is how the game utilises the full-body VR experience. As I stated earlier you can deflect incoming attacks with a shield and knuckle guard or just simply dodge out of the way of an incoming ball, and while that sounds easy on paper it can be challenging. The full-body experience means that player movement from your head down will be replicated by the game, which means you can do more than just step left or right to avoid getting hit, for example in Sparc you can squat down to avoid high flying shots. Although, if you are getting hit with faster moving balls dodging can become a far more challenging experience, so don’t forget to use your shield and knuckle guards while dodging.

In terms of offensive play you can throw the ball with your left or right hand, the hand you hold your ball with determines which hand deploys the shield. To pick up and throw you just hold the trigger button on the PlayStation move controller and throw. The full-body system allows you to create some interesting throw techniques. Yes, you can bounce the ball wildly off the arena walls, but you can also a spin to your throw. While throwing the ball is easy, hitting the target can be difficult as I did find aiming to be tough to master.

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So, I talked a lot about the gameplay, but what is there to do in Sparc? Well, Sparc offers three modes: a tutorial, a challenge mode and 1v1 online matches. The tutorial is self-explanatory as it exists to teach you how to play the game. The challenge mode allows you to hone the skills explained to you in the tutorial as the challenges involve hitting targets, deflecting incoming attacks into targets and finally a combination of the two. The 1v1 matches are split into three game types: Brawl Basic, Brawl Advanced and Experimental. Brawl Basic is a 3-minute match that allows for knuckle guard deflecting, shield breaking and an aim assist to set medium. Brawl Advanced is a best of three games with a round being won when a player gets 4 points, there is no time limit, no knuckle guard deflecting and the aim assist is set to low. Experimental offers the same rule set as Brawl Basic but with altered court geometry. From my time playing Brawl Basic is the most popular game type with only a limited number playing Brawl Advanced and no one playing the Experimental game type.

Besides the three game types, the 1v1 online mode allows you to watch any on-going match in-person as you queue for the next match. The feature known as Courtside, allows you to stand to the side of the battle arena and view the on-going match with other players while viewing you can talk with those also viewing the match or just mess about by waving your hands in the air. The players who are currently in a match can see those who are observing the game, which can sometimes be distracting as you know people are watching and judging your abilities.

Since people can watch you, the game offers character customisation with players being able to change their head, visor, mask, suit, gloves and the colour of their gear.

As I played through Sparc I was struck with the conclusion that the game would make for a very interesting esport with its full body VR experience and need for good hand-eye coordination. The game is also a great way to get into and stay in shape as I found the game to be a rather exhausting experience, although you don’t really realise how exhausting it is until you decide to put the game down. Like many I find exercise to be a joyless experience, but Sparc does an impressive job of making exercise fun.

Now, before reaching my conclusion I want to talk about some of the game’s issues. For me, Sparc had two major issues, which were several crashes during 1v1 matches and the fact you couldn’t play Sparc in a bright room. The inability to play Sparc in a bright room was a major annoyance because no matter how many windows I covered the game wouldn’t let me play during the day.

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Conclusion

Sparc has the potential to be the next big VR game as it smoothly blends its full body VR experience with physical sport. If you own a PlayStation VR I highly recommend picking up Sparc.

SCORE: 9/10

Pros Cons
+ Offers an exhilarating and exhausting gameplay – Can’t be played in a bright room
+ You can watch on-going match via the pre-game lobby – There is the occasional crash
+ Challenges allow you to hone and improve your skills  
Developer Publisher Genre Rating Platform Release date
CCP Games CCP Games VR Sports 3+ PlayStation 4 (PSVR) August 29, 2017

*A review code was provided by the game’s publisher.*

For more information on Sparc, visit https://www.playsparc.com/.

Author: Aaron Meehan

Hi, I’m the creator of SG Gaming Info. When I’m not working on my writing or creating content for this site’s YouTube channel, I like to relax and enjoy character driven story games.


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