Ping pong seems like a natural fit for VR. It’s a simple game that doesn’t require a whole lot of movement, and most virtual reality controllers naturally replicate the feeling of holding a paddle. Yet, there haven’t been many attempts to create a totally worthwhile table tennis experience for any of today’s popular headsets, and VR Ping Pong Pro feels like another in the long line of okay-ish VR sports titles. Though it's entertaining enough and offers a smattering of unique minigames to offset the traditional one-on-one experience, VR Ping Pong Pro’s slightly wonky, inconsistent physics leaves it feeling like more of a neat distraction than a bonafide representation of the real thing.
A Table, A Paddle, And A Ball
For starters, VR Ping Pong Pro feels a bit barebones. That may sound ridiculous given the subject matter, but the title only grants access to a handful of different environments and AI difficulties, two online modes—single-match and tournament—and a couple of high score-based minigames like a hit-the-target mode or a neat variation on normal play which sees tiles on the table disappear Breakout-style when they’re hit. Sure, it’s fun to play around with, and there’s not a whole lot more the developers could have done with the concept, but a twenty-five dollar entrance fee feels just a bit steep given the amount of content on offer.
Naturally, the most important aspect of any sports-related title is the physics. If the game doesn’t authentically replicate the real-world activity or if it performs inconsistently, it can seriously hurt a player’s ability to enjoy the title. Unfortunately, this seems to be a bit of a sticking point for VR Ping Pong Pro, as the game’s physics, though realistic enough for casual players, don’t always quite match what you would expect to see play out on a real ping pong table.
It takes a bit of time and patience to get used to VR Ping Pong Pro’s small quirks and occasionally fickle physics. The paddles seemed to be extremely sensitive in that the smallest tap could sometimes send the ball flying into the stratosphere, and it took quite some time for me to adjust and return a served ball. That’s to say nothing of serving, which can, at times, feel wildly inconsistent. It often feels like one motion will send the ball careening to the side, while the exact same motion will launch the ball as intended. There are a variety of options that allow players to adjust the paddle’s height, rotation, and tilt, and fiddling with these did alleviate a few, though not all, of these issues.
Faulty though it may sometimes be, I eventually learned to tame the controls and win my first match against the computer. There are something like eight AI difficulty settings, and, after much practice, I could just barely best the lowest setting. It’s a bit obtuse at first, but, once you find your groove, it’s enjoyable enough.
Back And Forth
Despite all of its wonky irregularities, I found myself genuinely entertained by VR Ping Pong Pro. It may not be the sort of experience hardcore fans of the sport are looking for, but casual VR players hoping to hop into a match or two will likely be satisfied. While that may sound frustrating, the game provides a tremendous amount of verisimilitude via its lifelike locations, and it can, at times, be so engrossing that players may feel inclined to lean up against a ping pong table that isn’t actually there.
Again, the price point is just a bit too high at the moment, and it’s definitely not going to wow those hoping for a definitive VR sports title. Yet, most will find that it does what it says on the box and can be a fun time once the initial learning curve is conquered. It’s more of a title to show off to friends or to bring out during a party than it is a genuine replication of table tennis, but, if that’s all you’re looking for, you likely won’t be disappointed.
A PC review copy of VR Ping Pong Pro was provided to TheGamer for this review. VR Ping Pong Pro is available now on PC and PSVR.