Hands-On: ‘Ripcoil’ is Sci-Fi VR ‘Pong’ Meets Competitive ‘Tron’ Disc Throwing
Ripcoil was one of the few games at E3 2016 that I knew next to nothing about before I played it. Oculus had just announced the game within a press release about other announcements, I hadn’t had time to really look into it at all, and I had just came directly from another appointment when I played it for the first time. I went in blind.
While it would have benefited me a great deal to have had a bit more information before I started playing Ripcoil for the first time, I was still able to pick it up and learn it quickly. The best way to describe Ripcoil is to imagine you’re playing a 3D VR version of Pong, but instead of moving a paddle, you’re sliding your character’s entire body by leaning on a board, and instead of a ball, it’s cybernetic frisbees.
Luckily, I had the chance to go hands-on with Ripcoil on two different occasions at E3 2016, so I’ve played about a half dozen or so matches and already have a lot of thoughts.
Bank Shots and Cyber Punches
Each match began on the same map. I looked down and saw a fully modeled avatar including legs, torso, arms, and all other body parts, which is a stark contrast to the typical floating hands and heads of most VR games. Across the arena was my opponent. Since this is a VR game, we naturally started dancing and laughing together with the voice chat integration.
Since Ripcoil features fully animated arms and avatar bodies, the sense of immersion is immediately palpable. When I bend my knees, so does my character. The calibration test has me stretch my arms out wide and press the analog sticks to help set the orientation.
The match started by the disc spawning in front of me. I reached out with my right hand and grabbed it using the Touch controller. Just like a real frisbee, I had to continue holding, then fling my wrist as I let go to send it flying. Luckily, your aim doesn’t have to be perfect as the game automatically corrects and guides the disc to make sure you don’t throw it too high or low. Instead, you mostly have control over the lateral movement across each side of the arena.
My opponent easily catches the disc and sends it flying back towards me with another toss, but this time it ricochets off of the arena wall before it comes barreling towards me. The announcer exclaims in excitement at what is referred to as “banking” the disc. In order to slide my character across the arena to catch the disc, I shift my body weight and snatch it out of the air just in time.
By holding down a different button on the Touch controller in either hand, I can also charge up my fist to prepare a super-powered punch. That punch sends the disc flying at a much higher speed, but it’s also more difficult to aim precisely.
Slip and Slide
My biggest gripe with Ripcoil is definitely the movement system. It didn’t make me feel nauseous or dizzy or anything like that, but it lacked the precision I was hoping for from a game like this. As a demonstration, do me a favor and stand up right now while you’re reading this. Put your feet approximately shoulder width apart, and reach out quickly like you’re grabbing something. You’ll probably notice that your head moved to the opposite side when you did that, right? It’s an instinctual and natural reaction. Reach with your right hand quickly, your head shifts left, along with your torso, and vice versa.
Since Ripcoil uses your head to track movement of your game character, this becomes an issue. When your opponent throws the disc across the arena and you have to quickly slide over to grab it, but in doing so, at the last second your head shifts, causing you to just miss nabbing it from the air, it’s extremely frustrating. The issue is even more exaggerated with punching, since it’s a more dramatic and jarring movement.
After a few matches I was able to get my shifting under control, but I had to consciously think about it and remind myself not to shift too much, else I’d cause my avatar to move incorrectly before I could catch my prize. For an immersive activity like VR, having to constantly remember what you’re doing in the real world isn’t something I’d like to have on my mind.
One solution that would potentially help is to have one of the buttons on the controller act like an “anchor” of sorts. When you press the anchor button, it would lock you in place and prevent any extra head movement from shifting you. This would be great so you can get in place to catch the disc, hold the anchor, then not worry about wildly moving around by accident.
While it seems awfully similar to Project Arena, Holoball, or Cyberpong, there are enough differences to help Ripcoil stand out a bit from the pack. Ripcoil is an Oculus Studios title in development by Sanzaru Games and will be exclusive to the Oculus Rift with Touch. Expect to see Ripcoil available later this year with the launch of the Touch controllers.