Virtual reality is a powerful tool. When used correctly, it can give users a perspective they could never otherwise experience. I will always remember the first time I played eagle flight, a game that lets me see the world through the eyes of a bird. As an avid birdwatcher, this was a moving moment that highlighted just how much virtual reality could really change the way I see the world at its best.
I felt that again last weekend. Finally, virtual reality allowed me to live an experience that I would simply never have had otherwise: what it would be like to have baseball bats in your hands.
What is the bat? is the latest comedy sports game from Triband, the studio behind 2019’s Hysterical What is Golf? The studio’s signature humor is on full display in its first virtual reality 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 is the bat? is an absurd coming-of-age story that recognizes virtual reality’s ability to deliver good old-fashioned slapstick comedy.
In less than a minute of What is the bat?, you might think you know exactly where it’s going. It opens with a simple set of missions in which players hit 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.
Next is a curve ball.
Suddenly, I’m no longer a star hitter hitting balls from home plate; I’m a baby. A baby with baseball bats for his hands, to be exact. Right away, I’m placed in front of one of those wooden toys where I have to place shapes in the correct slot. The challenge, however, is that I try to pick up the pieces with my cylindrical hands and poke them into these holes using the blunt end of a bat to cram them in. Other tasks, like filling a sandbox bucket, are also difficult because I have trouble holding my bucket upright. It’s an opening as funny as it is ingenious. These tasks would be difficult for a toddler who is not yet body conscious. 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 difficult.
From there, I worked my way up my teenage years, with simple tasks that ended in disaster. I try to pour myself a bowl of cereal, only to have it fall all over the table as I try to shake the flakes off with my bats. In the laundry room, I have to throw my dirty underwear in the washing machine like I’m on a home run rally. Later, an assignment had me working one day in a supermarket where I needed to scan barcodes on items as they passed through the conveyor belt. Every mundane task becomes a comedy of errors.
This is the real joke What is the bat?, which replicates the awkwardness of growing up with a physical comedy that only virtual reality can provide. It’s a silly premise, but it’s a focused premise that takes advantage of the tactile nature of technology. Each micro-mission almost feels a WarioWare mini-game where there’s a clear interaction that I have to do, but it’s complicated by… you know, bats.
I really underestimate how absurd the whole experience is. While many of its missions revolve around simple tasks, many others are downright far-fetched. 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 gigantic pot so I can pickle it. All the normal stuff. His goofiest gag comes when I work in a museum and have to enforce a “Do Not Take Photos” sign by hitting baseballs at photo-taking seagulls. The meaning of this sign changes when the birds literally begin to take the art itself and try to fly away with it (and you to know how I should solve this crisis).
It’s a brief experience that’s not without VR awkwardness, but What is the bat? is another quirky hit for Triband. It’s a playful little game that gets plenty of laughs in a matter of hours, and it does so while delivering an almost accidental commentary on how weird it is to become a body when you’re young. If you’ve ever wondered why little kids seem to destroy everything they come in contact with, try getting Louisville Sluggers for your hands and see how easy your life is.
What is the bat? is available now on various VR headsets, including the Meta Quest 2.