Nailing the physics of something like sports is a tough thing to do in VR. But right now given the state of our world, it’s not the best idea to engage in a game of pickup basketball with total strangers sweating all over you, so the alternative comes to you in the virtual realm. While games like 2MD: Football Evolution and Sports Scramble provide pretty accurate depictions of their respective sports. Not too many developers have tried their hand at basketball games. There seems to be a good reason for that too seeing the result from VR Studios, Inc‘s Hoops Madness. This isn’t a basketball sim in any way and approaching it as such would leave you pretty disappointed. What it instead brings to the table is a pop-a-shot come to life in VR that you can enjoy with your friends.
You are thrust into gameplay right away without any sort of tutorial which I appreciate considering this is a game about shooting a ball in a hoop and little else. Right off the bat, you’re asked to create an account though and that’s one of the more annoying things to do in VR as typing out your email with a controller is just never fun and honestly feels unnecessary. Once you get going, you have the option of competing in solo play or against other players online. Solo mode is woefully done unfortunately and has you just competing against yourself in various modes that make little sense without another player to challenge you. The court and arena are well animated and there is a slightly disturbing visual effect used in the crowd making the chairs basically flutter about like they were actual people. It’s a bizarre choice that creates an off-putting feeling while you play, but it can be ignored after a little while within the game.
The problem is the gameplay. While there are a bunch of different modes to compete in, none of this feels like basketball. For starters, you can only interact with the ball one hand at a time. This immediately tells me that the developers have no idea how basketball works. That’s not how you shoot a ball and trying to untrain yourself on how to play basketball is pretty tough to get around and when you finally do, you have some more issues to deal with. A normal shooting motion just plain does not work. You either shoot too short or the ball just falls harmlessly to the floor, not the goal when playing basketball. In order to remedy this, you’re going to either be throwing it like a baseball and hoping to get lucky, or you’re going to be pushing the ball forward like a pop shot game at Dave and Busters. This isn’t how basketball works, but that’s the way the game has chosen to work so you’re going to have to accept that or look elsewhere for your VR sports entertainment.
Luckily, if you can handle the mechanics, the online play is a blast and it gets quickly competitive against other players and it really is purely based on skill, not luck, not who has the best gear, just plain skill and that’s a refreshing thing that other multiplayer titles should look to emulate. The modes available range from well-trodden ground like around the world to more interesting fare like having hoops appear in random locations around you while darting your head around to figure out where they’re going to end up. The problem is the offering is rather shallow. The game is only $6 though, so for that, it provides more than enough entertainment for some quick basketball action in VR.
Clear a 360-degree space in a 3×3 length around you because although this is basketball, you’re often going to be turning to shoot at different hoops at a rapid pace during some of the more speedy game modes and you can easily knock things over if you’re not careful.
I recorded my 30minute workout on a Samsung Odyssey Plus Windows Mixed Reality Headset.
Calories burned: 236
Calories burned per minute: 8.0
Average Heart Rate: 117
Max Heart Rate: 134
Active Minutes: 25
What I found most surprising about Hoops Madness was how physically taxing it was. While you’re not going to get the quality of workout you’d get from an actual basketball game, as far as arms go this is going to be up there with the most arm intensive workouts in VR. This is all amplified in the multiplayer modes as well as you’re going to be competing against other players right next to you in the virtual gym and when the competitive juices are flowing you’re going to be moving faster than you realize and at the end of it all, you will truly feel a burn in whatever hand you choose to shoot with.
This is no joke. If you’ve ever been at it with a pop-a-shot game for a while, you know the stress it can put on your arms shooting a mini basketball 100 plus times in a short period of time. While you won’t have the same weight here, you’re still going to have to put considerable force into shooting at the various baskets during the varied game modes. I found the lack of actual basketball mechanics caused me to really have to push the ball at the basket harder than I would expect and I had to switch arms after a while because of how hard it was. Switching arms during the workout is recommended because unlike actual basketball, this version of it will only have you shooting with one arm and the other will be uninvolved.
There really isn’t any use for your legs here other than mimicking how it would feel to shoot an actual basketball. Bending your knees while shooting can help balance you and keep your shot online though and it’s recommended you do that so you don’t lose your balance while shooting. That will be up to you though as the game works just fine if you choose to play standing still or even sitting down. I found it beneficial to take actual jump shots and use layup motions to feel less awkward taking shots. For this you’re going to want to make sure you have a lot of space in front of you though, so for players with only a small area available, this might not be doable.
