Sports Scramble serves up a slice of sports entertainment that is both instantly accessible and genuinely good fun.
Sports Scramble was one of the first games to be shown alongside the first reveal of the Oculus Quest during Oculus Connect in 2018. Previously known as Tennis Scramble back then, nearly a whole year has passed and the Oculus Quest has now launched along with the newly named Sports Scramble, released as a Quest launch title and it is also one of the five free demos on the VR platform.
With two Oculus Touch controllers resembling your virtual hands, matched with room scale presence, it was a no brainer to see a sports game launch on the Oculus Quest. With plenty of sports requiring a racket, bat or ball to be held, Sports Scramble could feature a wealth of different sports, but for now we have just three: Tennis, Baseball and Bowling.
From the start, you get to choose which sport to play, out of the three options you can choose from. If you’re reading this review and you already have an Oculus Quest, it is likely that you have already played the tennis portion of the game. Well, there is more to tennis in Sports Scramble than what the free demo allows.
In tennis, you get to play through a quick tutorial that teaches you basic and advanced ways to serve the ball, slice shots, and aim your tennis ball at various targets around the court. The tutorial goes a little deeper than the demo does, and near the end, you can play two free-play modes to polish your skills before you tackle the main event – a first to 7 points match against an AI opponent of varying skill.
Due to its visual style and gameplay, I was prepared for an easy game of tennis similar to Nintendo’s Wii Sports. After my first, second and third defeat in a row, I soon realised that Sports Scramble is a lot tougher than Nintendo’s casual sports game. The challenge was certainly on!
The Scamble name in the game’s title makes a lot of sense once you begin to play any of the three sports in Sports Scramble. For example, in tennis, as balls travel across the net you have the opportunity to replace the ball in play with something totally different, or even change the racket. Tennis balls can turn into ping-pong balls, discs, beach balls or even fish. Each have their own bounce, weight and flight characteristics as they fly and bounce their way towards you or to your opponent.
The idea behind this mechanic is to challenge your opponent into missing the ball, however, this can also be done to you too by your opponent when the ball returns in your direction. This adds a refreshing challenge to what could be just another tennis game, otherwise, traditional tennis can get a little boring over time.
Over in the bowling arena, the quirkiness of scrambling the usual game of tenpin bowling continues with wild changes to your bowling lane as well as swapping your traditional bowling ball for objects like a curling stone, pineapple, American football, basketball or even a rolling ball of cheese! Again, each ‘ball’ rolls with their own characteristics and it makes what could be a normal game of bowling very challenging to say the least.
If the alternative bowling balls were not enough, your bowling lane can flip over to reveal something totally different. This prevents you from simply bowling down the middle or directly at any spare pins remaining. Lanes can carry moving travelators that nudge your ball into a different direction, space invaders or chipmunks, through to a very narrow lane that I have yet to successfully bowl down in a straight line, even with a normal bowling ball!
Sadly, with bowling in Sports Scramble
Thankfully, in all of the available sports in Sports Scramble, you can remove the scramble nature in each game and stick with the more traditional gameplay in each sport, without any floppy fish bats, pineapples and ping-pong balls to contend with.
Sports Scramble’s third and final sport is baseball. Being from the UK I like the idea of baseball but I never really enjoyed playing it in videogames. In VR, on the other hand, is a different level of enjoyment. Standing in the stadium you feel far more immersed, and as a result of that, playing a game of baseball is more enjoyable to play, thanks to Sports Scramble’s very intuitive controls.
You get to play both batting and pitching and both feel very natural and intuitive. After learning the basics in the tutorial section I felt I had all the skills to knock balls out of the park as a batter, or send my opponent walking after a few successful strikes as a pitcher.
Once you have had your fill of AI opponents and challenge modes you can try your luck against real players in the game’s multiplayer mode. From here you can select at last two sports to filter your multiplayer game before being matched up with a random player online, or a player in your friends list.
Just like tennis and bowling, your pitched ball can be sent through ball and bat icons in front of the batter to change your ball and your opponent’s bat into other random objects. Each bat and ball change adds an extra level of difficulty to overcome, but I found a game of baseball to be more forgiving than the other two sports, where I found that I won my first game with some ease.
To add to the game’s longevity, a number of avatar outfits and trophies can be collected and viewed in the Hall of Champions. Whilst avatar outfits only have some value when used in multiplayer mode, it’s only the unlocking of trophies that really add some level of replayability once you have exhausted the game’s quick play and challenge modes within each sport.
Retailing for $29.99, Sports Scramble serves up a slice of sports entertainment that is both instantly accessible and genuinely good fun. It’s just a shame that, for the cost of the game, I would have liked at least one or two extra sports to choose from to enhance the game’s depth and replayability.
I would have loved to have seen a few more sports to select from, such as golf, squash, darts, volleyball – there’s really far too many to suggest. The game comes recommended and it certainly has scope to add more sports with future game updates or paid DLC, let’s hope the developers decide to further improve the game with more sports rather than simply call it a game, set and match.