There probably aren’t a lot of people who can remember the game C-Smash VRS is based on. First seen back in 2001 on the Dreamcast, Cosmic Smash was a sort of combination between racquet sports like Squash, and the classic arcade games Pong and Breakout. It was ethereal and weird, with a very Rez-like vibe to it, offering sparse yet clean futuristic visuals. It played well, was incredibly “SEGA”, and was pretty enjoyable overall, assuming my aging memory isn’t failing me.
And really, a lot of that is what C-Smash VRS is now in 2023, only in virtual reality, with online versus modes. In truth, much like when Rez Infinite came to virtual reality devices, this almost feels like the idea the original creators had, only technology wasn’t within reach to make it happen. Now though, we have the PlayStation 5 and PSVR2, so it can exist, and it’s great fun.
You’re a ghostly apparition of a person, and “matches” start with you using your off-hand to hoist the ball toward you, before smashing it back. It’s intuitive because it’s a racquet sport, and if you’ve played Tennis, Squash, Badminton, or frankly, Wii Sports, you’ll know what you’re doing. That said, experience with ball-based sports like Tennis or Table Tennis will offer you a pretty cool moment when you’ll realise the “space ball” you’re hitting reacts as it should. Top spin, backspin, or hitting the ball at certain angles will curve or fade it as it would in real life, or at least in real life if you were in some form of zero gravity room. It’s quite a moment to see a ball turn as it should in reality, only in pixel-form in a modern game.
Once you’ve hit the ball the idea is very similar to Breakout, in that you want to keep it in motion and not miss it, because you’ll lose valuable time. You want to break through the obstacles as quickly as possible and progress to the next level, because a timer is constantly ticking away. In truth, it sometimes feels a little harsh on the people who don’t have enough space for a room scale experience. Played seated or standing-but-stationary, you can control your movement side to side with the left stick. You can adjust the experience so that if you’re newer to VR you will get protection from that movement, or turn it off and go full Henman on its ass.
There’s no question that C-Smash VRS is better with room scale movement, however. Here, you can get properly involved and play it like a real sport, dashing around to meet the ball coming back to you. Without this, you aren’t going to have the space to hit the ball as you’d want, and this will result in frustration due to time loss, and that’s because of how the single player campaign portion of the title works. It’s good that the sitting and standing options exist, but they do offer an inferior experience to the full roomscale one.
If you run out of time, that’s it: run is over, go back to the start. This penalty would be less harsh if the offered “Zen Mode” wasn’t also just as harsh. In Zen Mode you can restart the stage, but you still have a timer, and it’s not extended. The timer itself is one of the few casualties of the move to virtual reality for C-Smash VRS, in that it’s a fast moving game and the timer is on the floor, so it’s often not until it’s too late that you even notice you’re running out of time in the first place. It’s not a deal breaker, and the campaign is a nice experience that offers a challenge, but I just don’t feel it’s quite good enough to warrant coming back over and over, despite the rogue-like nature of each run.
The online multiplayer though, should it garner a community of like minded folks, is superb. With four modes to start with, you can get into the action and play against real people, trying to bat the entire wall back in a “control” type mode, where you have to hit specific spots on the board to push it back against your opponent. The winner is the person who controls the most board by the point the timer runs out. I won my first game and considered retiring, but such is the nature of how C-Smash VRS feels that I jumped back in. It has a “one more go” quality to it. Other modes include the likes of 1v1 (with a board to clear behind your opponent), but it all works well and is a nice way to feel like you’re playing a real world sport, only with a faceless opponent instead of your local rival.
While I’d strongly recommend playing in roomscale settings, C-Smash VRS feels like the culmination of an idea twenty-odd years in gestation. There’s even haptic feedback galore, and it all adds to the immersion the overall experience brings. While it stumbles slightly with its single player offering, the multiplayer modes really are addictive, and it’s a gorgeous looking game with a terrific soundtrack. On top of all that, it’s simple and fun, is a bit of a workout, and is a lower priced title: what more could you want?
Gorgeous looking and sounding
Feels really good to play
A great multiplayer experience
Zen mode isn't that zen
Time limits can be rough
Needs roomscale to be at its best