Following the indie darling What The Golf? is a tall task. The zany tangents that the game puts you through take the idea of golf and flip it over and over on its head until you no longer know the rules. What The Bat tries to offer a similarly silly and original take on baseball in VR, but does it hit a home run or strike out with the bases loaded?
Adapting to being a young girl stuck with having baseball bats for arms takes a little bit of getting used to, but that’s sort of the whole premise of What The Bat. In each level, you go from task to task with little to no instruction, giving you the freedom to experiment until you solve the puzzle asked of you, whether that means bashing something with your arms or using them to tackle some kind of unwieldy and unexpected device. These relatively mundane tasks are often creative in their execution, but any level-headed individual will breeze through the first couple of puzzles.
As you progress through the game, the puzzles follow a particular theme or sport, even though those ideas are also loosely based on the original rules. Nothing makes sense in What The Bat and that’s firmly where the game thrives, but it also comes with its set of caveats. Some of the levels are downright frustratingly obtuse, and while that is mostly the point, your demeanor quickly turns from amusement at the absurdity to simply wishing to get it over with and go back to winging balls at animals and toasters. Determining what needs to be done is sometimes the whole point of a challenge, but those levels are some of the quickest.
Discovery of solutions is the delight of any puzzle game, and What The Bat has no shortage of that feeling. In one of the early puzzles, you are staring in a mirror and see your blue elephant friend staring back at you. It’s only when you turn around and realize he only exists within that mirror you start to feel some of the magic of the wonder of it all. Having just learned how to brush your own teeth with your bat, you reach back into the void behind you and brush his as well. It’s a bit surreal, and that’s okay because as soon as you get hang of the rules, they change again, never really overstaying their welcome.
The adaption of the What The series to VR certainly provides some entertainment that surpasses what was available in the golf title due to its interactivity. Each time you mess with a toy or other object, it seems to have what I can only describe as cartoon physics, however. Levers are loose, buttons don’t have any weight to pressing them, and fruits such as a large banana that is on a dinner table that you need to smash to shoot banana guts at a toaster feel twitchy, but if you were trying to take any of what you are doing seriously, you’re playing the wrong game. It revels in its inaccuracies and that’s fine because it’s not trying to be anything other than a silly puzzle game.
When discussing the options in VR, I believe accessibility is one of the biggest talking points. Having the options for every player to be able to experience your game and come to their personal limitations is critical in a space that brings fun and entertainment to the masses. What The Bat requires mapping and the space for room scale, which feels like an odd requirement when nearly every puzzle I played was solved within reach of my standing position. There are simply no options for teleportation or readjusting your position. I feel like having this mandate limits a lot of potential players from even checking out this silly mini-game collection, which is a shame and hopefully something they resolve in a future update.
At the end of the day, What The Bat is likely the perfect distraction to strap in and dive into a hole of insanity to whisk your mind away from the harshness of reality for a bit. The colorful visuals and whimsical music will bring a smile to any player’s face and the non sequiturs will often catch you off-guard bubbling up a chuckle or fit of laughter. The game doesn’t push any envelopes with its gameplay and zaniness but instead sits comfortably in the casual VR realm, and while the price may be a bit higher than expected for a casual title, it should have no problem finding its audience either way.