Racket: NX – Oculus Quest Review

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After four months into the life of the Oculus Quest, we already have a number of VR racket-based games to test our bat and ball skills in the comfort of our VR gaming playspace. It’s quite easy for developers to stay traditional and create a tennis or table tennis game for the Quest, but in the context of Racket: Nx, it is a breath of fresh air when developers mix up the traditional and serve up something you don’t normally see, let alone play in VR.

The best way to describe Racket: Nx is that it is a game of squash mixed together with the classic game of Breakout and an added slice of pinball. I love it when developers buck the trend and don’t settle on playing it safe with new VR experiences. Racket: Nx is no exception, with its sci-fi visuals, toe tapping soundtrack and challenging racket-based gameplay.

You play the game whilst standing on a small platform that is surrounded by a dome of hexagonal tiles. The game begins as its red glowing ball appears and slowly floats towards you. “Here we go!” says the announcer, as you swing at the ball, sending it flying towards one of many hexagonal targets that line the inside of the giant glass dome that wraps itself around you.

The core gameplay of Racket: Nx is fairly simple. In the game’s Solo mode, you have a set number of targets that you must destroy with the ball, once each target has been destroyed a next wave of targets are introduced. Once all waves are cleared, the match is complete.

Just clearing targets wouldn’t be much of a challenge on its own, so in Solo mode, you have an Energy meter that slowly drains over time. If it drains completely, it’s game over. To replenish this energy bar you have to regularly hit your ball against one of the many Booster tiles that also spawn onto the walls of the dome.

Boosters aren’t the only tiles in the dome, however. To make things a little harder you have Downer tiles that reduce your energy meter much faster if hit – so you want to avoid those in order to win more higher difficulty levels in the game. When you swing hard enough at the ball it will hit the walls of the dome and stick to it for a period before returning to you. With a badly aimed strike, you can run into these Downer tiles quite easily, ending your game sooner than you think, so precision shots and being aware of the tile layouts around you is key.

As levels progress and get harder the game starts to demand more of your precision and skill, changing streaks and speed boosts together to generate more Boosters to fill your energy bar and do you best at avoiding the Downer tiles, all whilst keeping an eye on the ball as it travels around the glass dome. In certain waves, ridges can form on select tiles in the dome, which when hit, will begin to send your ball around the dome-like a game of Pinball. Teleport tiles also begin to appear in later levels, where if you lose your ball in them, you have to swiftly turn around and look out for the ball that will reappear back in the arena at another location.

Compared to playing Racket: Nx on other VR platforms, what makes Racket: Nx shine on the Quest is its lack of cables attached to the headset, it’s almost like it has been made for it. You are now free to spin around without worrying about any tangled cables that soon build up around your feet. This level of freedom easily helps get you fully immersed within the game, making you feel like you’re some kind of cyber sportsman in a Tron-like world.

The game’s Solo mode has more than enough to keep you entertained, with a star system for the completionists and a decent difficulty curve that keeps you coming back for more, just to see how each of the four difficulty modes will challenge you. In the game’s Arcade mode you have a few additional modes to play including Zen, Classic and Nightmare.

In Zen mode, you get to play the game in a dome without any energy to end your game. In this mode you simply last as long as you like, clearing targets and turning them into lotus flowers as you go. In Classic mode, the energy bar returns to hinder your game, and in this mode you have to last for as many waves as you can before your energy runs out. Nightmare is similar to Classic mode, however its way more challenging with Downers being spawned from the very beginning of the first wave.

If all these modes weren’t enough to keep you happily swinging, you can try your skills against a real-life online opponent in the game’s multiplayer mode. From here you can choose to play either against a random opponent or a friend in Competitive or Friendly modes respectively. In multiplayer mode, you and another player each have a score of 500 points and you take turns to hit the ball to score points off of each other, the first to capture all of the 1000 points, wins.

Amongst a small group of racket-based titles already available on the Oculus Quest, Racket: Nx stands up against most of them as a compelling title the bucks the trend. Its way of spinning the traditional racket sports game is just refreshing to see. At £14.99 from the Oculus Store, the price is just about right. With its solo, arcade and multiplayer modes, you have enough to keep you playing, and with its on-the-spot-gameplay, you don’t have to reserve such a large play space as you do with other Quest racket-based games. So if you are bored with the traditional racket games and you’re looking for something a little different to keep you entertained, that’s futuristic and arcade-like, step into the Racket: Nx arena.

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