3-Minute VR: ‘Cyberpong VR’

Mixed Reality shot of the author hitting a ball with a paddle and about to fire a missile in Cyberpong VR.
‘Cyberpong VR’ is a “hit”. Heh.
Review Space: Room Scale Available on: HTC Vive
Multiplayer: Yes Controllers: Tracked Motion Reviewed on: HTC Vive
Video Review: Check it out at the bottom of the article.

Overview

When new technology shows up, developers often return to gaming’s roots, as is the case with Cyberpong VR. A throwback to Breakout, here you are placed in a tunnel with a wall of advancing blocks at the far end. With a paddle in each hand, you bounce a ball to the wall, clearing blocks with each hit to keep the game going; if they get too close the game is over. Some block colors are cosmetic, while others have game effects: blues require multiple hits to destroy; reds explode; greens give you an extra ball in play; and purple blocks release a blue orb that you can collect with your paddles and store as energy for later use.

First person perspective choosing which of four characters to play with the human player inset on the bottom right.
Everyone thinks they’ll love to play as Max, but that paddle is really hard to use!

Hitting the ball involves getting your paddle in the right spot with the perfect tilt to send it where you want it to go. Swinging your paddle gives the ball a bit more speed, and I have found it helps me aim my shot. However, you’ll want to temper your enthusiasm as you still have to be able to hit the ball when it bounces back.

Cyberpong VR increases the challenge as the game goes on by throwing more and smaller blocks at you. As the wall gets closer, panic sets in. Now it’s time to deploy your powered abilities: the touchpad can be used to upgrade either of your paddles to be wider, trap balls for aimed shots, fire lasers, or even launch a missile that breaks every block in the arena. Each of those modes requires use of energy that you collect from purple blocks, and knowing just when to use a power-up is the strategic component of Cyberpong VR.

Kickstarter Alert: SwapBots Augmented Reality

When the game ends, your score is simply how long you survived. My games have lasted from six to eleven minutes. Scores are posted to a global leaderboard, so you can see how you stack up against your friends and the world.

Multiplayer

Multiplayer is a markedly different experience. Here, you’ll face off against an opponent down the same familiar tunnel, but now there are no blocks; just the two opposing players. Your goal now is to get the ball past your opponent, and to do that you can create some very tricky shots with sharp angles. Games play out quickly: the speed of the ball increases the longer you play, with rounds to five points and games being played to the best-of-three.

External view of multiplayer game, one floating head/arms at each end of a tunnel in Cyberpong VR.
Multiplayer matches can involve a lot of tricky shots, requiring you to move quickly. I’ve seen people on Twitch get winded during a long rally.

Multiplayer has invitation and matchmaking services, and while opponents used to be hard to find, I was able to find competitors quickly while doing research for this review. The devs have been working to increase interest as well, hosting tournaments that they stream on Twitch. I tuned in to watch and I wound up playing an impromptu game against one of them. It was a lot of fun, and I’m not just saying that because I narrowly eked out a victory!

 Specials & Surprises

With just your head motion and hand controllers, you can convey a wide range of emotions to your opponent during a match. The dev I played gave me a friendly wave to start the match, and later vamped for the Twitch audience by striking a wrestling-style muscle pose that you could instantly recognize. Pretty cool!

I was also happy to find that the window running on the desktop included external camera options so that friends taking turns during a VR hangout can watch the action, but not be stuck with the shakiness of the player’s first-person view.

Overhead view of the arena in Cyberpong VR, showing the virtual reality balls headed towards the player (who is inset in the bottom right).
For spectators, this is a lot better than watching from first person. The camera can cycle through above, over-the-shoulder, and rotating cameras.

Who Should Buy It?

Almost everyone building a VR library should pick up Cyberpong VR. Not only is it fun to play, it’s a perfect game to introduce friends to VR: they already know how to play Breakout-style games, and nausea should be minimized as there is no motion other than what the player makes. The game should be especially appealing to anyone looking for multiplayer experiences in VR.

You can pick up Cyberpong VR on Steam for $14.99.

Video Review

Too much reading? Check out my video review. Plus, it’s got mixed-reality footage!

Disclosure: a copy of Cyberpong VR was provided for this review.

Three-Minute VR is virtual reality coverage that aims to cram all the info you need in the shortest time and space I can manage. They may not be exactly three minutes… so let’s just say they’re virtually three minutes.

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Mike is a geek-of-all-trades in the Royal Canadian Air Force with particular interests in science, programming, and video gaming, and is now a VR proselytizer. Follow him for game reviews, dev interviews, PAX coverage, and everything VR. His son and daughter share a number of his passions, and his wife lovingly encourages them all.