So there I was with a brand new Steam Deck in hand, ready to finally see what all the fuss was about when it came to PC gaming. Like many console gamers, I had heard the stories – that Steam was supposed to host tens of thousands of games, with all sorts of goodies – and was ready to find out for myself. But before I get to the good stuff before diving into Neon White, Valheim, or Frostpunk for the first time, I had to know: Does Steam have any good volleyball games?
It turns out that Steam has plenty of volleyball games. I wouldn’t use “good” to describe most of them – excited is probably a better term, which I’ve since learned from my friends who play a lot of PC games is an appropriate descriptor for a lot of what you can find on Steam. And, okay, excitement has its place, but that’s not what I want from a volleyball game right now. No, I want the joy of landing a combo attack, the satisfaction of performing a quick attack that throws my opponent off balance, and the joy of reading an attacker well enough to dig in a spike and hold a rally. When it comes to volleyball, there’s no greater fun than mind games.
And wouldn’t you know, I found it. It was like a dozen games, but I found it: Spikair Volleyball. This is an upcoming volleyball simulator set to launch in Early Access later this year. There’s a free demo on Steam where you can play quick games against a computer-controlled opponent that usually last between two and six minutes.
I’ve put over 22 hours into the demo so far. This is easily my most played game on my Steam Deck.
Developed by Choc Abyss – a two-person studio: Clément Chardevel and Joé Chollet – Spikair Volleyball is one of those games that’s easy to learn but hard to master. “I wanted people to play our game,” Chollet told GameSpot. “We have small mechanics that take longer to learn. But the basics, like setting up the ball, are simple. You just have to press A.”
In Spikair, each match is four-on-four and you control all four players on your side of the court. Much like real-world volleyball, your objective is to make the ball hit the ground on your opponent’s side with an attack, scoring you a point. An attack can only begin if you manage to receive the ball and successfully pass it to your setter, which then allows you to direct your setter to send the ball to the middle blocker, back row receiver or the outside hitter – all of whom can sting the ball. Ball.
Just press the required buttons in the correct order to play, but the correct timing of these button presses can alter the speed of the ball, allowing you to perform more advanced attacks, such as a hard-to-block quick spike . You have to be careful though, because the opposite is also true – a slight timing error will result in a bad pass or weak attack, and bad timing will cause your players to miss the ball completely.
Chollet and Chardevel looked to many other volleyball games when designing Spikair, with the 1992 Hyper V-Ball being a primary inspiration. “[Volleyball] is a mind game,” Chollet said. “It’s not a sports game. It’s a mind game. And so we were talking about a 6v6 vs 4v4 format, and we went with 4v4 because it was much easier for us to do and because Hyper V-Ball only has four players, and still managed that 6v6 indoors [volleyball] sentiment, all of which are mind games – the block against the set and the smash against the defender.”
In Spikair, there are three potential attackers to be wary of in defense (four if you count a setter dump, in which the setter simply tips the ball over the net instead of passing it to an attacker). But the game makes the process more complex by allowing each prickster to prick in three different ways: there’s a normal pike, a short pike, and a long pike. Additionally, the spiker can forego a spike to tip the ball over a block in three different ways: a normal spike, a short spike, and a long spike. The spiker can also vary the timing of his attack, deliberately hitting a little early or late – not so much that he misses, but enough that the ball hits at a different speed.
So while there are only four moves you need to remember on defense – blocking, short reception, normal reception, and long reception – there are actually dozens of outcomes to prepare for. Your middle blocker can block, then your back row player can stand in place to receive the ball normally, dive towards the ball if it is spiked or knocked down, or step back to bring the ball up if he knocks the ball over. blocker or is spiked/tilted long. And once you commit to an action, you have to wait a second before doing anything else. So you make split-second decisions and hope for the best. If it looks like the opposing spike is short, for example, diving too early can be the difference between holding the rally and scoring.
This largely means that your job on offense is to use your setter to trick the defense into committing to blocking the wrong attacker, then using your forwards to hit him somewhere the back row player won’t reach. not in time. On defense, you try to use your blocker to pressure the opposing setter into rushing into a bad setup to avoid your block, then read the approach of the opposing smash to position your backline player correctly to receive the attack. It’s two people trying to face each other in back-to-back matches of Rock, Paper, Scissors, and whoever manages to do better (or get lucky) wins the point.
Spikair also draws a lot of inspiration from Haikyu, a very popular shonen volleyball manga/anime (which you should read/watch if you haven’t yet). “The full animation of the spike, the player’s attack in our game, is based on [Haikyu’s] Ushijima,” Chollet said. “I watched frame by frame of the anime and thought, ‘Okay, that’s perfect,’ for a side view of Ushijima’s attack.”
In Haikyu, the game in which the protagonist Shōyō Hinata takes on Wakatoshi Ushijima can even be somewhat imitated in Spikair as well. In the Spikair demo, you can face computer-controlled opponents in five difficulties, each of which faces different teams. Normal difficulty allows you to play as the United States as you take on Italy, for example, while playing on Extreme you play as Brazil and take on Poland. If you play on final difficulty, you will play as Hinata’s team, Karasuno High, and your opponent will be Shiatorizawa from Ushijima. Stopping Ushijima completely with a well-timed block from central blocker Kei Tsukishima is as rewarding to do in-game as it is to see in the manga/anime.
Currently, computer-controlled opponents are all you get in Spikair. The full game is not out yet, so the demo is the only way to play. Shock Abyss plans to launch the game in early access later this year, and with its release many more games will be available, including offline player versus player matches. Online multiplayer may come later, but the studio is focusing on other aspects of the game first, such as a career mode, player customization (including the ability to have female players on your team), and player characteristics.
Traits will inform how each player on your team performs, ranging from how efficiently they can increase to how much leeway they have to deliver an ideal pass. As of the demo, all Spikair players control and behave the same, so you don’t have to worry about that extra consideration. But when it is finally added, it will certainly create an even greater level of complexity in the mental game of the sport.
Until then, I will continue to play the Spikair Volleyball demo. I’m sure I’ll get to all the other games on my Steam Deck at some point, but for now that’s enough for me. Maybe I’ll go back to Switch Sports for a bit so I can keep yelling at everyone that they’re playing Switch Sports Volleyball badly and need to use play blocking.
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