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  • Writer's pictureDom O'Leary

PSVR2 Review: C-Smash VRS

Hi there reader, welcome to another PSVR2 review, covering the newly-released C-Smash VRS on Sony's new headset. I've also got another fresh gameplay stream for you. Click the header image or read to the bottom for Twitch and YouTube VOD options.

C-Smash VRS Review Header Scientists in White

"Zero-G Squash happens to be very scientific, you know."

You might have heard of C-Smash VRS, the physics-based sports game from new studio and publisher RapidEyeMovers and VR pioneers Wolf & Wood. The game has attracted more than a little attention in the run up to launch, with both Sony and SEGA giving the game some marketing love on their social media accounts.

That's mainly because C-Smash VRS is a reimagining of SEGA’s iconic (yet never localized for the West) Dreamcast game “Cosmic Smash.” Built from the ground up for the modern age of VR, RapidEyeMovers meditative brick-breaking racket sport is a new beast with a decidedly retro feel.

Be sure to check out this in-depth interview with creator Jorg Tittel and Cory Schmitz from the DLC podcast if you want to know more about the game's Dreamcast origins.

Welcome to C-Smash

Offering room-scale movement for those with the space, C-Smash VRS brings together racket sports and action-puzzle gameplay in a unique way. The core gameplay consists of hitting the ball with your racket at targets on the opposite side of your VR "court." The added wrinkle is the idea that you're playing in zero-gravity, which means that all kinds of crazy shots are possible. It also means that controlling your shots will take some getting used to. That's not a detractor though, it's here where the skill portion of the game starts to come into play.

The single-player portion of the game is known as Journey mode and it attempts to bring rogue-like progression to the core sports game. On entering either "Zen" or "Challenge" mode (The difference being that you can't retry levels in challenge mode) you'll get a map which gives you a couple of possible paths to choose from. This lets you plot your route to the end of that "orbit," which grants you access to another map with another set of levels. You'll repeat this five times before getting to a final boss encounter (yes, really, no spoilers) at the end of your run.

C-Smash VRS single player journey white room in space

"Adoring fans will clap your sporting efforts"

The environments are clean, crisp and clear. There's a minimalist design in the graphics that really plays to the game's retro-nostalgic strengths. You'll find the stages changing as you progress through your journey. With simple changes from subtle colour shifts, all the way to courts literally breaking apart in the latter stages of a run.

The attention to detail in the stages is impressive and adds to the feeling of wanting to jump back in to the single player mode for another run. The puzzles themselves do become a little repetitive after a few runs, there isn't a huge amount of variation on display in this regard. The game boasts 100 levels, but to be quite honest the variety here comes from how you approach the puzzles, rather than the game supplying fiendishly tricky brain teasers.

If your experience is anything like mine, then you'll slowly work out that the objective here isn't just getting rid of all your targets. Instead, to get the highest score multipliers, you'll have to do it as a continuous rally, and in the fastest time possible to boot. Believe me, that sounds easier than it is. However, this and other little quirks of the gameplay, like the ball being slightly attracted to your racket, are what give this simple-seeming premise some real depth.

C-Smash VRS single player journey orange room power up blocks

"Hit the ones with the funny pictures"

The other major gameplay mechanic worth mentioning is the power ups. As you hit targets you'll build power in your racket, eventually allowing you to hit a charged shot that's easier to direct and breaks multiple targets at once. As you select your path in journey mode, you'll see little icons representing different power ups on certain stages. Hitting the corresponding targets in the stages gives you these power ups to use. Unfortunately, these power ups aren't particularly inventive, and they don't add a great deal to the gameplay, either.

The default smash-shot is useful but beyond that, other powers are either analoguous in use or just plain worse. Take the "refelection" power for example, it does the same thing as the smash-shot, but comes back at the angle you hit it. It's fractionally, marginally, better (if at all) and leaves me wondering why these different powers exist if they're non-essential and mostly the same.

