Space Squash
  • Genre:
    • Sports
  • Platform:
    • Virtual Boy
  • Developer:
    • Tomcat System
  • Publisher:
    • Coconuts Japan
  • Released:
    • JP 09/29/1995
Score: 70%

This review was published on 07/18/2016.

Space Squash is a futuristic sports video game published by Coconuts Japan and developed by Tomcat System for the Virtual Boy. It was originally released in Japan on September 29, 1995, but has not and probably will never come out anywhere else in the world. The title of this game is a bit misleading: it barely has anything to do with the actual sport of squash. It also has nothing to do with the vegetable... or is it a fruit? Anyway, Space Squash is one of the few moderately okay games in the Virtual Boy's miniscule library. Considering how bad most Virtual Boy games are, I know that's not saying much. Still, Space Squash is a decent little game nonetheless, though it does get old pretty fast. Most of this game's shortcomings have to do with the Virtual Boy being a terrible piece of hardware.

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All action is viewed from a behind-the-back perspective, meaning your character's back is facing you and you're looking at what your character is facing. It's kind of like a first-person perspective, except your character is on the screen, so... it isn't first-person at all. This is one of the few games to actually make good use of the Virtual Boy's stereoscopic 3-D effect. The game itself is comprised of 2-D sprites and backgrounds, but parallax is used along with the Virtual Boy's stereoscopy to simulate depth in the environments. That added depth makes it a little easier to judge the relative distance of objects. With that said, the graphics leave a little something to be desired. Barring the Virtual Boy's nasty red and black colors, the visuals that are there are good, but there's not much there. The character sprites look solid and have decent animations, but just about everything else, such as the backgrounds and foregrounds, are lacking. The graphics do get the job done, but nothing more.

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Two robots will fly around a cube-like room with jetpacks, hitting a ball back and forth between each other, sort of like a futuristic tennis match. You take control of one of these robots and your general objective is to score points by knocking the ball past the opponent while preventing them from doing the same to you. Another way to get points is to outright kill the opponent by hitting their body with the ball enough times, but again, this can be done to you as well. Whenever a point is scored, everyone gets reset back to their neutral positions and both you and the opponent will be fully repaired. The player that reaches a certain amount of points first wins. If that player is you, then you get to move onto the next match. You continue doing this until you beat the game. It's surprisingly fun.

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You fly your robot anywhere around the room using the left d-pad, though you're unable to move along the z-axis. The right d-pad is used to make your robot swing his fists in that direction, hopefully making forceful contact with the ball. Basically, you press left on the right d-pad to swing your left hand, right for the right hand, and up to do an overhead swing with both hands, similar to volleyball. Don't worry; it's a lot simpler than it sounds. Also, holding down on the right d-pad will charge your power gauge. When it's full, you press either the L or R shoulder buttons to use one of the four special powers you can equip prior to a match, which will do things like temporarily increase shot power, grant more speed, create a barrier that prevents the ball from going past you, and make the ball home in on the opponent. Despite using both d-pads on the Virtual Boy's obtuse controller, controlling this game is simple and intuitive.

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Every fifth stage you'll fight a boss battle. These work a little differently from the regular matches, because you can't win by knocking the ball past the opponent, which means you've no choice but to kill them. However, you still lose if the ball gets past you, plus the boss can kill you with attacks of its own. Since the objective is to kill them, it's best to use the homing power on these guys. Unlike with the opponents of the regular stages, there's a fair amount of variety to the bosses. For instance, one's a robotic snake, another's a bionic bat that splits into smaller bats, and then there's a mechanized monkey that hangs off the ceiling. You need slightly different strategies to take on all these dudes, which is nice. The boss fights are easily the most exciting parts of the game.

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The game is broken up into stages with branching paths. There are 15 areas with 5 stages each, totaling to a whopping 75 stages. Whenever you fully complete an area, you'll be given a choice between the two next areas. Each stage has a different arena size, opponent, and sometimes objects in the environment the ball can interact with. For example, some stages have bumpers that will bounce the ball back at you. There are also treasure chests with power-ups inside them that you unlock with the ball, which consist of things like extra continues and health refills. Additionally, you'll be able to play a bonus stage after every boss wherein you hit the ball towards panels in the background to destroy them. If you successfully complete the bonus stage, you'll get to choose between increasing your max life, speed, and shot power. Unfortunately, despite the staggering amount of stages, the game only has around three arena sizes, four main opponents, and four bosses that get recycled constantly. As a result, it doesn't take long for the tedium to set in.

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While it may not look like much, Space Squash is one of the few games on the Virtual Boy that's worth mentioning. The controls are easy to use and the core play mechanics are decently fun. The only problem is that the game gets pretty repetitive after a while, since it continuously recycles the same handful of arenas, opponents, and even bosses. Space Squash may be worth checking out if you have the means to do so, but it's by no means worth getting a Virtual Boy over.

Word Count: 1,057

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