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Review: Smashbox Arena (PlayStation 4)By Insanoflex At 06.08.2017 15:35

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The sickness some people feel when playing VR games is the result of the human brain interpreting the experience as some kind of hallucination and trying to make the body vomit because it thinks it has been poisoned from some imaginary hallucinogens. Smashbox Arena is a VR game that has been designed exclusively to prevent any kind of VR sickness, yet in spite of that, the game is vomit-inducing thanks to some hideous art and designs.

The character design in this game is like if Rayman was done by a Chinese knock-off, but were too busy so they let their kids do all the work. There is a wide range to choose from, too, from horribly unappealing boy character, to horribly unappealing goth girl, to a bunch of generic animal characters, and some that make no sense at all.

Smashbox Arena starts up unceremoniously with an immediate shunting to what can be best described as an empty lobby of a building, with no furniture and a few golden spheres, which is supposed to be some kind of art. Since this game is played with two PS Move sticks, there is no analogue movement whatsoever, which means Smashbox Arena relies on the ol' teleporting method of movement. This is especially a pain since there are no options to change anything, and the only way to turn is the X button being mapped to turning left or right depending on the respective left or right PS Move stick. There are no smooth turning options at all, and all turning is relegated to approximately 30-degree snap turns.

In a game like this where the main goal is competitive play and where death occurs in one hit, much faster and smoother gameplay would have been preferred than this clunky set-up. The whole point of using the PS Move controllers were so users could simulate having 1:1 weapon augmented reality in VR, but the real problem is that these controllers were just not designed in a way to be used flexibly. Having to use two of them and having no analogue stick or even a D-pad at all for a first-person shooter was already a bad idea, and the fact that the developers even tried to work around these limitations, only to result in something that barely works, suggests they shouldn't have tried and would have been better off using a standard controller with basic VR look mechanics.

It must be said that Smashbox Arena does manage to make the best with what it does have in terms of playability with the PS Move sticks, unlike Superhot VR. Surprisingly, the augmentation of the controllers is pretty solid and is free of jitteriness and feels accurate. The weapons themselves barely look like weapons, though, and can be best described as goofy-looking detachable showerheads.

As mentioned earlier, movement is done by teleporting, but Smashbox Arena found a way to make it worse thanks to adding a process to it, because teleportation involves lobbing a teleporter that's akin to tossing a grenade. The problem with this is that it is also physics based and there is a delay from when the device is thrown to when it lands and settles, which itself has about a second before the teleportation occurs. Imagine trying to conduct a shootout in this manner and also picture every ranger frantically fighting controls and slowly snap turning and aiming with their twin showerheads.

The basic shooting works by sucking up a ball with the showerhead and firing it at the enemy. Since weapons can only hold one shot and everyone is armed with two and one needs to be empty in order to teleport, there really is no benefit to dual firing, since everyone goes down in a single hit and enemy projectiles can be easily caught and fired back. Even if a weapon is loaded with a ball, it can be used as a shield or fired to ricochet projectiles, which is actually fairly clever in such a cheaply made game.

None of it really matters, since the AI in what can be laughingly referred to as the "story mode" is easily broken or just braindead. Sometimes the bots will just bunch up and clip into each other, becoming permanent easy open targets. Going into battle in the painfully unimaginative arenas is where it really shows just how broken and dull the game is. Not recommended.

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Final Score
[i]Smashbox Arena[/i] might be amusing for some multiplayer shenanigans, but it is very rare to find anyone online to play with given the niche base of VR (with PS Move sticks, no less). The story mode is very deceptive and is really just the multiplayer stages with AI enemies and partners, with no story at all. Even the announcer for the matches sounds like he is extremely bored and is about to yawn. There is a complete lack of appeal and energy, and the overall presentation just feels like it was made by an amateur programmer and not a designer at all. The lack of controller options really hurt this - not that they would make [i]Smashbox Arena[/i] much better, since it is nigh empty of content.



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