To balance that, the core single-player game and its physics do feel great to play with. The feeling of the ball hitting your racket and seeing it arcing away at the perfect angle elicits the same joy and catharsis as hitting a perfect shot in real life (I'm told, I have no athletic ability.) Despite being simple and relatively easy to run all the way through in one sitting, the single player mode certainly has an addictive factor. I found myself playing a few hours more than I strictly needed to for this review, for sure.

Cosmic Multiplayer

Adding to the single player offering are four multiplayer modes that you can play 1 v 1 against a friend or in online quickplay. The standard head to head mode gives each player a wall of targets positioned behind them. It's your job to break your opponents targets before they break yours. To do that, you'll have to try and hit shots they can't return. This can lead to some really intense back-and-forth rallies as you attempt to out-think or out-smash your opponents.

The second mode, Firewall, involves 2 players on opposite sides of a wall covered in both target blocks and blank blocks. As you hit the targets, they'll change to your colour and the wall will move toward your opponent. The more zones you control, the better. Your opponent can do the same from their side, changing your blocks to their own colour. This mode seems great on paper but in pratice led to a feeling of stalemate in every encounter, as me and my opponent essentially took turns switching blocks back and forth. I honestly don't know if this was due to my limited playtime (a handful of matches) in this mode, or a flaw of the main mechanic itself.

C-Smash VRS single player journey, red room with barrier

"Barriers with red X's will block and return your shots... so will your multiplayer opponents"

Rounding out the multiplayer are Bodyshot, in which you and your opponent frantically hit two balls at each other's VR bodies, and Quickshot, in which you attempt to hit targets before your opponent in a kind of quick-draw squash duel. The multiplayer modes are fun thanks to the game's rock-solid core mechanics, but there's nothing here to keep drawing you back for more play sessions beyond the fun of the game itself.

There's a notable absence of leaderboards or score tracking. Facing the same opponent in a multiplayer rematch doesn't give you any kind of tally of wins and losses, in short, there's no progression to speak of at all. Even in the single player mode, your in-level scores are tracked and given a rank at the end of a level, yet there's no display of these scores outside of a run. The game seems perfect for high-score chasing, so it's perpelexing that this kind of progress tracker was left out.

These unfortunate omissions make a really fun core game feel a little incomplete, to me at least.

Final Thoughts

I can't leave this review without mentioning the game's soundtrack at least once. C-Smash VRS includes pulsing original tracks by popular electronic artists DJ Ken Ishii of Rez Infinite fame and Danalogue, front man of The Comet is Coming, who you might have seen at their recent Glastonbury performance.

The music itself is a retro vibe spanning blissful zen-like melodies to pulsating workout beats. It's not my kind of musical style at all, and yet I found myself flowing along to the music as I played. To say it suits the gameplay perfectly is honestly an understatement. It's noticable how the ebb and flow of the soundtrack can affect your mood and approach as you're playing a level.

A word of caution, there are limitations to C-Smash, so don't go into to this one expecting the next big VR blockbuster. There's no movement outside of side to side court traversal, which is somewhat made up for by the fact you can actually hurl yourself from side to side if you have a court-sized living room. There's also nothing beyond the gameplay mechanics and modes I've described here, so take that as you will.

Without proper score tracking, and with us hanging on a promise from the developer RapidEyeMovers that more content is coming (including co-op,) it's tempting to say the game feels a little content-light right now. However, at its indie price-point of £24.99 on the PlayStation store, you're getting a solid action-puzzler that also lets you play zero-gravity squash against your friends. I've enjoyed the game, and I'll definitely be returning to it as updates happen.

This review was conducted thanks to a code provided by the Developer/Publisher. This does not in any way affect my view of the game or the final review score. Many thanks to RapidEyeMovers, Wolf & Wood, and 4Media for making this review possible.

C-Smash VRS review score and summary over purple room and crowd

Check out my extended gameplay stream over on Twitch and YouTube for more C-Smash!

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