In a comeback that no one really saw coming, SEGA’s arcade Cosmic Smash series has made the jump to the modern age, with a fully reworked and rebranded PSVR2 title. C-Smash VRS will thrust players into a minimalistic world to play games of squash in virtual reality. On paper it might not sound like it is up to much, but delve into its mechanics and you’ll discover a bare yet impressively entertaining package.
The game is simple: loading into a small level with a paddle in hand, you’re tasked with swiping a ball into varying targets on the other side of a room. With a pull of the left analog stick you’ll move left or right, but everything else is down to you. Quite quickly we forgot where we were as we tried to angle the paddle just right to hit that pesky target in the top left corner.
It’s immediately apparent how well designed C-Smash VRS is for the PSVR2. The Sense controllers feel finely tuned to the whole experience, where the slightest angle of our wrist would impact where the ball would fly off to. Granted it takes a little bit to get used to, especially since we aren’t quite squash connoisseurs in real life, but once you get it down it feels fantastic to play. It’s another great example of Sony’s tech fading into the background, allowing the game itself to shine.
The game will gradually introduce smaller targets and blocks, which make the angle of your strikes all the more important. And with a time limit on most levels, there was an element of pressure there that kept us coming back. We never experienced SUPERHOT or Beat Saber levels of intensity, but C-Smash doesn’t really reach for that. It’s a far more chilled out experience than we had anticipated, but a welcome one that allows you to enjoy the simplicity of its design.
One thing that hampered our chilled-out time with C-Smash though was space. If you’re a veteran PSVR2 player, then you’ll know you can get away with a smaller-than-recommended space with most games. Not C-Smash VRS though, which eats up all of that minimum two-by-two metre room, and then some. We were barely 20 minutes into the game before we’d smashed our hands off of walls and ceilings on multiple occasions. We moved into a spacier living room with all the furniture stuffed to the sides – which certainly helped – but unless you have pretty high ceilings, we suspect you’ll get a couple of bruised fingers or knuckles during your time with this game. There's thankfully an option to play the game seated so it's not a total write-off, but we felt that playing in this manner meant we never quite reached the heights of the “full-body” C-Smash experience.
In part, it is a compliment to developer Wolf & Wood Interactive, as more often than not the game would suck us in to the point that we’d forget about our surroundings. It didn’t help that we were going hell for leather with a Andy Murray styled serving slam. However, in our last couple of hours with C-Smash VRS we had started to miss out on those far reaching shots in fear of damaging the Sense Controllers, the walls, or ourselves.
Besides punching walls, there isn’t actually a whole lot to C-Smash VRS. There is a challenge and Zen mode version of the solo campaign, which works you through various challenge types — and this is where the majority of our time with the game was spent. It helps you get to grips with the game's mechanics, and fine-tune your squash game, but you’ll stick around for the challenge modes. Not only will it ask you to get better scores, but it'll also ask you to do them without failure. This gives off a pretty intense “one more try” energy, as we strove to perfect our performance. It’s not as dense as we’d like, but for those happy to swing away for a better score, the core experience is entertaining enough.
Then comes the online component, which truthfully is what drew us into C-Smash in the first place. Playing a back and forth game of digital tennis in VR sounded just about as fun as it actually is. It's almost therapeutic as we played with friends, discussing our week while trying to slam the ball into a specific spot. With four modes to play around with, it was only ever good for short sessions, but mix its chilled out atmosphere into the equation and we always had a good time.
However, there were two big caveats to that. For one, if our internet decided to dip in quality somewhat, the matches suffered greatly. That’s to say that the online experience is entirely internet speed dependent, which might be an obvious statement to make, but it misaligns the finely-tuned aspect of its gameplay to an almost unplayable level. However, even without internet issues you're left with a seemingly dead matchmaking system. We tried a lot over the course of the opening weekend to matchmake with other players to no success. There is a warm-up room to practice in while you're waiting — and we have just about as much gameplay time in that space as we did in the rest of the game.
C-Smash VRS is a brilliantly restorative VR experience. With finely tuned motion controls, sparklingly simple visuals, and a chilled-out electronic score, it’s yet another fine addition to Sony’s roster of VR titles. We can even see it becoming a go-to with friends who just want to game and have a catch up. Yet while the core experience is fun enough, its lack of content and currently empty matchmaking experience leaves it feeling like an unfulfilled promise — especially if you're playing solo. We’d love to see an improvement to matchmaking and servers, but until then, C-Smash VRS will leave more of an impact on our battered walls than it will our memories.