I’ll be honest, I’m quite mystified at how to classify vertical ricochet. From my best approximation, it’s basically ping pong meets space pirate trainer meets tennis? It’s a tough one to pin properly. That’s nothing to say about the actual fun factor of the game though because it really is fun to play it’s just an incredibly bizarre mix of game types that come together in a way that I’m not sure even makes sense, but it does give you both a solid workout and a fun, challenging VR experience. The only issue you can find here is the longevity that you’ll be into it for considering the somewhat straightforward approach that developer Blind Mystics‘ Virtual Ricochet takes.
You have the option to access a tutorial at the very start which introduces you to how the game works. The idea of the game is to destroy drones that are firing either damaging bullets at you or the platform you’re defending. You’re able to physically dodge the lasers being shot at you as well as teleport around to defend the different platforms. Each level has three stages to it with the enemies becoming more numerous and dangerous as you progress You weapons to fight? A variety of guns and a …ping pong paddle? Yup, sounds strange, but that’s exactly what you’re going to be fighting with during your time with the game. The catch is that the ping pong paddle only activates once you move your arms, so you have to be cognizant of that while dealing with all of the immediate threats. You unlock upgrades and new guns as you progress as well. There are several difficulties to choose from, though in all honesty, I was barely able to navigate normal mode. This is a tough game that requires a lot of twitch aiming, thinking, and physical movement and that challenge is immense.
What It Feels like to Play
Jumping into Virtual Ricochet, I was not prepared for just how addictive the gameplay was going to be. First off, this is one of the one fully 360 VR games I’ve experienced that doesn’t have turning handled by a controller, so right away I knew I was in from something different. The guns feel surprisingly fun to use and you have to strategize on which ones you’re going to take into combat with you each time. Certain guns work better in certain situations, but I’ll let you find out for yourself how that works. The most fun mechanic though is without a doubt the ping pong paddle. See, your enemies launch either a red or blue orb at your platform or one nearby and if you let the orb hit the platform too many times, it’s game over. With the ping pong paddle as well as with the gun, you have to match the color of the ball or orb that’s firing at you to defend against it. If you’re really good though, you can whack the orb right back at the drone firing at you for some major damage because the orb is basically a bomb. It’s pretty tough to time this right though and oftentimes you’re going to be bombarded on literally all sides of you so this becomes a clutch maneuver to pull off that is incredibly satisfying when you do.
What will keep you Playing?
The one thing that should keep people coming back to Virtual Ricochet is a challenge. This is one of the most intense challenges I’ve seen in VR and maybe I’m just terrible at the game, but I found it extremely difficult to get through even a few levels on just normal difficulty. You are constantly surrounded by drones blasting away at you on all sides and you have to quickly be able to teleport to one platform while readying the correct color of the paddle to hit the orb away all while preparing to duck out of the way from an oncoming laser blast. It’s intense stuff that can work up quite the sweat and it’s still an Early Access title which means more features are likely on the way, so this challenge can only become more complex and the weapons at hand will only grow in variety creating something that is entirely unique while also being great fun to play alone as well as a great party game to try out with friends as well.
This one is pretty tricky because Virtual Ricochet seems like it would be the ideal game to have on the Oculus Quest, however at this point, there seems to be no plans for that to happen. That means you’re going to be tethered while needing to spin around a lot and it can get difficult managing your wire situation. It also supports room-scale, so those with a larger play area are going to have an easier time here.
I recorded my Fitbit with a Samsung Odyssey Plus Windows Mixed Reality Headset
Calories burned: 149
Calories burned per minute: 5
Average Heart Rate: 101
Max Heart Rate: 140
Active Minutes: 22
Virtual Ricochet has a pretty unique intensity to it. As you progress through the stages, you are assaulted on all angles by lasers and exploding orbs and this only gets ramped up on the hardest difficulty which I only recommend to the true masochists out there. It’s a bit tough to maneuver around the way you really need to because of the headset wires though and because of this, you might find yourself moving slower than you really need to just so you don’t trip over everything and fall out of your window. I didn’t find myself burning a ton of calories during my playtime, but I definitely felt the physical toll from all the twisting and ducking, dodging, and even jumping that I ended up doing.
