Convincing players to purchase a game in which you bounce a ball along a set of platforms until it falls into a hole might seem like a pretty hard sell in the visceral digital entertainment landscape we live in today; even in VR, it doesn’t scream excitement.
But Hurl VR is quite an interesting and fresh entry in the ricocheting-ball-off-of-things genre through the way it makes the player focused on how to best execute physics-based feats that we normally take for granted in games.
I think it’s safe to say most people know, or at least have a theoretical grasp of, how to throw a ball, and Hurl VR neatly gamifies this premise.
At the outset you’ll stand on a Tron-like platform in a digital space-scape, looking out towards floating panels and a goal ring. A pull of the trigger on the Vive controllers summons a ball in your hand and it’s up to you to see it meets the goal.
Because you’re tracked one-to-one in VR space, you influence almost every aspect of the ball throw, from angle, location, rotation and speed, and getting your lob to hit its mark is all down to how well you can tweak and refine each unsuccessful throw.
Puzzles start off simple, requiring a chuck and a bounce off a single floating tile before landing in the goal. The simulation soon becomes more pinball-like, as exercises demand increasingly complex patterns of bounces and new mechanics like moving platforms, portals, bouncier surfaces and trickier setups enter the fray.
The further you go, the more you’ll need to finesse the execution of a chuck in order to enjoy the gratification of nailing a wild trickshot. Seeing your glowing orb illuminate floating platforms as it bounds off of them with an audible thud is satisfying, and this only escalates with each additional bounce required as you progress.
If you get stuck there are three assistive powerups available, which you can use to better track which path the ball should take, freeze moving platforms or create a vortex around the goal that pulls in slightly wayward shots. While these help round out the feature set of a pretty basic experience, the game doesn’t feel long enough to make them worthwhile inclusions. If your throwing is on point the game can be completed in a single sitting.
It’s not particularly replayable and there are many physics-based puzzlers out there that challenge us to think about power and angle before we sling a ball around, but Hurl VR does something interesting by empowering players to be more personally responsible for physics throws than they’ve ever been previously.
While its short length feels like a missed opportunity, it’s an accessible and elegantly presented experience that plays on the strengths of the platform to do more with less. A little more wouldn’t have hurt though.