Sparc is a futuristic sports game available for download from the PlayStation Store for PlayStation VR. Sparc is developed by a team with a genuine reputation on PlayStation VR following their previous games EVE: Valkyrie and EVE: Gunjack. Can CCP Games achieve their aim of creating the world’s first futuristic immersive virtual reality sport in the form of Sparc?
The premise of Sparc is to essentially hit your opponent with your ball to score a point, while physically dodging and deflecting their ball to defend. A fully fledged tutorial that provides a step-by-step guide to Sparc is where players should begin as it introduces every gameplay mechanic such as dodging incoming balls, how to form your shield and use knuckle guard deflectors to rebound the opponents’ incoming ball, recharging your shield, throwing your ball and the rules you must follow in competitive matches when attempting to score a point.
There are a total of 10 single player challenges in which players can really start to kick on from the tutorial by seriously honing their skills through two basic and advanced throwing ranges, two basic and advanced deflection courses and a basic and advanced combined course encompassing everything learned within each throwing range and deflection course. Throwing ranges are purposefully geared towards improving your accuracy when aiming your throw, while deflection courses shows how the shield can be utilised in blocking your opponents’ ball into a strategically precise location of the court. Throwing ranges and deflection courses have targets positioned throughout the court with panels introduced in different areas for you to aim your throw or deflection around.
The way in which the single player challenges are presented means that there are technically no A.I. opponents in single player which also results in there being no championship tournaments. Championship tournaments would have been very intriguing as it would have opened up the gameplay to each and every match amounting to progressing your character’s career towards the very top of the sport via a series of points based tournaments in which a particular quantity of points would be earned per victory, although if more than one competitor in the points table had the same points total, then positioning would be decided by goal difference through an accumulation of goals scored subtracted by goals conceded. I could also imagine how amazing a doubles match would be as a player teams up with an A.I. player to take on two A.I. controlled players in single player tournaments in a battle of teamwork and stamina due to a wider court.
There is a wide range of character customisation including home or away team plasma, heads with different hairstyles and all manner of visors, masks, suits and gloves in numerous co-ordinated colour schemes for male or female characters which can be viewed within the character customisation feature as it partly acts as a mirror as though it was reflecting an image of yourself styled in the clothing you have chosen for your character.
Environment design is essentially a futuristic basketball court, but there is no audience to support either player during single player challenges or online multiplayer. There is no variation in environment design outside of the subtle differences in single player challenges, alternative colours and the more pronounced change in shape of the altered geometry court. It would have been amazing to see some form of audience in the distance to provide the sensation of playing a futuristic sport in a huge stadium. A multitude of environments would have been possible by taking the same cues in recreating a basketball court into doing the same for the varying lengths and widths of surfaces in sports such as football, tennis, hockey, boxing, American football, ice hockey and more besides. Perhaps even to the point of factoring in natural elements within evolving environments such as the ball skidding on the ice of a ice hockey themed court or the wind speed and weather conditions of an outdoor motorsports arena.
Sparc is not compatible with DualShock 4 controllers instead opting to reflect the physicality of the futuristic sport by accurately portraying 1:1 movement via two PlayStation Move controllers that represent your left and right hands. Either hand can throw the ball by holding the trigger button and manoeuvring the relevant PlayStation Move controller at the pace you want the ball to be projected at before releasing the trigger button upon completing your preferred style of aiming in a similar fashion to a volley or underhand tennis shot. Either hand can also catch the ball you had earlier thrown by holding the trigger button and reaching out in the direction of the ball, while retaining possession of your ball by continuing to hold the trigger button will allow you to position your shield by moving the corresponding PlayStation Move controller to protect you from your opponents’ ball, alongside dodging out of the way of an incoming ball through the movement of your body in relation to the positioning of both PlayStation Move controllers in addition to pressing the Move button to produce a reset or exit menu. PlayStation Move controllers vibrate when your ball has been gathered and your shield is formed.
Graphically, Sparc is simplistic in style yet quite effective in how that lends itself to the fast paced experience in a way of not detracting from your focus on your ball and that of your opponents’. Your customisable character model is viewable to your opponent, while the design of the gloves, shield and ball look appropriately futuristic, alongside the court that is a character in itself due to the incredible physics that it is capable of producing.