The gameplay in Virtual Ricochet revolves around how you’re utilizing your arms at all times. Your swing power with your racket for one is directly correlated to how fast you smash the bomb back at the enemy drones, so depending on your per-shot power, one arm is going to get quite the workout, which might not be great for a balanced exercise, but nonetheless, it is there. Your left arm is going to be dealing with the gun side of the action. Your left arm will be plenty busy as well by aiming and shooting at all angles, constantly holding your arm out. Just keeping your arm out in front of you to fire gets tiring after a while, so while it’s definitely not the same worko0ut your right arm gets, at least it’s something.
Perhaps the best part of Virtual Ricochet is the usage of your legs during gameplay. When one of the enemy drones puts you in their sights, there is only one escape and that’s full-on dodging, ducking, or jumping out of the way. This means your legs are going to be heavily involved and if you have a large space available to you, that means you can expect to be hoppi9ng all over the place so stretching those legs out before playing is definitely recommended. You still have to use the teleport function to get from platform to platform, but once you’re on there you have free roam to move however much or little that you want.
Your core comes into play from all the ducking and twisting you’re going to be doing during your time with the game. Seeing as you’ll be attacked from all angles, you’re going to be torquing your body quite a bit and it’s going to wear on you after a while giving you a solid burn depending on the difficulty level you’re playing on. Balance wise though, you absolutely need to reorient yourself at times while playing because whether or not you have a large play area, all the spinning around you’ll be doing will either move you off your original spot or get twisted up in the headset wires enough that you might either yank it out of your PC or straight up fall over it. Neither outcome is desirable.
Time Perception- 8/10
I’m sure this will depend on the type of VR gamer you are, but I was fully into Virtual Ricochet. The future techno soundtrack and great sound effects mixed with the unique gameplay style just thrust me right into the world and refused to let me go until I couldn’t handle dying over and over again. I thought the level atmosphere was the one thing that kept me from being fully immersed, though I realize this is an Early Access game and that will likely be a focus for the full release. As far as I could tell, the levels did not change and although your weapons do, this definitely brought me out of the experience a little bit.
Virtual Ricochet is a very difficult game to get through and there are various ways to customize your weapons as you unlock more and more levels and guns. The enemy variety though doesn’t seem to be anything too special at the moment and going against the same drones over and over can get pretty old quickly. The options for difficulty though change the game significantly and even the most active VR players will have some serious problems completing the hardest difficulty as it demands razor-sharp reflexes and precise aiming to even just get past the first couple of stages. If you have the hunger to complete a game, I think even the current version of Virtual Ricochet will have enough to keep you occupied until the full release.
Fitness Scalability- 7/10
Aside from the difficulty options, your workout will only really change depending on your play space and how you choose to engage with the game. If you’re in a smaller space and can’t really move around too much, your workout will be less intense because of it. If you’ve got a big play space that allows for legitimate jumping, ducking, and dodging side to side, you’re going to get more of a calisthenic workout instead. As far as the difficulty goes, the easiest mode will barely test you physically and is there to really just practice the basics while the hardest difficulty throws 4 or more drones at you from all angles making it imperative that you’re nimble on your feet and cognizant of your surroundings as well.
Nausea/ Dizziness- 8/10
This is a tough one to rate because the actual game visuals and experience will not cause too much of a problem aside from some bright colors and effects. The issue comes with the lack of controller-based turning within the game itself. This means you’re going to be constantly spinning around in a circle, which, for anyone familiar with spinning on a computer chair or something that ilk can attest to is very unsettling for the stomach. When you compound that with the inherent uneasiness that VR can bring, you could very well not be able to handle the gameplay that some of the more intense levels of Virtual Ricochet.
Social Competition- 0/10
It doesn’t appear that there are any multiplayer features currently in Virtual Ricochet nor will there be in the future during a full release, so we will not be factoring multiplayer into the final score.
VR Fit Score- 7.7/10
Game Score 8.0/10
Virtual Ricochet attempts something incredibly unique in VR and succeeds in creating an addictive game loop that provides some great physical challenges. The customization for your weapons is great and gives you a variety of ways to attack each stage and the difficulty options provide very different experiences depending on which you choose. There is also a solid soundtrack blasting along to keep you engaged in the game too. It’s only Early Access, so more is clearly on the way.
The enemy variety is not the best and it seems like a game that could work very well in a multiplayer setting, though that doesn’t seem in the cards at the moment. The stages are all pretty much identical as well and while the setup within them changes, the overall theme leads to some feeling of repetition during your time with the game.
Virtual Richochet is available for $14.99 on Steam and playable on Oculus Rift, HTV Vive, Valve Index, and Windows Mixed Reality Headsets.