Is SPARC worth the $29.99 asking price? What about offline?
A few weeks ago, Sparc arrived for PlayStation VR, and one of the big questions that came with it's release, was, is the game really worth it's $29.99 price tag? Had Sparc been $19.99, it would've been given the benefit of the doubt, but another 10 bucks can sometimes make or break the value proposition. If you've got the money to blow, sure, spend it, and enjoy yourself. However, some of us have to pick and choose, and we try to budget our funds, because we're saving our pennies for stuff like Skyrim VR. We can't buy every single game that comes down the pipe. So the question remains... Is Sparc worth the 30 quid?
Well, it depends... (Of course I was going to say that...) No seriously, in this case, it really does depend. It depends on what you're looking for from the game. There are certain things about Sparc that I absolutely adore, while at the same time, I think the core online gameplay is a bit head scratching. There are so many things to love about the game. I do love the Portal-esque aesthetic of the game. It's so simple and minimalistic. It just looks clean and elegant. The sound design is absolutely superb. The noises that the ball makes as it's flying around the arenas is quite spectacular. This is one of those games where you probably want to crank your volume a bit more than normal, to hear that ball whizzing around everywhere. It's truly impressive.
Still, I can't seem to shake the feeling that the core gameplay idea of the game doesn't really feel all that compelling. When you're playing another player online, you're standing across the arena from the player, and you're grabbing your little ball, and either using it as a shield, or you're throwing the ball at the opponent. You're either trying to hit them directly or earn a strike. It's certainly fun, but I honestly think I would like it more if it was a traditional racket sport like HoloBall or Racket Nx. The polish is there, don't get me wrong. The game has tremendous polish and spit shine. It's a well-oiled machine, and you can tell that's it's been fine tuned. However, I think there are more enjoyable arena games you could play besides dodging and throwing a ball at somebody.
The crazy thing is, I'd still recommend this game to most PSVR players. I gave the game a score of 88, and the majority of my score comes from how much fun I've had just doing the challenges. The Challenges are basically the slim pickins single player mode of Sparc, but it's still quite enjoyable to play. You're going through training courses, learning how to play the game, and I find the exercises they give you, more enjoyable than the full blown online game. Each time I play, I think I can do slightly better than I did the last time. I'm trying to move up the leaderboards with each attempt. It really has that "just one more try" gameplay down pat. I've been able to get into the top 100 of some of the leaderboards, but haven't been able to sniff the top 10 yet. Still, I'm having a wonderful time trying.
The game definitely offers up what I like to call "accidental exercise". You will move around quite a bit, and you can get a little sweaty depending on your climate and how high you have your AC blasting. I definitely recommend having a few fans in the area, circulating the air around you, and keeping you cool while you enjoy the game. Some VR gamers might not like the fact that it can get you hot and bothered, but for me, it's a dream come true. I don't get as much normal exercise as I probably should get, so any opportunity to get me up and moving around is a good thing. Also, you'll probably be having so much fun, that you won't really notice that you're burning a few calories along the way.
Another consideration to think about, is should I bother with this game if I don't have PlayStation Plus? If I can't play others online, is it still worth the $30 entry fee?
This is a much more difficult question to answer. It really depends on your own personal financial situation, and how often you end up with buyer's remorse in situations like these. If you're more of the happy-go-lucky type, you'll probably be fine. If you're the type that can endlessly wonder whether you made the right decision or not, then you'll probably want to pass at the current $30 pricepoint. Maybe wait for a future sale or discount. VR Game Rankings was graciously provided a review code by CCP, so I have to think carefully whether or not it would have been really worth it to me, if my own $30 was on the line. I actually don't personally have PlayStation Plus, because I honestly don't believe Sony is doing enough with that program to cater to VR only PS4 gamers. I only play VR games for the most part, and Sony doesn't regularly give away VR games monthly to subscribers. Yes, you do get the benefit of online play, but before Sparc, I'm not sure there has been anything compelling enough to get me to spring for Plus. I still think there is some great fun to be had with this game, even if you never play an online match, but at $30, it's an expensive bare-bones single player mode.
At the end of the day, I can say one thing with relative certainty. Sparc will become one of the first games I reach for, when I want to enjoy some quality VR gaming, while at the same time getting a bit of exercise. Racket Nx on the HTC Vive was normally my go-to game in this scenario, but Sparc could end up replacing that game as my go-to option. At least until I get a wireless adapter for my HTC Vive!