VR is a powerful tool. When used correctly, it can give users a perspective they might otherwise never experience. I will always remember the first time I played eagle flight, a game that allowed me to see the world through the eyes of a bird. As an avid bird lover, it was an emotional moment that illustrated how VR can really change my view of the world when it’s at its best.
I felt that again last weekend. Finally, VR gave me an experience I simply never would have had otherwise: what it would be like to have baseball bats for hands.
What the hell? is the latest comedy sports game from Triband, the studio behind Hysterical 2019 What the gulf? The studio’s signature humor comes into its own in its first VR outing, which sees players’ hands replaced with two wooden bats. You might be tempted to call it a baseball game, but it’s not. Rather What the Bat? is a absurd coming-of-age story that acknowledges VR’s ability to deliver good old-fashioned slapstick comedy.
Within a minute What the hell?, you might think you know exactly where to go. It begins with a simple series of missions where players hit a baseball on a trophy. The joke escalates a bit with each mission, but the premise seems clear: this is a tee-ball game about hitting targets.
Then comes a curveball.
Suddenly I’m not an all-star slugger hitting balls from home plate; i am a baby A baby with baseball bats for hands, to be precise. Immediately I’m put in front of one of those wooden box toys where I have to put shapes in the right slot. The challenge, however, is trying to pick up the pieces with my cylindrical hands and stuffing them into these holes with the blunt end of a mallet. Other tasks, like filling a sandbox bucket, are just as difficult as I struggle to keep my bucket upright. It’s an opening that’s as funny as it is ingenious. These tasks would be difficult for a toddler who is not yet aware of his body. And like that toddler, I’m trying to figure out how the hell I’m supposed to pick things up with bat hands. Having a body is hard.
From there I work my way through my teenage years, with simple tasks ending in disaster. I try to pour myself a bowl of cereal only to have it spill all over the table while trying to shake out flakes with my bats. In the laundry room, I have to throw my dirty underwear in the washing machine like I’m going to a home run rally. Later, on a mission, I have a day job at a supermarket where I have to scan barcodes on items as they pass on the conveyor. Every everyday task becomes a comedy of mistakes.
That’s the real joke of What the hell?, which emulates the awkwardness of growing up with physical comedy that only VR can provide. It’s a silly premise, but it’s a focused one that takes advantage of the tactile nature of the technology. Each micro-mission almost feels like a WarioWare mini-game, where there’s a clear interaction I need to perform, but it’s complicated by… you know, the bats.
I really undercut how absurd the entire experience is. While many of its missions revolve around simple tasks, many others are downright absurd. One level throws me on a farm and has me do some basic chores like planting trees, herding sheep, and driving a tractor into a giant jar so I can pick it. All normal stuff. His goofiest gag comes when I work at a museum and have to enforce a no-photography sign by hitting baseballs at photographing seagulls. The meaning of this sign changes as the birds begin to take the art itself literally and try to fly away with it (and you). knows how to solve this crisis).
It’s a brief experience that’s not without VR clumsiness, however What the hell? is another eccentric hit for tri-band. It’s a playful little game that packs a lot of laughs into a few hours, and it does so while providing an almost random commentary on how strange it is growing into a body at a young age. If you’ve ever wondered why little kids just destroy everything they come in contact with, try Louisville Sluggers for hands and see how easy your life is.
What the hell? is now available for various VR headsets, including Meta Quest 2.
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