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Review: Wonky Ball Handling Makes In da Hoop! Almost Impossible to Enjoy

Screenshot: In da Hoop!

While virtual reality is mostly still a fledgling technology, it’s been around for a little bit. One of my first VR pleasures was jumping into Pierhead Arcade and playing different carnival-style games. It was the perfect use for VR: I don’t have room for air hockey or skeeball to fit in my house easily, so virtual approximations were the best I could hope for. That’s why In Da Hoop! Sounded great, but ended up being something that I couldn’t quite get the grips of.

In da Hoop! is a virtual reality basketball arcade game. You’re set up  in a retro-style arcade with a basketball shooting game, and you shoot hoops. Simple, right? You’d think so, but In da Hoop! Has a few issues that made me have a hard time getting into it on Oculus Quest 2. In fact, the Quest 2 version promised hand tracking, something I thought would be excellent for a VR basketball game, and one that would set it apart from the other arcade-style games I’ve been playing over these years since I’ve adopted VR. In da Hoop! Has some of the worst basketball handling I’ve encountered, however.

Screenshot: In da Hoop!

I have to say, first of all, there is a warning when you go to the Oculus Quest store page that advises that this game is “experimental.” I’d say. Initially weary of eschewing controllers in VR and opting for hand tracking, I’ve had some good experiences with it—namely in Eternal Starlight, where hand tracking is used to move tiny space ships in tactical combat. In Da Hoop! uses hand tracking to pick up and shoot the basketball, and it just doesn’t work that well. In fact, it’s so wonky, you can’t even jump into shooting a basketball right away, instead, you’re forced to go through a series of weird dice stacking challenges before you’re even allowed to pick up a basketball. And when you finally get a ball in your hand, it’s just painful hand holding. But with hand tracking, I never got too far in. Holding/shooting the basketball just feels broken. It doesn’t help that the basketball looks full sized in VR, but to outside obsevers it looks like you’re very gingerly trying to hold a ball about the quarter the size of a real basketball. If you’re ever thrown a basketball in real life (who hasn’t?) you’ll immediately feel that something is quite off about In da Hoop!’s brand of ball handling.

Hand tracking is considered “expert” mode, so I decided to drop the difficulty down to “easy” and employ the Quest 2’s controllers instead of relying on hand tracking. Surely shooting the ball would be fun and much easier that way, right? Not at all. It wasn’t until I was using the controllers did I realize that parts of your glove in In da Hoop! are sticky, and meant to hold the ball better—this “sticky” parts kept getting stuck on things. And by “things” I mean everything, causing my fingers to stretch out in some pretty body horror ways. I mean, I literally spent more time trying to unstick my fingers from surfaces than shooting the basketball.

Screenshot: In da Hoop!

In da Hoop! looks okay, and the ball physics are okay once the ball leaves your hands. But shooting the basketball just feels horrible, and as a result, the game is barely playable. I saw some reviews of people praising this as a great basketball game. They must be doing something I’m not, because I just couldn’t get the basketballs to consistently do what I wanted them to do. And I tried everything: I changed locations, changed lighting setups, etc. It’s too bad, because I was hoping In da Hoop! would be the first of many hand-tracked arcade style games, but it looks like we’re just not there yet.

In da Hoop! is available now on Oculus and will release on SteamVR on July 21st

 

 

 

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