What the Bat made me laugh quite a lot more than any other VR game I tried at Gamescom last month.
Maybe that’s because most VR game demos aren’t typically comical affairs. Even so, when I wasn’t laughing during my What the Bat demo, I was almost certainly smiling. Even in just a short 10-minute demo, What the Bat delivered on what its reveal trailer promised: a quirky yet accessible VR game featuring a selection of comically absurd scenarios.
The game is a follow up to the physics-driven flatscreen game What the Golf from Denmark-based studio Triband. Announced earlier this year, What the Bat follows a similar concept to its predecessor, but makes the transition over to VR headsets. The demo I tried at Gamescom was designed to run through a selection of random, bite-sized levels taken from the game’s main campaign. I completed the demo fast enough to go through it a few times – each one featured a different area with new mechanics and tasks to complete.
Yes, each of the game’s scenarios involve a baseball bat, but you’ll be doing pretty much anything other than playing baseball. Most of the time, this involves using the bat to hit something – if not a baseball, then something else entirely – towards a target. Others require you to use one or more bats (you have two, one for each controller) to push levers or press buttons, solving light puzzles or fulfilling win conditions. In another, you’ll use the bats the maneuver and shoot a cannon in the direction of a moving target floating around in outer space.
The tasks are easy to understand and figuring out solutions rarely requires instruction, but often encourages experimentation. What makes this experimentation so amusing isn’t just the wacky scenarios it takes place in, but also the messy nature of the game’s interaction system and physics sandbox. Interactions in What the Bat are intentionally designed as slightly chaotic. Devices requiring precision aim, like the aforementioned cannon, will be attached to a bouncy spring, for example. Or maybe you have to pick up a small object and move it using your baseball bats, which have little grip and even worse control. In some ways, it’s similar to the intentionally imprecise physics playground of Tentacular.
In terms of controls and accessibility, the focus is always squarely on the baseball bats – there’s no need to memorize a control scheme or press any buttons on the controllers. Every menu, button and interaction is handled in a native and immersive way. Just move the bats around – the game will take care of the rest.
Anything goes in What the Bat, and all of it is fun. The developers know exactly what kind of game this is and aren’t afraid to double down on the concept to make it as amusing as possible. After my demo at Gamescom, I’m hopeful that the full release will be able to put a smile on anyone’s face, whether it’s their first or hundredth time in VR.
What the Bat releases for Quest 2 and SteamVR later this year. Keep an eye out for more updates to come.