Most VR games take themselves pretty seriously. Maybe it’s a creeping horror waiting around the corner ready to scare the piss out of you. Perhaps it’s the giant mech game that has you fighting for the future of humanity.
Then you have Gunball.
Gunball is a game about…well, as you might deduce from the title, shooting a gun at a ball. Picking them up with one hand, lobbing them, and shooting them with the revolver so their arc carries them through various floating shapes scores you points as the clock ticks down. Simple, absurd, and far more fun than you might expect.
Billed as an Arena Sports game (complete with your coach, Coach Ball…because, what else would he be named?), Gunball is more tennis than Duck Hunt. It’s all about timing, combos, and multipliers. To encourage the player to try new things, there are higher rewards for more difficult shots. For example, hitting a close up target might only yield a 2X reward, but lobbing the ball way out towards pushes that combo to 10X whatever target you hit. This is where the high-scoring fun begins. Waiting for that same target to pass over a 10, 500, and 2000 point net and hitting all of them with a single ball? Now you are playing Gunball.
As you play, Coach Ball will grumble words of encouragement and instruction. He does tend to repeat, but it’s mostly background noise so it fades to the back pretty quickly. Some of what he’s got to say is pretty funny, though, so you’ll want to pay attention at least the first few times.
Visually, Gunball isn’t taking home any trophies, but what it does deliver works well in the context of the game. The balls are low-poly count, and the targets are just basic shapes, but it’s more than serviceable for what you are expected to do. The candy-coated bright environment is sure to please the whole family, as will the confetti madness when you score big points, and the challenge of one-upping your friends via the leaderboard should keep it in the VR rotation for a bit.
Unlike many VR shooters, the action can happen anywhere around you. Across the ten levels, targets can be stationary, move in a 360 degree arc, slide up and down behind obstacles, or be blocked entirely for periods of time. While you aren’t moving, beyond turning to face your target, it also means that you likely won’t face any sort of nausea issues in Gunball — a welcome thing if you’ve had issues with more mainstream “natural motion” movement mechanics in other games.
Scoring well in Gunball just takes practice and timing, but hitting the tops of the leaderboards requires a bit of planning. There’s a little more under the hood than what appears on the surface of the $14.99 title, but that price does feel a little stiff. You can blast through all ten levels in under an hour for a first run, and subsequent runs are all about improving on your previous score, or competing with your friends on the leaderboards. Off and on, there have been sales that have dropped the price to about ten bucks, which feels like the right price point.
Gunball is developer REDSpace’s freshman VR effort, and it’s not too shabby. REDSpace has worked on kid-focused titles like website for The Powerpuff Girls, The Nick App for Nickelodeon, and The Cartoon Network’s micro-game “Anything” app, so this is a step in a new direction for them. While Gunball is simple in execution, it’s elegant in its simplicity, and fun for the whole family at a fairly reasonable price.