Sparc’s presentation is immediately immersive from the first loading screen onwards as each area of the menus are layered in the sense of what you would anticipate from stereoscopic 3D. Every choice of challenge, character customisation or online multiplayer match type sees the player scrolling through a conveyer belt worth of options, physically turning in the direction of their preferred option before pointing their left or right PlayStation Move controller while holding the trigger button to highlight the holographic option and placing it within the required area in order to select it.
A female voice-over narrates the tutorial in a pleasant, humorous fashion, while sound effects include the ball rebounding off the court’s surface, catching your ball or forming a shield and more besides.
The trophy list includes 10 trophies with 4 bronze trophies, 5 silver trophies and 1 gold trophy. Easier trophies include the I Know Sparc Fu bronze trophy for completing the tutorial; the Decked Out bronze trophy for customising your avatar; the Basic Contender silver trophy for playing a basic match in online multiplayer; the Challenger silver trophy for posting a challenge time; and the Expert Challenger silver trophy for posting a time in every challenge. Harder trophies include the Ready for the Majors gold trophy for winning a basic match in online multiplayer and the Veteran silver trophy for winning 10 advanced matches in online multiplayer. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 10 to 20 hours to 100% the trophy list.
There are gradually increasing difficulty levels within the single player challenges, although as there is no A.I. opponents in single player; the difficulty curve revolves around the player mastering the techniques outlined in the single player challenges to be able to utilise that knowledge when competing against players during online multiplayer matches.
Online multiplayer performs excellently without any lag despite the physics that are in play. It is highly probable that players will be easily able to find an online multiplayer match due to cross-platform online multiplayer that rather amazingly enables PlayStation VR and PC players to participate within the same competitive match. Players who join an online lobby will be able to spectate other players’ matches until it is their turn to compete.
Online multiplayer includes three match types consisting of brawl basic, advanced brawl and experimental, although every match type revolves around single matches instead of championships comprising of multiple matches. Each match type has varied settings as brawl basic is a 3 minute match with both players attempting to score the most points before time expires, although overtime will occur if both players have the same points, while advanced brawl has an entirely different approach as there are 3 rounds were the player that reaches 4 points in a round wins that particular round before the match progresses onto the next round. There are further rules including basic brawl having a medium aim assist which is reduced to a low aim assist in advanced brawl, while your shield is broken after deflecting the opponents’ ball once in which it recharges after throwing your ball in basic and advanced brawl, although basic brawl has knuckle guard deflectors to help in deflecting the opponents’ incoming ball away when your shield is in the middle of recharging; however that is not a luxury afforded in advanced brawl. An experimental match offers an alternative court in which the court is essentially a diamond shape providing unique physics for the ball to bounce off an unnatural shape, while returning the basic brawl rules.
Social screen is technically supported by providing an external view of the action from the side of the court for anyone who wants to watch their friend’s match. However, there is no social screen competitive multiplayer which is disappointing as PlayStation VR was pitched as encouraging social multiplayer experiences between PlayStation VR and the player using the TV screen. The social screen player could have controlled their character utilising the DualShock 4 controller in a similar control scheme to that of a tennis game with an optional gameplay mechanic were the players could swap between PlayStation VR and the TV screen to implement the physicality of Sparc for both players.
Despite CCP Games’ aim to make Sparc a futuristic sport; there are no plans for Sparc to enter into the world of e-Sports which is surprising given the fact that its physical premise would be the most probable videogame to ever be included in the Olympics.
Online leaderboards focus on the fastest times set by each player with rankings covering every basic and advanced single player challenge with each leaderboard containing each player’s rank; name (PSN ID); and the best time set by each player, while players can compare their positioning on the leaderboards with global players and display your position within any given leaderboard.
Sparc’s replayability stems from the unpredictable results in the basic brawl, advanced brawl and experimental online multiplayer match types, accompanied by 5 basic and 5 advanced single player challenges, online leaderboards displaying the fastest times for each challenge, significant character customisation and above all else; the capability of utilising Sparc as an exercise routine.
- Title: Sparc
- Developer: CCP Games
- Publisher: CCP Games
- System: PlayStation VR
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross-Buy: No
- Cross-Play: Yes (PlayStation VR-PC cross-platform online multiplayer)
- Players: 1/2 (Online Multiplayer)/Online Leaderboards
- Hard Drive Space Required: 4.95GB (Version 1.11)