While there isn’t a ton of actual core work happening, balance is key while playing Hoops Madness. Since you’re going to be putting in a bit of force to hit the long shots, the lack of having anything resembling a ball in your hand will create some unwanted forward force and that can often throw you off balance. In terms of actual core workout though there is very little to be had here unless you’re bending over to center yourself a bit much like basketball players do during free throws.
Time Perception- 8/10
When you come to Hoops Madness, you know what you’re getting into. It’s time to shoot some hoops and luckily it creates a stable and fun environment to do just that. There aren’t any majestic and weird basketball worlds to explore here, it’s a simple gym that’s realistic and everything happening will remind you of what it was like to play against other people in some fun games like around the world. It’s easy to go for just one more game when playing against other players and the player base is pretty solid with Hoops Madness providing one of the only basketball experiences in VR.
There are several modes available to play and although the solo modes are largely unfulfilling because there is nothing to compete against besides yourself, the online modes provide a ton of fun and as long as the player base remains strong, there will always be a reason to jump onto Hoops Madness for some quick basketball action. There are no difficulty modes available though so if you’re out of luck in the online department, it’s going to be a tough sell.
Fitness Scalability- 6/10
As far as scaling your workout, there isn’t a ton of stuff you can do to improve the workout you’re getting. There are no difficulty modes and the sense of progression in the solo mode simply doesn’t exist. If you want to improve the workout, you’re going to need to use wrist weights and ankle weights. Both will give some needed weight to the action and will help keep you balance while taking shot after shot. The real scalability comes from the competition you’re facing. If you’re competing against three other players to get the high score you’re going to be considerably more active than you would be just trying to best your own score in the solo modes, so the multiplayer is where it’s at for a good solid arm workout.
Lack of Nausea/Dizziness- 7/10
It was a pretty seamless experience playing through Hoops Madness. The toughest thing about it was keeping my balance as I’m used to feeling a basketball in my hands when playing basketball and the lack of one gave me a strange falling forward feeling when trying to shoot. The movement is all teleport based unfortunately and although this was created to lower the feeling of nausea during playing, this seems to do the opposite for me and I tried to use it as sparingly as possible.
Social Competition- 9/10
The area Hoops Madness excels in the most is the multiplayer aspect. There are many options for customization within the type of game you’re looking for and the game really comes alive when you’re facing off against the other. The scoring system is great to see how you’re stacking up against the competition and the modes are genuinely challenging. It’s not just 1v1 either, it’s up to 4 players at once going for the gold and it’s a pretty great system that can definitely be expanded upon.
VR Fit Score- 7.4/10
Hoops Madness is one of the only VR games available in the basketball genre and provides a great arm workout. You can get some leg work in there as well if you choose to simulate jump shots as well as layup and free throw motions.
Game Score- 6/10
There are a variety of game types available, but the lack of accurate physics and the reliance on a player base to fully enjoy the game limit it’s widespread appeal. If you’re looking for a quick shoot around in the virtual world though, this is a pretty good place to start.
Hoops Madness gives you one of the only games to offer a basketball experience in VR. The pop-a-shot style physics are great fun to compete against others with and there are a variety of different modes available to compete in. The atmosphere is pretty impressive and really gives you the feeling of being on a basketball court. The game types are challenging and give you a surprisingly great arm workout that can be expanded if you decide to use both arms. There is a solo mode to try and top your own high score if online play is not available to you.
There isn’t a whole lot to do here, so if the variety of games isn’t to your liking, that’s pretty much all there is to do. If you were expecting a basketball sim, this isn’t going to satisfy your search. The mechanics are based on a pop-a-shot style game more than actual shooting physics and that’s pretty disappointing considering all the other aspects of the game presented are top-notch. The solo modes seem like they were a last-second addition and don’t provide much excitement. There is an annoying signup process that prevents you from playing online and it’s just annoying and completely unnecessary considering how straightforward everything else is. If you were expecting to take shots over defenders and nail some sweet passes, this won’t be the title for you as it’s strictly shooting-based.
Hoops Madness is available for $5.99 on Steam and is playable on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality Headsets.