There’s a moment early on in What the Bat where you’re standing in front of a mirror looking at a reflection of your huge-headed, spaghetti-armed avatar, and you’ve got to brush your own teeth with a baseball bat, and then the teeth of the enormous, blue, mohawked elephant behind you. Only he’s not behind you, he’s only in the reflection. And it got me thinking, this moment, that What the Bat could have been a terrifying VR horror game with inky a few tweaks.
As it is, it’s a VR follow up to What the Golf?, and features you doing fairly mundane tasks via the medium of the baseball bat. So you’re making coffee for a trio of gunge cats, but you must move the cup with a bat. You’re feeding steaks to your dog, but with a high-velocity delivery system that involves launching them directly at its face.
So none of What the Bat’s world makes any sense, and that’s fine. But it also allows it to play games with your mind. For example, there are stages where you must set bowling balls in motion with a baseball bat, and the ball must travel around a horseshoe-shaped lane, avoiding bowling pins that move from side to side. It’s incredibly tough, or was, until I realised that the trophy I was trying to hit at the other end of the lane was beside me. It was as simple as ignoring the problem in front of me and finding the most direct solution.
Likewise there’s a stage that sees you checking out goods at a supermarket, and the final one is a giant horse. You’re presented a tin of black and white stripey paint, which I spent far too long trying to pick up and tip over the horse before I realised you could just dip the bat in and paint the damn thing. Simple solutions.
But equally, there are some incredibly fiddly activities that made me swear. Steering paper airplane with a huge joystick you have to “grip” with baseball bats is annoying. Though nothing outstay its welcome. Activities are over in minutes and you’re onto the next one, the downside of which is that you can rattle through everything on offer pretty quickly. New chapters are coming, which is a good thing because What the Bat has the potential to be super, super weird, and most of what’s here doesn’t lean quite weird enough.
Although, there are stages that need you to tune your TV using antenna strapped to your bats, or fix the plumbing in your bathroom using, well, you guessed it. There’s not a problem in this world that can’t be fixed by the liberal application of baseball bats.
Which makes it all the odder that my favourite moments were the ones where I just got to summon a baseball and smack it at things. There’s a simple catharsis to breaking stuff or knocking stuff over, and What the Bat is weirdly stingy with it. After a few stages spent swearing into the void while trying to put bread in a toaster with two wobbly, imprecise baseball bats strapped to your mitts, you’ll be crying out to belt a ball at some fucker’s face. The big blue elephant is present in most stages and he’s begging for a high-speed baseball up the trunk.
The aesthetic is colourful but very simple, low detail and mostly uncluttered. Which can also be said of the soundtrack, composed as it is of largely inoffensive background muzak.
Like What the Golf, What the Bat is all about the gameplay, and mostly hits the mark despite some genuine irritations. It’s far from repetitive, but I found myself longing for the simplicity of knocking trophies off shelves or tree branches versus trying to paint pictures with the end of a wooden bat, but maybe that says more about me than the game. I don’t even want to analyse why I felt an overpowering need to break every window I could see or why I spent so long trying to see if I could engineer a pile-up crash outside the cat cafe.
Either way, What the Bat is a decent craic if you’re just after a game to kill half an hour. It is fun, for the most part, and its inoffensive humour and variety make for a colourful and unpredictable play session every time.
Some inventive games
Not particularly precise
Some games are very fiddly
Needs a quick restart button
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