Review: Co-Op Space Team VR Challenges the Rabble with Technobabble

Screenshot: Spaceteam VR Virtual reality has so much untapped potential. For the first few years, the landscape of games for VR was barren and craggy—full of tech demos masquerading as full games, with only a few gems. Full-fledged studios tried their hand at VR, and failed. And games like Star Trek: Bridge Crew, while fun, were more like theme park experiences that tried to have you ignore how ridiculous it all was. Virtual reality games seem to be best when they’re full of emergent, silly moments. Even more technical games like the amazing Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is full of frantic silliness, which masks its intense communication-based gameplay. But unlike Bridge Crew, you can’t just jump into Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes without a manual, and friends outside of the game space. Space Team VR manages to merge Star Trek: Bridge Crew’s accessibility with Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes frantic communication gameplay, and it fully embraces the silliness. Spaceteam VR is a game where you’re given a control panel, and within only a few moments, you have to do whatever command is either being shown or shouted at you. Imagine being suddenly beamed up from your mundane existence, onto the bridge of a starship, with the ship’s survival dependent on YOU pressing the right levers, and turning the proper dials. Everything is laid out in front of you and labelled.  It’s all a matter of being fast—and accurate enough—while also relaying information to your teammate to turn the dials, and flip the switches you don’t have. Of course, each of the devices that are labelled have ridiculous, technobabble-like names that are hard to say quickly—and recollect if you are the one in charge of that specific knob or dial. Space Team VR really invokes that sense of a team of Starfleet personnel working on their own consoles in a way that Star Trek: Bridge Crew failed to capture. Screenshot: Spaceteam VR There are plenty of distractions to take your attention off of your instructions, and your station. If any part of your panel breaks, you must repair it by banging on it with a hammer. Sometimes you’ll be forced to blow an airhorn, or fight off aliens with a laser pistol. Each of these small events has to be attended to, or things usually get hilariously worse—with small fires literally popping up that have to be extinguished. Communication with teammates is made difficult by anomalies shrinking your heads—and making your voice high pitched and small, and glitched out instructions that are difficult to read. Sometimes, loud music blares in the background, enemies manifest, or you suddenly need to dance, or worse, freeze in place while commands are still coming. There are lots of things to juggle, and it can get pretty crazy very quickly. But, despite failure, Spaceteam VR was rarely frustrating at its premise—we were laughing almost the entire time. Unfortunately, Space Team VR suffers from some control issues. Precision is important in virtual reality. Spaceteam VR’s controls suffer from imprecision, and unfortunately, it’s in some of the times you need it the most. Tested on both the Index and Rift S, turning knobs and setting dials were giving both of us a bit of a hassle. I would very often make a mistake while trying to turn a knob, only because the knob stuck and went to a number I did not mean for it to go to. Using the peg board was similarly frustrating. Another issue we had was that the game kept pushing us back into the rear of our play spaces. The virtual console that acts as your main interaction with Spaceteam VR kept spawning so close, we had to take a couple of steps back. The only way to prevent me being unable to interact with it was to step as far forward as possible. There is no obvious way that I could find in the game to reset the view—a problem for me on the Index, with no quick way to reposition myself virtually, but fixable with the Rift S interface, if annoying. Screenshot: Spaceteam VR While Spaceteam VR is certainly more fun and hilarious as a cooperative game, it’s completely playable solo. In solo mode, you have two robot companions that give orders above their head in text. It removes the technobabble aspect, but it’s its own challenge. But instead of playing solo, jump into public games for an extra layer of hilarity. Spaceteam VR has bright graphics, and despite its wonky precision issues, feels like a fully polished VR game. Don’t expect a campaign or story mode—but it makes for a great game to play with friends, even if they don’t have a VR headset. All you need is your smartphone, and you too can be spouting technobabble like the rest. Unfortunately, you can’t repair or interact with the environments like you could in VR, but it’s a way for your friends to play locally. The smartphone gameplay is actually pretty good too, connecting easily and running more smoothly than even some higher profile smartphone controlled games, though we found that occasionally levers weren't registering as being pulled. Screenshot: Spaceteam VR Spaceteam VR is a whole lot of fun. Despite its few technical quirks, it’s a great game that I will definitely be introducing to my next party, virtual or otherwise. There are a few issues with precision, but they don’t make the game unplayable, just frustrating when it shouldn’t be. But that shouldn’t stop you from picking up this hilarious game. Spaceteam VR is available today on Windows.       The Games and Tech section is looking for writers. 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Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian. He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.