VR is a powerful tool. When used right, it can give users a perspective that they’d never be able to experience otherwise. I’ll always remember the first time I played Eagle Flight, a game that let me see the world through the eyes of a bird. As an avid bird lover, it was an emotional moment that highlighted how VR could really change the way I view the world when at its best.
I felt that again this past weekend. Finally, VR allowed me to have an experience I’d simply never have otherwise: what it would be like to have baseball bats for hands.
What the Bat? is the latest comedy sports game from Triband, the studio behind 2019’s hysterical What the Golf? The studio’s signature humor is on full display in its first VR outing, which replaces players’ hands with two wooden bats. You might be tempted to call it a baseball game, but it’s not. Rather, What the Bat? is an absurd coming of age story that recognizes VR’s ability to deliver good old-fashioned slapstick comedy.
Within a minute of What the Bat?, you may think you know exactly where it’s going. It opens with a simple set of missions that have players whacking a baseball at 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 no longer an all-star slugger hitting balls from home plate; I’m a baby. A baby with baseball bats for hands, to be exact. Right away, I’m placed in front of one of those wooden box toys where I need to place shapes in the correct slot. The challenge, however, is that I am trying to pick up the pieces with my cylindrical hands and stuff them into those holes by using the blunt end of a bat to cram them in. Other tasks, like filling up a sandbox bucket, are equally difficult as I struggle to hold my pail upright. It’s an opening as funny as it is ingenious. These tasks would be difficult for a toddler who isn’t yet aware of their body. And like that toddler, I, too, am 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 up through my teenage years, with simple tasks resulting in catastrophe. I try to pour myself a bowl of cereal, only for it to fall all over the table as I try to shake flakes out with my bats. In the laundry room, I have to whack my dirty underwear into the washing machine like I’m competing in a home run rally. Later, one mission has me working a day job in a supermarket where I need to scan barcodes on items as they pass by on the conveyor belt. Every mundane task becomes a comedy of errors.
That’s the real joke of What the Bat?, which replicates 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 tech. Each micro-mission almost feels like a WarioWare minigame where there’s a clear interaction I need to do, but it’s made complicated by… you know, the bats.
I’m really underselling how absurd the full experience is. While many of its missions revolve around simple tasks, many others are downright farcical. One level throws me on a farm and has me completing some basic tasks, like planting trees, herding sheep, and driving a tractor into a gigantic jar so I can pickle it. All normal stuff. Its goofiest gag comes when I’m working in a museum, and I have to enforce a “Don’t take pictures” sign by hitting baseballs at photo-snapping seagulls. The meaning of that sign changes when the birds start literally taking the art itself and trying to fly off with it (and you know how I have to solve that crisis).
It’s a brief experience that’s not without some VR clumsiness, but What the Bat? is another eccentric hit for Triband. It’s a playful little game that packs a lot of laughs into a few short hours, and it does that while delivering an almost accidental commentary on how weird it is to grow into a body when you’re young. If you’ve ever wondered why little kids just seem to destroy everything they come in contact with, try having Louisville Sluggers for hands and see how easy your life is.
What the Bat? is available now on various VR headsets, including the Meta Quest 2.