As I figuratively stepped into the world of Sparc, I could instantly tell it would own up to its inspiration. It unabashedly apes the concept surrounding TRON‘s iconic disc battles but does so with a sense of class and faithfulness that lets you live out movie scenes in the comfort of your own home. After tossing glowing balls back and forth in digitized neon hallways for a while, I can conclude that this is one of those rare virtual reality games that simply works right. For the most part.

If you’re familiar with TRON in any of its forms, you might already have a general idea about gameplay. Two players are placed on opposite ends of a narrow hallway and tasked with hitting each other to score points. You can also hit a goalpost behind an opponent to increase the size and speed of your ball. However, as much as you’re slinging balls, you’ll spend an equal amount of time deflecting them with your gloves and shield. Gloves only offer so much protection, but when you hold a ball, the latter forms a large rectangular shield on your forearm that’s essential to deflecting balls with far stronger and faster hits. If you’re not in a good position to protect yourself, you can dodge left, up, or down, which can be exhilarating when you quickly pull it off.

SparcChallenge

Right down the center. No big deal, right? Nope. You have to master the ways of the ricochet.

I started getting a handle on the controls with the Challenges mode, which consists of ten tests pinpointing the arts of throwing and dodging in combined courses. I quickly found out that Sparc isn’t about hitting your targets directly, since throwing your ball straight at them is inaccurate and slow. You’re supposed to ricochet your ball as much as possible, but attempting to do this with throwing can prove to be frustrating at times. When it comes to more accurate shots, the PlayStation Move controllers cannot provide what you’re looking for. You’ll often be randomly chucking a ball in the same direction with wildly different trajectories. You’ll be looking in the exact spot you want to hit and make the right swing, but there’s a slight and sometimes dramatic disconnect with how that’s translated into the game. At least soft auto-targeting helps to mitigate this issue without being too intrusive.

On the other hand, deflecting with the shield feels significantly better since you can control the ball’s direction more intuitively and hit it with greater force. There’s nothing more satisfying than doing a backhand motion with all your might to send a ball blazing across a court. Between all the dodging and erratic motions you’ll be going through, Sparc turns out to be a great workout as well! I was panting and sweating at one point after retrying one of the challenges, but I can say the physical torment was more than worth it because this exercise is fun. I never expected to put those two words together in my lifetime, but this game made the impossible possible.

SparcPink

The developer did a phenomenal job with the animation of character models. You could do mo-cap with this! Well, maybe.

There’s honestly a good two or three hours you can suck out of the challenges since they’re a thrill to master with high scores, but once you’ve had your fill of these, there’s no other modes to test your skills offline. It speaks for a common trend I’ve noticed with virtual reality games: they’re big on ideas, but low on content. The same predicament falls on Sparc since there’s nothing to do outside of the challenges. Even the three multiplayer modes can only entertain for so long. Basic is the most welcoming since you can use your gloves to block balls in addition to your shield. Other things like aim assist and arm shields are increased in effectiveness, whereas Advanced turns most of these luxuries down or off. Lastly, Experimental was one of the most promising maps since it rotated the hallway’s orientation from a square to a diamond shape. This presents a lot of exciting opportunities for the mind games of ricocheting. Beyond these modes, even the game’s main attraction loses steam quickly in its current state.

SparcSpectate

You spectate live matches in a queue, and the other person is standing right across from you in silence watching…waiting…dancing.

Multiplayer could do with several more maps and additional features to shake maps up. Adding limiters, obstacles, moving platforms, power-ups, and the like would make for a more well-rounded experience. As it is, there’s only so much you can expect from a Sparc match. Half the time, you’re randomly hoping to get shots close to your opponent and catching on with simple strategies like following up a deflected ball with your own to keep him or her scatterbrained. As for single player, I was sorely disappointed that AI opponents were not implemented. I feel more nuances with throwing (such as curving) and deflecting balls could have been taught through a short story mode where you fight your way through a series of opponents with different tactics.

Despite all that, what is here feels great. Even the customization of your character will make you stand out with the scope of colors and clothing you can equip. There are variety of suit, visor, and glove designs to equip, but it would’ve been nice to have unlockable gear as incentives for showing off your achievements. It should also be said that the UI and art style look slick, which play into the glowing neon aesthetic of TRON well, even if it gives off the idea that imitation is more than flattery here.

SparcCharacter

Yours truly!

Sparc scintillates with a current of refinement, taking on the concept of TRON‘s disc battle and innovating upon it with a simple yet exhilarating sport that feels at home in virtual reality. While the controls are a tad spotty and content sorely lacking, the game has a solid charge that needs a few more amps to reach its potential.

Our Sparc review was conducted on PlayStation VR with a code provided by the developer.

7.0
 

Very Good

Summary

While lacking in content and having some spotty controls, Sparc scintillates with a simple yet exhilarating sport that feels at home in virtual reality.

Pros

  • Great VR Concept Expertly Executed
  • Feels and Plays Wonderfully...
  • Stylish UI And Art Style
  • It's a Fun, Real Workout!

Cons

  • Dearth of Overall Content
  • ...With The Exception of Some Control Quirks
  • Becomes a Bit One-Note

Joey Thurmond

Staff Writer

I'm a part-time videogame journalist with a BA in Game and Interactive Media Design and an MA in Writing Studies. I bleed theology, sci-fi, and fantasy. I grew up with Spyro and Crash on the PlayStation and love FPS, action-RPG, and platformer games. For more of my antics, mosey on over to Push Square and Gamechurch.