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App Lab Roundup: Basketball, Cables and Rabid Babies

In the App Lab this week, we have basketball, cables and rabid babies!

Each week we will be taking a look at some of the upcoming videogames, demos and unique experiences available through Oculus App Lab for the Meta Quest headsets. Many of these videogames come in varying states of completion, so each title is subject to change.

This week we’re shooting some hoops, untangling wires and… running away from babies?!

Blacktop Hoops

I feel like basketball games, or games which have a basketball mini-game, are a dime a dozen. It’s an easy sport to replicate in VR, although it’s difficult to get it right. So, those that feel like playing the sport for real are more of a rarity. Enter Blacktop Hoops, probably the best basketball game I’ve played in VR, hands down.

In order to get a sports game right, everything needs to feel natural – you need to forget you’re in VR, holding motion controls. With just a few buttons, Blacktop Hoops transports you into a pick-up game in a one on one game. The ball feels intuitive; pretend to dribble the ball and it bounces to the ground and back to your hand; bounce it on a diagonal towards your off-hand and you’ll perform a crossover dribble.

When you want to shoot, simply pull the trigger and use your off-hand to steady the shot. Once you let go, the ball soars cleanly, there’s no awkward physics, it makes you feel like you can shoot threes all day. There’s even a jump button to dunk or set up a fadeaway throw. My only issue is with movement. Using the thumbstick to move feels like wading through jelly at times, which often gives the AI an advantage. Even on the easiest setting, I was finding myself turned around looking for the ball while my opponent was swishing the hoop.

It’s only in alpha at the moment and it’s completely free, so it’s worth downloading to stay in the practice mode and feel like Steph Curry for a while.

Cable Salad

Weird name, right? It’s easily explained if you’ve ever seen film footage of old telephone centres, where receptionists would pull out random wires and shove them into random holes in order to connect a call. That’s Cable Salad in an elevator pitch. You stand in front of a socket and must plug in the right cable to send a message to a person on the screen. The only issue is, the cables trail over, under and roundabout, so it’s like solving a maze.

You get points for connecting the right person and the mazes get harder and harder. It’s a pretty simple concept, really. Oddly, in between rounds of playing telephone, you get to grab a toy dart gun and shoot some holographic floating targets. I’m not sure why, but it’s still good fun to be had.

It might all be very simple – though the cable mazes can get deceptively tough – but the game takes place in a kind of workshop which is wonderfully animated and realised. There are sparking robot arms, junk cluttering the shelving and a general sense of mild chaos. I’d love to see this fleshed out with a story.

Baby Tag

Okay, stick with me on this one. Remember that scene in Trainspotting where Renton is desperately trying to kick heroin and he sees the scary baby crawling across the ceiling? Yeah, well, someone put that into a game. Kind of.

Baby Tag does exactly what it says in the name; you play as a baby in a nursery and have to avoid being tagged by other babies. You use the motion controls to crawl or slide across the floor, but weirdly, you can also climb sheer surfaces by tapping the grip buttons. Personally, I began to treat this game like a survival horror, instead of the cute mini-game it’s meant to be.

Dashing away from rampaging babies covered in green slime, which I believe represents the germs that most kids carry, is frankly terrifying. Looking around the room, as the babies charge towards you is worse than staring down hordes of zombies in Left 4 Dead! It certainly spurred me on to avoid being tagged.

Sadly, there’s not much game here, but if you want a laugh, or to be frightened like a 1990’s drug addict, give it a shot.

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