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Sports Scramble Review: Mixing Things Up On Oculus Quest

by Kevin Ohannessian • May 24th, 2019
Platforms: Quest | Type: Game
Positives

- Colorful, solid graphics
- Good motion controls
- Unique, scrambled version of Sports

Negatives

- Some online connectivity issues
- Spare single player offerings
- Somewhat lacking solo content

What launch of an innovative new game platform would be complete without a motion-controlled sports game? To fulfill that need, Oculus Studios and developer Armature bring to the Quest: Sports Scramble.

A giant robot tennis ball with arms greets you to give you the ins and outs of the three sports available: Tennis, Baseball, and Bowling. Each sport has its own set of training tutorials to teach you the simplified versions of these sports.

In Tennis, you learn about swinging your racket, serving, and slicing the ball so it curves. In the unfettered world of Quest, you can move to the side to reach a ball, swinging wildly, hoping the ball doesn’t hit out. The game automatically adjusts to the size of the room, providing you more room to run if your space allows it.

The tutorials also teach you about the scrambling gimmick of the game. In Tennis, if the ball hits a floating blue icon, your racket may become something else: a hockey stick, a pool noodle, or even a sports fan’s foam finger. Each has its own properties when hitting a ball.

Similarly, the tennis ball can change too, from hitting an orange icon, mixing up the way it behaves after contact. A golf ball, a football, or even a beach ball. This makes the back and forth of Tennis that much more interesting and silly. But there is some strategy to this madness, as a scrambled ball and racket that match will give you a Charge Shot which has extra speed on the return, like the aforementioned pool noodle and beach ball.

It is a similar set up with the other sports as well. In baseball, the ball and bat can change to help the pitcher by using strange balls that curve or drop suddenly. Or a change in equipment to make life harder for the batter, as they try to knock a pitch out of the park with a pool cue.

To help the batter, there is a bat upgrade system. When you first make a hit in an inning, your wood bat is replaced with a metal one that is more likely to hit balls out of the park. And a third hit results in a golden bat with an even greater chance. This also helps if a batter finds themselves at a disadvantage due to a strange bat that has been forced upon them; getting a hit while using a strange object will restore the wooden bat.

When you are at bat, the gameplay is about where to aim your swing, or to even swing at all, to avoid a strikeout. On the mound, the motion controls are about aiming to catch the ball with your gloved hand and making the gesture to throw with the other. But you actually aim via your catching hand’s analogue stick, aiming outside the strike zone or for the different corners of the plate, to strike out the batter or hit one of the scramble icons. Similar to Wii Sports this is the limit to the baseball gameplay, because there is no control of players in the field.

The third sport is the stand out one for me: bowling. With bowling, you are making the appropriate underhand motion, releasing the grab button, and watching the ball go down the lane. Randomly, you will receive unique items to toss: pineapples, basketballs, or even curling stones—like from the Olympic sport played on ice.

And as with Baseball, your performance can earn you help in the game. A spare will get you a golden ball that scores bonus points, a Strike will get you a bomb that will take out additional pins on contact, and three strikes in a row will get you a turkey egg, that splits into three exploding turkeys running down the lane.

But the most intriguing scramble mechanic is with the lane itself. After the pins are reset with each frame, the lane will change. Perhaps you will have one littered with mines, or a thinner lane where the sides drop to an abyss, or maybe something that looks like a mini golf hole that aim toward the gaping mouth of a cutout clown. The variety of lanes really changes up the gameplay.

Another way Sports Scramble provides variety are the challenges. The trio of sports each has a set of challenges, 7 or 8 per sport, that are about doing something unique to score points. You usually have to score a certain amount in a limited timeframe to win. There is also two-racket Tennis that feels a bit like Beat Saber, a Home Run Derby for Baseball, and even a Space Invaders-esque version of Bowling where pixelated aliens are coming down the lane.

Exceptional performance in challenges, and in the other modes, can unlock trophies. These golden idols can be seen in a Hall of Champions. Unlocking trophies will also unlock new choices for your Sports Scramble avatar—new kinds of sports uniforms or colorful skins like neon red or yellow.

Now beyond all of the wacky modes, Sports Scramble does offer traditional versions of each sport that ditches its own unique scoring and Scramble icons for the normal scoring and gameplay of each individual sport. Play 9 innings of baseball, try to get reach Love in tennis, or bowl for 10 frames. You can even customize parameters: play baseball for 6 innings where only 2 balls is a Walk, or perhaps bowl for only 7 frames.

This all leads to what may be the biggest draw for any sports game, the multiplayer aspects. You can play one-on-one with people from your Friend List or do random matchmaking. You can select which Sports you are interested in playing, and then you get matched. After 20 seconds or so, I was playing Tennis with another player. The voice chat was crisp, my opponent’s hands and body movements were clear, and playing the scrambled versions of these sports was fun.

Of course, this was when I was able to connect to another player. This is probably due to being the first week of Quest launch, but there didn’t seem to be too many people playing. I had to try a few times at different hours to finally connect to people. Once I was in the game, things ran smoothly and without lag. The game dropped once when it was loading a rematch, and another time mid-game, so connectivity remains something of an issue. That being said, it was fun to bowl with others on some crazy lanes and talk through a tennis match. It’s too bad there isn’t more solo content and challenges to complete to balance things out.

The motion controls in Scramble feel accurate and they do give you a work out: I was sore after an hour of Baseball. And while there is definitely some aim assistance happening to ensure I actually hit targets during tutorials, it doesn’t feel too intrusive. I still missed plenty in all of the sports with serves going out or gutter balls flying down the lane. More options to tweak the assistance would’ve been nice.

Final Score: 7/10 – Good

Overall, the combination of colorful graphics, robust motion controls, and unique gameplay make Sports Scramble a solid launch title for the Quest. For the relatively steep $29.99, I would’ve loved more single player options such as additional challenges or other modes. But if you are interested in multiplayer, this may be the game for you.

Sports Scramble is available now on Oculus Quest for $29.99. Check out these official review guidelines to find out more about our process. 

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