Big Box VR breathes new virtual life into dodgeball with their debut game, Smashbox Arena. It’s a high-octane multiplayer game which is already generating a lot of good buzz in the VR community. Outsmart human and AI players by ducking, teleporting, taking cover, and using handy physics-driven power-ups in a variety of exciting maps.
Train Like a Champ
The game welcomes you at a menu lobby which appears to be a penthouse of a high-rise. Here, options are represented by cable cars. You can start with training before you jump into either Story Mode or Multiplayer Mode. Also at the lobby are available player head styles to pick from, with 3 unlocked and the rest unlocked via gameplay.
Training with Poppy the Pear is pretty comprehensive. He’ll walk you through all the controls and help you get familiar with gameplay mechanics. During training, you’ll have the opportunity to practice grabbing and dodging balls with your hand cannons, as well as play with the different power-ups. These include the Fireball, Sniperball, Giant Boulders, Grenade Ball, and Heat Seeking Missiles. Sounds deadly, but the art style is cartoonish in a polished manner.
Smash ‘Em and Blast ‘Em
The offline Story Mode has three levels of difficulty, lets you unlock characters and their mini-bios, and allows you to practice with AI players first before you join an online game, or just revel in destroying the bots. You play in two teams of three, and the first team to get five match points wins the game.
The objective is to take out opponents with balls or power-ups, while taking cover and dodging or deflecting attacks. To grab a ball, simply aim at one with a controller and press trigger. Then aim at an opponent and press trigger to shoot. Teleporting in Smashbox Arena is a tad different where a spinning top appears on the the spot you’re aiming the teleport at for a couple of seconds before you’re actually transported there. This makes all the difference in calculating your moves because other players can see where you’re headed before you get there. It also becomes a key mechanic in the multiplayer matches because you’re still vulnerable to attacks up until the very second you’re teleported.
Scores can be viewed from the left hand controller or on the giant scoreboard included in each map. If you’re one of the first to get eliminated, you can witness the action in God-view. You get to watch the other team’s strategy and take a good look at the whole map. In case of tied scores, a massive missile appears in the center signaling the start of overtime. The player who gets to it first can detonate it and take out all remaining opponents.
Go, Team, Go!
At the Multiplayer lobby, you choose matches via shuttles, with options like Games Shuttle, Quick Match, or Party Shuttle. So you can join existing games via rooms, start your own game, or just jump into the fun and get playing with Quick Match. There are nifty volume controls included, for both voice and sound effects that can be accessed by pressing grip (this also shows your ping in multiplayer).
When match-making, if there aren’t enough people to fill in the teams, the system can automatically assign AIs. It’s also nice to see the option to change your region for mutliplayer, if the need arises.
The Vive Report
In the future, it’d be cool to see more focus on single player games outside of the AI matches currently included, even just a target practice option that lets us play with the mechanics of the dodgeball gun and power-ups in a more Arcade-based format.
The devs at Big Box did a superb job with the overall gameplay experience, as everything feels very solid and the game runs great. They’ve managed to keep the atmosphere very positive, making each match fun, win or lose. Smashbox Arena definitely presents an environment that is both competitive and active for all types of players.
Big Box was also thoughtful enough to create a demo version which you can check out for free. This is something we love to see included with releases, especially so for multiplayer titles as it delivers a clear message that the dev is committed to the player experience and to developing something that players can truly enjoy.