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C-Smash VRS reveals the true luxury needed for VR is space, not fancy hardware

C-Smash VRS is an essential VR game that reminds us that good immersion isn't tied to realism, and that space is a luxury.
C-Smash VRS review PSVR2

C-Smash VRS is the kind of VR game we need more of.

Essentially a first-person squash game meets Breakout, the title is a reimagining of the 2001 Sega arcade game Cosmic Smash, which I had admittedly never heard of. It’s enjoyable in short bursts, with a highly satisfying audiovisual experience, and an approachable gameplay concept that keeps your body moving, forcing you to be uninhibited. It’s the kind of experience you’re happy to put just 30 minutes into, but are still drawn back to the next day.

But it’s made me realise that amongst all the small but mentally significant roadblocks to having that ideal, transcendent VR experience, the biggest one isn’t really to do with the quality or convenience of the hardware. It’s more elusive than that. It’s physical space. 

C-Smash VRS review PSVR2
Image: Wolf & Wood

I’m enthusiastic about VR, but years of playing all kinds of VR games have really reinforced the fact that the best experiences don’t need to rely on blockbuster, hyperreal graphics to be truly immersive and all-absorbing. Beat Saber, Pistol Whip, and Superhot VR are still undefeated as the essential classics, as are games like Tetris Effect and Rez: Infinite – and developer Enhance has a direct lineage to Sega games in the 2000s, of course.

Given the influence, that’s probably why I’m so drawn to C-Smash VRS. It takes me back to a time where Sega was cool as hell, and obsessed with minimalist, funky sci-fi environments that represent a vision of the future informed by late 90’s rave culture. The little space men that cheer you on might as well be denizens of Space Channel 5. The excellent techno and trance soundtrack is a time machine that transports me back to when I had all the time in the world to replay Rez and listen to DVD albums, if you can believe those were a thing.

This flavour of the future is elevated immensely by VR, and whatever genre C-Smash VRS and Rez: Infinite belong in together is the genre that VR needs more of, the kind of games that push you to put on a headset and realise that actually, VR is great.

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C-Smash VRS has one key difference from all the games in the VR race. It made me think, ‘This game would be way better if I had more room to move around in.’ I don’t have a lot of space in my lounge room – certainly not the two square metres required for most VR headsets to consider safe for ‘area’ play – and I suspect that it’s a rare privilege for those who do. 

In most cases, that’s absolutely not a problem. Most of the best games on VR can be experienced as intended in a stationary position, and even more ambitious games, like Half-Life Alyx or Horizon: Call of the Mountain are perfectly playable with their teleportation movements systems – their worlds are far too big to be traversed in one space, anyway. 

In C-Smash VRS however, your whole world is a squash court in space. A box that is seemingly only 2-3 metres wide. You can shift the position of your avatar using an analog stick, and it’s pretty quick, given the small size of the space. 

C-Smash VRS review PSVR2

But in a fast-paced action game like this, being able to safely and confidently skip a couple of steps to the side, in order to reach out your arm and catch a wayward ball just before it goes out of bounds would make the experience so much better.

I could spend the time mastering the analog stick controls, sure. But for a game concept as intuitive as, ‘Here’s a racket, move around and hit the ball’, it’s the one big spike in the otherwise approachable flow of the game. And it makes me think about all the VR game concepts that I can’t experience to their full potential because of my lack of space.

The takeaway is that if VR headset manufacturers could spend more of their R&D funds helping to fix the economy and housing crisis, so I could have a better experience, that would be much appreciated.

In terms of the game however, C-Smash VRS deserves to sit with pride among the essential VR titles. Especially if you have room to move.

Four stars: ★★★★

C-Smash VRS
Platforms: PS5 (PSVR2)
Developer: Wolf & Wood
Publisher: RapidEyeMovers Limited
Release Date: 23 June 2023

A copy of C-Smash VRS was provided and played for the purposes of this review.

Edmond was the founding managing editor of GamesHub. He was also previously at GameSpot for 13 years, where he was the Australian Editor and an award-winning video producer. You can follow him @EdmondTran