This review was originally created in October 2018 for HTC, targeted to their Vive/Vive Pro (VIVEPORT). It is reproduced here without alteration.
Merry Snowballs [NOTE: As of this posting on January 27, 2022, Merry Snowballs has been delisted on various services] takes the familiar gameplay tropes of the omnipresent first person wave shooter genre and applies a wintry, cartoon-like Christmas theme to the experience. Billing itself as the “best snowball fighting game ever,” this stylish take on the old-fashioned shooting gallery attempts to channel the Christmas spirit and not leave us feeling cold.
Like any good wave shooter, Merry Snowballs features a variety of levels to fight through, with crazy gadgets and powerups to help augment the standard snowball throwing fun. Although the basic conceit is an over-the-top snowball fight against neighborhood kids, battles progress to include more fantastic elements like angry gingerbread men and even a Bad Santa, who makes the perfect foil in the epic final battle.
This is a standing, room-scale experience for the Vive or Oculus Rift. Because of the frantic, athletic nature of the game, you’ll want some room to maneuver comfortably within your play space. Both Vive controllers are required to throw and shoot snowballs and to provide defensive capabilities. While you start out with just a snowball in one hand and a garbage can lid in the other, you’ll soon move on to some actual weapons like a snowball cannon. As the levels progress and the challenges increase, you’ll definitely need the extra firepower, defensive capabilities, and health pickups on offer.
Each level has a certain number of kids or other enemies to take out, time bonuses, accuracy bonuses, and a target score to reach to get the maximum star rating of three out of three. With more than two dozen levels to battle through, it will be a long time before you’ll be able to maximize your score on every level. Fortunately, despite some repetition in its basic gameplay, it’s still fun to keep replaying many of the levels over and over again in hopes of bettering your score.
Merry Snowballs proves a nice change of pace from the typical blood, guts, and gore of other games in its genre. While you do hurl snowballs at your opponents, and are even encouraged to aim for the face, it’s all done in a fun, cartoony manner, with exaggerated rag doll physics as those hit crumple to the ground. There are also plenty of other fun touches to discover, like being able to knock the hat off of a kid’s head.
While the developers liken the visual experience to that of Pixar, the graphic and sound design don’t quite reach those heights. Fortunately, the game still looks and sounds great even without being comparable to what Pixar can achieve. And even if it’s not Pixar quality, Merry Snowballs still has a nice animated feature film feel to it and stands as one of the better looking virtual reality experiences.
Despite being available for most other major virtual reality systems, Merry Snowballs does a great job of taking advantage of the Vive‘s capabilities, unlike many other multi-platform experiences. It’s a game that proves both fun to play and a great virtual reality showpiece in general. Despite being yet another entry in the overcrowded first person wave shooter genre, Merry Snowballs pulls off a Christmas miracle and rises to the top of the pile.
Score: 5 out of 5 stars.
Merry Snowballs is available on Viveport or with a Viveport Subscription.