Preview: Sports Scramble – Mixed up Energy

During Oculus Connect 5 (OC5) in 2018, Facebook unveiled its 6DoF standalone headset Oculus Quest. As part of the demo, selection to showcase what the device could do was a sports title from Armature called Project Tennis Scramble. Now with the Oculus Quest only weeks away from release it’s time to preview the final version with a greater selection of events, Sports Scramble.

Sports Scramble features three sports, tennis, baseball and bowling with a selection of single-player training, challenge and free play modes. The title does include a multiplayer aspect but that was locked for this preview version, plus with the Oculus Quest not due for release until 21st May finding an actual match might have been a little tricky.

To begin with, the gameplay seems fairly ordinary, the first training modes for each sport take you through the rudimentary aspects of each sport and how they work in VR. However, it’s not called Sports Scramble because it plays by normal rules as game modifiers soon start to mix things up. There are three aspects which can alter the gameplay in weird and wonderful ways, changing the ball, changing the racket/bat, and changing the environment.

When setting up a free play tennis match for example you can go traditional or scramble, selecting either one, two or three of the modifier options. During the match these will then float above the net and need to be hit by either player. Hitting the ball modifier will then alter it for your opponent – and permanently keep it that way until another modifier is hit – changing an ordinary tennis ball into a beach ball or a fish. The same goes for the racket, suddenly changing into a baseball bat or a golf club.

In the bowling mode these changes are just as dramatic but out of your control. You’re given a selection of balls/items to try and get strikes with, pineapples, rolling pins, rugby balls are just some of the selection. A golden ball and a bomb can be earnt should you get a strike or spare. The lanes then switch to resemble a mini-golf style challenge, putting mines in the way, becoming really thin, or putting an ice hockey player in the way.

What this all makes for is an entertaining experience that should keep players on their toes. It’s made all the better thanks to Oculus Quests freedom to move around as required without a cable in the way. Just don’t expect to be diving across the room lunging for a tennis ball or sliding in baseball. Armature has ensured players aren’t required to move very far, keeping everything fairly constrained within a small square area marked on the floor.

Most impressive though is the tracking. For a title that requires plenty of fast-paced movement, Oculus Insight does an admiral job of keeping up, and never once did it seem to miss a shot; even when the controllers had clearly disappeared out of sensor range for a moment.

There are plenty of titles to get excited about for the launch of Oculus Quest, with big names like Beat Saber, Creed: Rise to Glory and Apex Construct on the roster. Yet Sports Scramble has the benefit of being one of the few original videogames on the list and is certainly ideal for newcomers. It’s not a system seller by any means, yet so long as the multiplayer works well Sports Scramble appears to be a neat little VR experience.

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